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Indiana University

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Guard Gary Harris’ return to Michigan State for his sophomore season should make the Spartans an early Big Ten favorite.

Returning talent boosts Spartans

Michigan, Ohio State bring back key players

Associated Press photos
Michigan forward Glenn Robinson III helped take the Wolverines to the NCAA title game. He’ll be counted on again next season.

With the official NBA draft declaration date of April 28 come and gone, the rosters for the Big Ten are set barring some late additions.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what programs are looking the best in the Big Ten ahead of the 2013-14 season.

1. Michigan State

Last season: 27-9 (13-5)

Key returners: Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne

Key losses: Derrick Nix

Newcomers: Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis

The Spartans got a huge boon in the returns of star freshman Harris, a Hamilton Southeastern grad, and senior center Payne. MSU is likely to be a consensus top-5 squad entering the season and the class of the Big Ten as well.

2. Michigan

Last season: 31-8 (12-6)

Key returners: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas

Key losses: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Newcomers: Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal

Michigan will look like a different team without National Player of the Year Burke at the helm. But the return of McGary, who became a dominant post presence during the team’s run to the national title game, as well as the versatile Robinson and sharpshooter Stauskas, will make the Wolverines a splash in the 2013 season.

Incoming players Walton and Irvin should be able to help shore up the backcourt despite the departures of Burke and Hardaway.

3. Ohio State

Last season: 29-8 (13-5)

Key returners: Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross

Key loss: Deshaun Thomas

Newcomers: Marc Loving, Kameron Williams

The Buckeyes get back one of the best point guards in the nation on both ends and a player who is unquestioned in his leadership ability. But much will depend on how the pieces around Craft develop during the offseason.

Ross will need to make a big jump from his 8.3 points per game this season, but he looked vastly improved from his role-player status in years prior. Some development for big man Amir Williams won’t hurt, either.

4. Indiana

Last season: 29-7 (14-4)

Key returners: Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Will Sheehey

Key losses: Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller

Newcomers: Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Stan Robinson, Luke Fischer, Devin Davis, Collin Hartman

After a Big Ten title and a Sweet 16 run, the Hoosiers lose a ton of experience and talent. The transfers of Maurice Creek and Remy Abell, while not incredibly significant, don’t help.

Coach Tom Crean will rely plenty on his incoming freshmen, as well as point guard Ferrell and forward Sheehey, to keep this team afloat.

5. Wisconsin

Last season: 23-12 (12-6)

Key returners: Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, Ben Brust

Key losses: Mike Bruesewitz, Jarred Berggren

Newcomers: Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown, Riley Dearring, Jordan Hill

The knock-down, drag-out style of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan helped his Badgers through a season without Gasser, who was slated to be a team leader entering 2012. Gasser returns, along with swingman Dekker.

6. Iowa

Last season: 25-13 (9-9)

Key returners: Roy Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe, Aaron White

Key losses: None

Newcomers: Peter Jok

The Hawkeyes surprised some analysts last season with an overachieving finish and a run to the finals of the NIT. They return most of their talent and have been ranked by some national gurus in preseason top-25 lists. Don’t be surprised if Iowa stirs things up, especially at home.

7. Purdue

Last season: 16-18 (8-10)

Key returners: AJ Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson, Jay Simpson

Key losses: D.J. Byrd

Newcomers: Bryson Scott, Basil Smotherman, Kendall Stephens

The Boilermakers stepped into some consistency during Big Ten play, a sign the young Purdue squad was starting to get a handle on the college game. Another year of development should bode well for them, and the addition of Northrop’s Scott – along with a solid pair of fellow incoming freshmen – should help the Boilermakers take serious strides in 2013-14.

8. Illinois

Last season: 23-13 (8-10)

Key returners: Tracy Abrams

Key losses: DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul

Newcomers: Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, Maverick Morgan, Austin Colbert, Jaylon Tate, Aaron Cosby, Jon Ekey

The Illini were inconsistent in their first year with John Groce at the helm, but they add a ton of talent with transfers and incoming freshmen. Groce did a great job recruiting in Illinois, which should pay off handsomely. Hill and Nunn are ones to watch in the future.

9. Minnesota

Last season: 21-13 (8-10)

Key returners: Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman

Key losses: Trevor Mbakwe

Newcomers: Daquien McNeil

New coach Richard Pitino will have to rely on a guard-heavy roster. He has experience but not much of a post presence. Another question: Will the players inherited from Tubby Smith buy into Pitino’s philosophy?

10. Northwestern

Last season: 13-19 (4-14)

Key returners: Drew Crawford, Dave Sobolewski,

Key losses: Reggie Hearn, Jared Swopshire

Newcomers: Nate Taphorm

New coach Chris Collins, formerly an assistant at Duke, will have some work to do when he gets to Evanston. His staff looks good, and his pedigree looks great, but the talent might not be there in Year One.

11. Penn State

Last season: 10-21 (2-16)

Key returners: Tim Frazier, Jermaine Marshall, D.J. Newbill

Key losses: None

Newcomers: Payton Banks, Julian Moore, Geno Thorpe, Graham Woodward

The wheels fell off when Frazier suffered a season-ending injury, but Patrick Chambers will have to prove his high-energy coaching style can translate onto the court.

12. Nebraska

Last season: 15-18 (5-13)

Key returners: Ray Gallegos,

Key losses: Brandon Ubel, Dylan Talley

Newcomers: Nick Fuller, Nathan Hawkins, Leslee Smith, Tai Webster, Tim Wagner

The Cornhuskers lose their leading scorer and leading rebounder. Fuller was a good pickup, but coach Tim Miles had better be prepared for another rebuilding season.

smorrison@jg.net

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