With college basketball set to kick into full gear tomorrow, we are wrapping up the previews today with the projected top tier of the conference. There are some legitimate contenders here with more than one team who could make that run in march to the final four or even the championship.
Key Arrivals: Brevin Pritzl
Key Departures: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser
I'm sort of astounded that after we did all of the projections that Wisconsin ended up this high, but when you have the zombie coaching your team he seemingly turns seasons that should be dumpster fires into something. Wisconsin lost their best post player, their best wing, and pretty much anyone of relevance from their backcourt outside of Bronson Koenig from last year. Replacing them? Not really sure. A lot of guys that didn't see a bunch of minutes last year or reliance upon true freshman.
Wisconsin is the team this year that could fall the furthest from last year's finish and their pre-season expectations if Bo cannot get everyone to buy in. They return Nigel Hayes and Koenig, but can those two make up for the lost production of Kaminsky and Dekker? Pritzl was supposed to come in and solidify the backcourt but a pre-season injury will hamper his development for the time being. Wisconsin fans could be in for a rough year.
Key Departures: Dez Wells
Key Additions: Robert Carter Jr., Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jaylen Brantley
Maryland is by far the pre-season favorite to win the Big Ten, a la Wisconsin from a year ago at this time. Maryland lost SF Dez Wells to graduation but is returning the core of its roster that finished with 28 wins last year. Melo Trimble is no longer an unknown to everyone and Jake Layman is moving back into his more natural SF position. The #3 team going into the season, expectations are sky high for this team and they'll have early tests with Georgetown in the Gavitt Tipoff and #1 UNC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
In addition to the plethora of returning players, Maryland added five star center Diamond Stone, former 5 star PF Robert Carter Jr is now eligible after transferring from Georgia Tech, and former five star SG Rasheed Sulaimon transferred from Duke. The scoring void from Dez Wells was filled quickly and Maryland has vastly improved from a talent standpoint in the front court. Melo Trimble will have a backup ball handler in Brantley coming in to spell him if needed, which proved Maryland's downfall last year against WVU. Bottom line? If Maryland can mesh together all of the talent they have, they have one of the best shots in not just Big Ten, but the entire nation at winning the national championship.