The college basketball calendar is getting moved up with Midnight Madness shifting from mid-October into September. The look ahead to the 2013-14 season has also been moved up as Athlon starts to take stock for the upcoming year in college basketball.
The Big Ten was the nation’s top conference in 2012-13 with four teams reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Although the league couldn’t take home a title, Michigan reached the national title game.
The 2013-14 season could be another banner season for the Big Ten as teams like Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and more return enough personnel for deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a quick look at the Big Ten and early rankings for 2013-14.
Upcoming conference snapshots:
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)
2013-14 CONFERENCE SNAPSHOT: BIG TEN
1. MICHIGAN STATE (27-9, 13-5, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Derrick Nix
Top returners: Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine
Nix is the only one of the top seven scorers gone from a team that went 27-9. Harris considered the draft, but the smooth-shooting guard returned after averaging 12.9 points per game and 45.6 shooting from the field. Payne took his decision down to the wire, but his return gives Tom Izzo a veteran team with Final Four potential.
2. OHIO STATE (29-8, 13-5, NCAA Elite Eight)
Key players gone: Deshaun Thomas, Evan Ravenel
Top returners: Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Amir Williams
New faces: Marc Loving, Kameron Williams (freshmen)
Much of Ohio State’s season will depend on how the Buckeyes replace Thomas’ prolific scoring. Ross may be a breakout star next season after he averaged 15 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State needs that kind of scoring performance year-round from the rising junior. The Buckeyes know they’ll get defense and floor-general point guard play from Craft. The development of Ross, Williams, Scott and Thompson will determine Ohio State’s season.
Related: Two Ohio State recruiting classes among nation's best since 2000
3. MICHIGAN (31-8, 12-6, NCAA national runner up)
Key players gone: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Top returners: Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas
New faces: Mark Donnal, Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton (freshmen)
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t shock anyone by going to the draft. McGary and Robinson returned for their sophomore seasons to give the Wolverines a chance to building on last season, though a return to the Final Four may be tough. The pressure will be on McGary to prove he can carry his tournament momentum into a full season. The freshman Walton, a top-50 consensus recruit, has the unenviable task of stepping into Burke’s shoes at point guard.
4. WISCONSIN (23-12, 12-6, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans
Top returners: Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson
Players come and go, but Wisconsin is pretty much automatic to contend in the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament under Bo Ryan. In 2013-14, the Badgers return one of the Big Ten’s most underrated freshmen in Sam Dekker plus a healthy Josh Gasser, who was expected to be the Badgers’ point guard in 2012-13 before tearing his ACL in October.
5. INDIANA (29-7, 14-4, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Remy Abell, Maurice Creek, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller
Top returning players: Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey
New faces: Luke Fischer (freshman), Evan Gordon (Arizona State transfer), Stanford Robinson (freshman), Noah Vonleh (freshman), Troy Williams (freshman)
Indiana can’t help but take a step back with all those losses, but the Hoosiers have recruited well enough to stay in the mix in the Big Ten. The pressure will be on the point guard Ferrell. Indiana’s roster turnover was exacerbated by the transfer of Abell to Xavier, but Gordon -- the brother of former Hoosiers one-and-done guard Eric Gordon -- averaged 10.1 points a year ago for Arizona State.
6. IOWA (25-13, 9-9, NIT runner up)
Key players gone: Eric May
Top returning players: Melsahn Basabe, Mike Gesell, Roy Devyn Marble, Zach McCabe, Josh Oglesby, Aaron White, Adam Woodbury
New faces: Jarrod Uthoff (Wisconsin transfer)
Iowa finished with a better Big Ten record than two NCAA teams (Illinois and Minnesota), but the Hawkeyes lacked the big-time wins to seal a bid. The top four scorers -- Marble, White, Gesell and Basabe -- are back to give Iowa a core of veterans that could lead the Hawkeyes to the Tournament for the first time since 2006.
7. PURDUE (16-18, 8-10, CBI second round)
Key players gone: D.J. Byrd, Sandi Marcius
Top returning players: Raphael Davis, Donnie Hale, A.J. Hammons, Anthony Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson
New faces: Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott (freshmen)
Last season was a rebuilding year for Purdue, but the Boilermakers still finished 8-10 in the toughest Big Ten in several seasons. Purdue started three freshmen (A.J. Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Raphael Davis) for much of last season. Byrd (10.1 ppg) is the only major loss for Matt Painter.
8. ILLINOIS (23-13, 8-10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Tyler Griffey, Sam McLaurin, Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson
Top returning players: Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, Nnanna Egwu, Myke Henry
New faces: Jon Ekey (transfer from Illinois State), Austin Hill (freshman), Kendrick Nunn (freshman), Rayvonte Rice (transfer from Drake)
Illinois enters John Groce’s second season without Paul and Richardson, two players who carried the load for most of last season. This should remain a perimeter-oriented team with Tracy Abrams the returning leader in scoring (10.6 ppg) and assists (3.4). Rice, who is from Champaign, Ill., is eligible after his transfer from Drake, where he averaged 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in two seasons. Egwu (6-11) is the only returning veteran taller than 6-6.
9. MINNESOTA (21-13, 8-10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Joe Coleman, Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams
Top returning players: Maverick Ahanmisi, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Maurice Walker
New faces: Dre Mathieu (junior college transfer), Malik Smith (FIU transfer)
Richard Pitino will build his first team at Minnesota around the backcourt of Andre Hollins (14.6 ppg) and Austin Hollins (10.7 ppg). The guards were further boosted by the arrival of Malik Smith, a three-point threat who averaged 14.1 points per game for Pitino at FIU. Replacing the rebounding void left by Mbakwe will be a challenge.
10. NORTHWESTERN (13-19, 4-14)
Key players gone: Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio, Jared Swopshire
Top returning players: Kale Abrahamson, Drew Crawford, Tre Demps, Dave Sobolewski, Alex Olah
New faces: JerShon Cobb (suspended)
Chris Collins’ first team at Northwestern will be led by wing Drew Crawford, who received an extra season of eligibility after missing all but 10 games with a torn labrum. Besides Crawford, Northwestern returns point guard Dave Sobolewski (9.8 ppg), Tre Demps (7.8 ppg) and Alex Olah (6.1 ppg).
11. PENN STATE (10-21, 2-16)
Key players gone: Sasa Borovnjak, Nick Colella, Jermaine Marshall
Top returning players: Tim Frazier, Jon Graham, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis
New faces: Josh Johnson (transfer from Pittsburgh)
A glimmer of hope was lost when Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game, left to play overseas. Still, Penn State returns D.J. Newbill (16.3 ppg) and Tim Frazier, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2011-12 who missed all but four games last season with a ruptured Achilles.
12. NEBRASKA (15-18, 5-13)
Key players gone: Andre Almeida, Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel
Top returning players: Ray Gallegos, Benny Parker, David Rivers, Shavon Shields
New faces: Walter Pitchford (Florida transfer)
Nebraska fans know how to support a team. The Cornhuskers already have sold out tickets at their new downtown Lincoln arena. For basketball. The on-court product, though, continues to be a work in progress. Second-year coach Tim Miles loses two of his top three scorers in Talley and Ubel.