With the college basketball season set to tip off with a full slate of games on November 13th, the Associated Press released it's much anticipated preseason rankings Monday. While some think preseason rankings are meaningless, they do provide fans with an early look of how the press believes their team stacks up against the competition.
Six Big Ten schools got the nod in this year's preseason poll, with Maryland setting itself apart from the rest. The Terrapins earned the #3 ranking behind only North Carolina and Kentucky. The next Big Ten program doesn't come until 13th, where Tom Izzo's Spartans are ranked just ahead of Tom Crean's Hoosiers at #15. Bo Ryan will enter his final season with his Badgers ranked #17, while Purdue and Michigan round out the Top 25 for the Big Ten at #23 and #25 respectively.
Today, we'll take a closer look at the six ranked teams in the Big Ten, along with the Big Ten team closest to breaking in to the Top 25.
Maryland Terrapins #3 (14)
Not only did Maryland finish behind just North Carolina and Kentucky in the preseason AP Poll, but the Terrapins also had more first place votes than John Calipari's Wildcats. With Melo Trimble's decision to return to College Park along with the arrival of 5-star recruit Diamond Stone, Maryland should be a fixture in the top-5 all season. Jake Layman and Jared Nickens also return for Mark Turgeon's squad that has very high expectations for the 2015-16 season.
With Maryland's only matchup in the first week of the season against Mount Saint Mary's, don't expect the Terrapins to move at all when the next polls are released. A date with Georgetown looms in the second week of play, however, that will provide the Terrapins with an early test.
Fresh off an unexpected Final Four run, Tom Izzo's squad comes in as the 2nd highest ranked Big Ten team in the Preseason poll. Part of this may be because of the team's postseason success last year. While the Spartans may have the talent to do so, it will take time to figure out how to replace two of their top three scorers in Travis Trice and Branden Dawson. A lot of the Spartans' ability to have success early may rely on how fast Deyonta Davis, the top recruit from Michigan, can make an impact in his first year at East Lansing.
While the Spartans shouldn't fall in the rankings in the opening week of play as they play just Florida Atlantic on opening night, a matchup with 4th ranked Kansas at the United Center could give the Spartans an early loss in week 2.
Indiana Hoosiers #15
The Hoosiers come in at #15 with a ton of talent as they return Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., and Troy Williams. The ceiling for the Hoosiers this year should be no lower than challenging for the Big Ten Championship. Expect Tom Crean's squad to get off to a fast start with Eastern Illinois the first week and match ups against Austin Peay and Creighton the second week all in Assembly Hall.
Bo Ryan's final season will see a team that may struggle to find an identity early after losing both Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker from a team that fell one game short of a championship. The Badgers will lean heavily on Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes to guide the team through this transition at the beginning of the season. Look for Ryan's team to get through the first couple of games clean, however, with match-ups against Western Illinois, Siena, and North Dakota early on all in Madison.
With one of the best front-courts in the country, the Boilermakers may be poised to be the breakout team in the Big Ten this season. After an impressive season last year, AJ Hammons should prove to be an even bigger force alongside Isaac Haas and top-10 overall recruit Caleb Swanigan. Matt Painter's squad shouldn't be tested much early as they open up with NC A&T, Vermont, and Incarnate all at home in the first two weeks of the season.
Following a 2014-15 season riddled with injuries, John Beilein's team snuck in to the last spot in the AP's preseason top 25. The Wolverines have some upside as Caris LeVert, a potential Big Ten Player of the Year candidate comes back from injury to play alongside Zak Irvin in the backcourt. Michigan should also find success early with match-ups at home against Northern Michigan and Elon. The Wolverines may be tested after that, however, with consecutive games against Xavier, UConn, and NC State.
The only other team in the Big Ten receiving votes in the Preseason AP Poll was Iowa. With just 6 votes, however, the Hawkeyes were not very close to being in the top 25. No team in the Big Ten has a ranked match-up in the first weekend so don't expect any marquee wins for any teams before the next rankings come out. Out of teams not in this group, however, Iowa and Ohio State both have enough talent to be ranked at some point in the season. Northwestern could be the dark-horse here, however, as they have a very easy non-conference schedule, besides a date with the top-ranked Tarheels on November 23rd. Besides that, the Wildcats could be looking at an 11-1 record heading in to conference play.