updated today (after the NCAA's April 28 NBA draft declaration deadline).
3. Michigan State Spartans: Derrick Nix (9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds) was the only senior on the Spartans' roster, so Michigan State should be the slight favorite to win the Big Ten next season over Ohio State. Tom Izzo scored huge victories by getting shooting guard Gary Harris and forward Adreian Payne to return for another season. Both were beginning to blossom at the end of last season. Harris will have a chance to form one of the top backcourts in America along with point guard Keith Appling. The twosome combined to average 26.3 points in 2012-13. Even with the loss of Nix, Michigan State -- as always -- will be one of the country's most physical teams in the paint, with players such as Branden Dawson, who could really take off as junior. Izzo's team was good this season -- but a year from now, it could be special.
6. Ohio State Buckeyes: The Buckeyes would probably rank No. 2 on this list if leading scorer DeShaun Thomas had opted to return for his senior season. One of the top pure scorers in America, Thomas averaged 19.8 points for the Buckeyes' Elite Eight squad and finished with 1,630 points in three seasons. Still, Ohio State should be one of the top teams in America in 2013-14, as each of the other four starters return. It will be tough for point guard Aaron Craft to play much better on the defensive end than he did this season, but he can certainly become a more efficient shooter. Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott all averaged more than 20 minutes per game. Forward LaQuinton Ross is a tough matchup who contributed 15 points per game during the NCAA tournament. It will be a stunner if Ohio State doesn't challenge Michigan State for the Big Ten title.
9. Michigan Wolverines: Losing point guard and Wooden Award winner Trey Burke makes the Wolverines look a little less imposing entering the 2013-14 season, and the departure of shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. will definitely hurt. But this will still be an incredibly dangerous team more than capable of getting back to the Final Four, thanks to the return of forwards Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. Both players would've likely been first-round picks in this summer's NBA draft had they chosen to leave school early. Rising sophomore Nik Stauskas, a returning starter, is among the country's top outside shooters. Forwards Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford and guards Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht all earned valuable minutes during the Wolverines' run to the NCAA title game and will only improve. Michigan is adding two freshmen -- small forward Zak Irvin and point guard Derrick Walton -- who should step in and contribute immediately.
20. Indiana Hoosiers: This Hoosiers team won't be anywhere near as good as the unit that won last season's Big Ten title while spending a large chunk of the season ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. But that doesn't mean Indiana won't be salty in 2013-14. Point guard Yogi Ferrell (4.1 assists) is the lone returning starter after Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo entered the NBA draft, but forward Will Sheehey earned valuable minutes off the bench, and coach Tom Crean couldn't be more excited about the progress of freshman forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea. The X-factor will be how quickly Indiana's highly touted, six-man signing class adapts to the college game. Headlining the group is Noah Vonleh, who is rated third among power forwards in the country by ESPN.com.
25. Iowa Hawkeyes: The Hawkeyes missed the NCAA tournament last season, but they should feel good about going 9-9 in the rugged Big Ten and finishing second in the NIT. Both were major accomplishments for a rapidly improving program. Don't be surprised if 2013-14 is the season when Iowa really turns the corner. Every key player will return from a team that went 25-13 overall last season. Included in that mix are leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble (15 points) and Aaron White (12.8), who also averaged a team-high 6.2 rebounds. With teams such as Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and likely Michigan losing a lot, the well-coached Hawkeyes have a chance to finish as high as third in the Big Ten while earning an NCAA tournament bid for the first time since 2006.
Fifteen others on the cusp: ...Wisconsin.