Earlier this week we reported that Cody Zeller will be joining teammate Victor Oladipo in declaring early for the NBA Draft this summer. They aren't the only ones to do it or about to do it either and coupled with a lot of graduating talent it means that the Big Ten in 2013-14 is going to look vastly different than it did this year.
Different to some in the national media and amongst the casual fan implies bad, but that's not the case with the Big Ten, different just means... well, different and equally as exciting as what we saw this season.
How different will it be? Try at least 27 and as many as 31 possible starters from this past season either gone to graduation or the NBA - so basically half of the starters in the Big Ten are gone.
O.k., that could happen just about any year with graduation and we all should know that change is the name of the game, but this is about as out of the ordinary as it gets. Just how out of the ordinary?
How about we start with the entire All-Big Ten 1st team of Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and DeShaun Thomas all off to the NBA and not a single one of them were seniors. Yes, Burke and Hardaway Jr., haven't made official announcements but multiple outlets have reported that both will be gone.
So, gone will be the entire 1st team. Move on to the 2nd team and all but Aaron Craft could be gone as well. Now, I fully expect that we will see Garry Harris and Keith Appling back in East Lansing next season, but Adreian Payne could be a whole nother story.
Get the point yet? If not, try four of the six members of the 3rd team gone as well. Overall 6 of the top 10 scorers in the Big Ten will be gone and 6 of the 12 teams will be losing their leading scorer from a season ago.
Safe to say it'll be interesting to see how things unfold, but those that are sounding the death nill of the conference being the best are also not paying attention that 4 of top 10 scorers and half of the individual teams' leading scorers will be back as well.
That means names like D.J. Newbill, Jermain Marshall, Roy Devyn Marble, and Andre Hollins will be back and all averaged better than 14.5 points per game last year. Even better is we haven't even mentioned the youth that began to blossom during Big Ten play this year - as the Big Ten is likely to not see any one-and-done's this season.
The difference is that the names won't be as familiar to some as Burke, Thomas, Zeller, and Oladipo were on a national stage. Instead it'll be the likes of younger, but budding stars like Mitch McGary, Nic Stauskas, Glen Robinson III, Garry Harris, A.J. Hammons, and Sam Dekker making their mark on the conference.
Helping to prop up the conference next season is a huge influx of big time talent as 13 top 100 (by 247sports composite ranking - which averages all services rankings) ranked players will become Big Ten players this next season.
Look for names like Noah Vonleh (forward) and Troy Williams (shooting guard) to have a major impact at Indiana. They lead a class of four top 100 players that will clearly help to replace departed players like Zeller, Watford, Hulls, and Oladipo.
Then there's shooting guard Kendrick Nunn coming to Illinois from Chicago powerhouse Simeon high school as part of a three man class that are all top 100 members for John Groce - more than helping to replace the departing D.J. Richardson, Joseph Bertrand and Brandon Paul.
Michigan will bring in three more top 100 recruits, led by expected star shooting guard Zak Irvin (10th ranked shooting guard in country) to help them with some possible departures. Add them to the mix of McGary, Robinson, and Stauskas and once again there's a loaded team in front of you in Ann Arbor.
Ohio State adds two top 75 players including Mar Loving - a guy who could step up and help fill the score sheet for the Buckeyes right away.
Purdue also has two top 100 players adding to a mix of young talent that really grew up this past season. Kendall Stephens is the name to know there as he could force some playing time as a swingman.
Oh, and for good measure Wisconsin brings in one of the best point guards in the country, Bronson Koenig, to that log jam in the back court they'll have in 2013-14.
So, anyone saying the Big Ten will be down next season isn't necessarily paying close enough attention.
While the names may be changing, the beauty of the Big Ten in the past few seasons is that the conference as a whole can now take the "next man up" mentality and still keep it's spot atop the college basketball heap. Between those returning youngsters from 2012-13, players like Tim Frazier and Josh Gasser returning from injury, and a promising class of incoming freshman the Big Ten isn't likely to lose it's crown as the nation's best without a fight.