Big Ten Storylines Heading Into Next Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 17th, 2015

There are still some dominoes to fall in terms of Big Ten roster turnover in coming weeks but we already have a pretty good idea of how the league will look next year. Here are a few things to ponder as Big Ten fans brace themselves for seven months without any games with which to occupy their time.

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

  • Return to Multiple Conference Championship Contenders: Wisconsin essentially went wire-to-wire this season, going from the unanimous preseason favorite to winning both the conference regular season and postseason titles. Next season should be a bit more like the 2013-14 campaign with several teams with a realistic shot to win the league. Maryland is rightfully getting a good deal of love in the preseason “way-to-early” top 25 lists. The Terps will return two of their top three players in Melo Trimble and Jake Layman and will add a bruiser down low in freshman Diamond Stone. Indiana (assuming both Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. return to Bloomington), and Michigan State could also very well start the season in the top 15 nationally. Thomas Bryant will give the Hoosiers someone to keep defenses honest inside, while Sparty adds Eron Harris, Devonta Davis, and Caleb Swanigan to a nucleus of eight players who were contributors on a Final Four squad. These three should all challenge for the top spot in Big Ten play next season.
  • Wisconsin Rebuild: It will be fun to observe how Bo Ryan replaces the multiple talented pieces that he is losing from a group that went to back-to-back Final Fours. He has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt so as to figure that players like Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter will break out with more playing time next season. Getting key starters Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig back is also a pretty decent starting point. How far will the Badgers actually fall, and how long will it take for the newcomers to make an impact?

  • Is Next Year the Year for Northwestern? Year Three is always a telling season in terms of monitoring a coach’s forward progress. Chris Collins has done a good job in attracting Chicagoland area players to come to Evanston, and with another solid class arriving, it’s time for the Wildcats to eschew moral victories in favor of actual ones. The Wildcats will have a nice mixture of veterans (Alex Olah and Tre Demps) combined with underclassmen (Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, Aaron Falzon) on the roster, so anything less than an NIT bid would have to be considered a failure next season. Tracking whether this team can make an even bigger leap and break its historic NCAA Tournament drought is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

    Chris Collins and Northwestern might be on the verge of a tournament berth. (AP)

    Chris Collins and Northwestern might be on the verge of an NCAA Tournament berth. (AP)

  • How Good is Ohio State’s Recruiting Class? The Buckeyes have to start over with a five-man haul that 247 Sports has rated as the seventh-best recruiting class in the land. D’Angelo Russell and a plethora of seniors are leaving, so the Buckeyes will be young but they’ll also be talented. Players like Marc Loving and Jae’Sean Tate will have to step into leading roles, while Jaquan Lyle and Daniel Giddens will have an opportunity to play right away. It might not be pretty early for Thad Matta‘s team, but if his youngsters come together by midseason, Ohio State could be scary come March.
  • Is John Groce in Trouble?: The Ilini have now underachieved for two seasons in a row and John Groce could have reason to fear for his job if the team has another middling season. Illinois has had enough talent over the past two seasons to make the NCAA Tournament but it hasn’t been able to avoid rough patches to get there. The return of Tracy Abrams should help stabilize things from a leadership standpoint, but improvement from the junior class is crucial. Maverick Morgan or Austin Colbert have to replace defensive stalwart Nnanna Egwu, while Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn need to replace Rayvonte Rice‘s production. Three straight years without an appearance in the Field of 68 will not go over well in Champaign.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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