After testing the NBA waters, Nigel Hayes decided to return to the Wisconsin Badgers for his senior season. This decision turns the Badgers into the pre-season favorite to win the Big Ten Title. In addition to Hayes, the Badgers are returning pretty much their entire roster from last year’s Sweet 16 squad.

The stability of Wisconsin’s roster is a stark contrast to the rest of the Big Ten. In addition to losing the likes of A.J. Hammons, Denzel Valentine, and Jarrod Uthoff to graduation, several other key players will not be around to thwart Wisconsin’s quest for glory:

  • Troy Williams will forgo his senior season at Indiana and remain in the NBA draft. With the loss of Williams and the graduation of Yogi Ferrell, the reigning Big Ten champion Hoosiers will be without two of their top three scorers from last season.
  • Maryland already lost Milwaukee native Diamond Stone and non-Milwaukee native Robert Carter Jr. to the NBA draft, and they’re still waiting to learn whether or not point guard Melo Trimble will return. However, even if Trimble returns the Terrapins’ roster will be a shadow of the unit that finished third in the Big Ten.
  • On Monday the University of Illinois dismissed guard Kendrick Nunn after he pled guilty to a misdemeanor batter charge. Nunn averaged 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds last season for the Illini.

In short, it feels like most of the Big Ten outside of Madison will struggle to field a complete team for 2016-17. While it’s folly to assume the Badgers will roll to a Big Ten Title (keep an eye on those Northwestern Wildcats – seriously!), the conference is their’s to lose. And with Nigel Hayes on a mission to improve is NBA stock the Badgers are poised to make yet another Final Four run.

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