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99 Days to Big Ten Basketball: The Maryland Hype Train Officially Begins

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The Terrapins are set to replace Wisconsin as the Big Ten's top team in only their second year in the conference.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It took four seasons by Terrapin head coach Mark Turgeon, the successor to legendary coach Gary Williams, but he finally got Maryland back into the NCAA Tournament after an impressive 28-7 season that saw Maryland finish second in the Big Ten during their inaugural season with the conference. Unfortunately, though, an untimely injury to Melo Trimble and a cringe-inducing 21 turnovers ended Maryland's season in the Round of 32 against West Virginia.

There were some questions in the early offseason as to where Maryland stood, thanks to the possibility of a couple key players declaring early for the draft, but with point guard Melo Trimble and forward Jake Layman both deciding to return, the hype for Maryland next season started to increase. With Wisconsin likely not going to contend for the Big Ten title thanks to a considerable amount of roster turnover, the Terrapins launched to the top of the conference as an early front runner. Of course it also helps that Maryland adds one of the best prospects in the 2015 recruiting class with center Diamond Stone, as well as senior transfer Rasheed Sulaimon from Duke.

With a roster that looks like it could be one of the best in the nation, most publications have quickly came around to Maryland as being the next big thing out of the Big Ten. Just this past spring Maryland landed towards the top of most early Top 25's, coming in at 2nd (CBS, Yahoo), 3rd (NBC, Sporting News), 5th (SB Nation) and now 1st thanks to ESPN.

The worldwide leader in sports had this to say about the Terrapins:

With player-of-the-year-candidate point guard Melo Trimble, stretch forward Jake Layman, blue-chip center Diamond Stone, transfer Robert Carter and a handful of quality role players (namely Jared Nickens) in a finely balanced mix, Turgeon's was always an obvious top-five team. Then, on May 11, Rasheed Sulaimon announced he would play his final season of college basketball in College Park.

Not only that, but Joe Lunardi's way-too-early August edition of Bracketology has Maryland as a #1 seed, joining North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky.

Even more interesting is the fact that Maryland will start off the first two months of the season with an entirely manageable non-conference schedule, with the most difficult games being a home showdown with Georgetown, a trip to Chapel Hill and a neutral site match against Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic. There's definitely a real possibility that the Terrapins could enter conference play without a loss.

So with that being said, it's pretty clear to see that the next several months up until the tip-off are going to involve plenty of debate and chatter over Maryland. The reality is Wisconsin's run as king in the Big Ten is over and the Terrapins are the safest bet to take over the throne. With one of the nation's most dangerous (and experienced) lineups, Maryland is ready to be the Big Ten's most hyped team. Now that ESPN has officially entered the fray, putting them at the top of their mantle, the rest of the nation (especially the fan bases for Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina) are likely to take notice (and issue).

Either way, things are looking like extremely promising for Maryland as they may be set for quite a memorable 2015-16 season.