Looking Forward: Here’s what the Big Ten has in store for the 2016-17 season

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the Big 12 over the next six months. 

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

  1. What does Caleb Swanigan end up doing?: Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has one of the most fascinating NBA Draft cases of any freshman. The power forward is currently testing the waters without an agent, but his guardian, Roosevelt Barnes, is an agent with experience on handling things like this. That will help Swanigan make an informed and interesting choice. If he’s back, Purdue still has an interior of Swanigan and 7-footer Isaac Haas and would be the best front court in the Big Ten.
  2. Are things back to normal at Wisconsin?: Last offseason was an odd one for Wisconsin as former head coach Bo Ryan kept his job (for a bit) after back-to-back Final Fours and the team was rebuilding. New head coach Greg Gard took over mid-season and now the program belongs to him going forward as he helped the Badgers make the Sweet 16. This offseason, Wisconsin gets some stability as Gard gets to recruit for the future and has a potentially good team returning. If Nigel Hayes returns from the NBA Draft, the Badgers get most of their pieces back.
  3. Maryland waits on Melo: Next season at Maryland will already look different as the team loses Diamond Stone and Robert Carter to the draft along with seniors Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon. But if sophomore guard Melo Trimble stays in the NBA Draft, the Terps will looks like a completely unique starting lineup. If Melo does come back, he’s a frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year and Maryland has a shot to remain a solid team.
  4. What does Indiana look like after Yogi Ferrell’s departure?: The last four seasons, senior point guard Yogi Ferrell was a key part of what Indiana did on offense. He was the engine that made them go. Now that he’s gone the Hoosiers will be a unique team, as Thomas Bryant and Robert Johnson are the beat guys guaranteed back. If Troy Williams returns from the NBA Draft and James Blackmon Jr. (who’s also going through the Draft process) is healthy, Indiana will again find themselves in Big Ten contention.

NOTABLE NEWCOMERS

  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State: Tom Izzo reloaded in East Lansing with a tremendous recruiting class headlined by the 6-foot-7 Bridges. Returning home to Michigan, Bridges is powerful enough to unleash ferocious in-game windmills or skilled enough to score on the perimeter.
  • L.G. Gill, Maryland: The Duquesne graduate transfer gives the Terps another body in the front court as he put up 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-7 Gill can also knock down some three-pointers.
  • Tony Carr, Penn State: The headliner of a top 25 recruiting class, the 6-foot-4 Carr has great size for a point guard and he’s the type of player who could make an immediate impact on the perimeter for the Nittany Lions.
  • Spike Albrecht, Purdue: Can you really call an inner-conference transfer a newcomer? Well, either way, if Albrecht can provide steady point guard minutes and some much-needed perimeter shooting for Purdue, then it’s a great addition.

SURPRISING DEPARTURES

  • Deyonta Davis, Michigan State: Now that the Spartans are battling for No. 1 rankings and Final Four appearances, you have expect one-and-done players to happen and after a solid freshman season, Davis has a chance to be a top-15 pick.
  • Robert Carter, Maryland: Not much of a surprise that the junior big man opted to go pro, but rather, that he signed an agent before he had to. But based on his opening day at the NBA Draft Combine — in which he went for 22 points and scored in multiple ways in a scrimmage — Carter looks like he might have made the correct decision.

COACHING CHANGES

Steve Pikiell, Rutgers: The former Stony Brook head man led the Seawolves to the NCAA tournament this past March as he now gets a shot in the Big Ten. Rutgers is one of the tougher high-major jobs in the country, but Pikiell built a successful program at Stony Brook that included a potential draft pick in forward Jameel Warney.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Melo Trimble (Maryland): Player of the Year
Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)
Malcolm Hill (Illinois)
Miles Bridges (Michigan State)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS, IN TWEETS

  1. Michigan State: The Spartans lose Denzel, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but their loaded freshman class and grad transfer Ben Carter (UNLV) will help immediately.
  2. Wisconsin: With the return of Nigel Hayes, the Badgers would return all five starters from a Sweet 16 team. Ethan Happ could be a star in the Big Ten.
  3. Indiana: Hoosiers could have as much talent as anyone in the league if everyone returns, but defense will still be a key for them. Development of O.G. Anunoby should be fun.
  4. Purdue: The Boilers should get some help from freshman Carsen Edwards, but this team still needs consistent shooting around big man Isaac Haas.
  5. Maryland: If Melo Trimble is gone, this ranking is too high. But if he returns? The Terps have a chance for a surprise Big Ten run.
  6. Michigan: Snakebitten by injuries the past few seasons, the Wolverines have a chance to compete in the Big Ten if Derrick Walton can stay healthy.
  7. Iowa: It’ll be a younger roster for the Hawkeyes as they try to replace Jarrod Uthoff. Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl were promising while Fran McCaffery has a solid freshman class.
  8. Ohio State: Roster turnover dominated the offseason news for Ohio State, but they have the makings of a dangerous and talented team if they put it all together.
  9. Northwestern: Is this the year Northwestern finally gets over the hump and makes the tournament? The Wildcats need their young front court to come through.
  10. Penn State: A top-25 recruiting class coupled with a returning lineup of some talented pieces means excitement for basketball in Happy Valley.
  11. Illinois: If this team can ever stay healthy, they have a chance to work into the Big Ten’s top half. Malcolm Hill could have a huge year.
  12. Minnesota: Offseason turmoil aside, the Golden Gophers brought in some talented new pieces. In-state recruit Amir Coffey should play and graduate transfer Akeem Springs could start.
  13. Nebraska: Shavon Shields is gone and now Tim Miles has to find some new pieces to rely on.
  14. Rutgers: Steve Pikiell takes over and he’s hoping for the return of point guard Corey Sanders to build around.