It’s no secret that the Michigan men’s basketball team has lost plenty from last season: three NBA draft picks, a redshirt junior leader and a fourth-year starter in the paint.

But those losses come with two remedies for the Wolverines: First, they lost a lot of talent before last season, too, and still won the Big Ten by three games.

And this year, many other teams lost some talent as well — the only exception being Wisconsin, the class of the league.

The Badgers are favored by most media to win the league, but the next six teams — including Michigan — could jockey for position all season. The rich got a bit poorer, but the poor got a bit richer, too. Illinois will seek to build off momentum from a decent stretch run last season, Purdue will return some experience in an effort to emerge from the Big Ten basement and Minnesota and Northwestern head into their second seasons under rising head coaches Richard Pitino and Chris Collins, respectively.

Here’s a breakdown of the competition Michigan will face in the league’s upper half:

1. Wisconsin

Why they’ll win: The Badgers laid the foundation last season. They tied for second (12-6 Big Ten, 30-8 overall) in the Big Ten behind Michigan, and then they went on a run in the NCAA Tournament to reach coach Bo Ryan’s first Final Four. There, they met the same fate Michigan did, losing on a buzzer beater by Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison. But Wisconsin returns nearly everyone from that team to make another run.

The highlight is breakout 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky, who led the team with 13.9 points per game. But the Badgers also feature two more double-digit scorers in point guard Traevon Jackson and Sam Dekker. Guard Josh Gasser has a lot of experience, and forward Nigel Hayes was one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen last season. And Ryan is one of the best in the league at getting the most from his players.

Why they won’t: There really aren’t a lot of weaknesses in Madison. The only loss is guard Ben Brust (of buzzer-beating half-court shot fame). They have the experience, and they have the size. The only question might be living up to very lofty expectations. Like Michigan, to some extent, Wisconsin thrives on taking under-recruited high-school players and developing them into stars like Kaminsky. They almost always sneak up on people, but this year, they’ll be the hunted, not the hunters. Will they be able to adjust?

How they match up with Michigan: Very well. Michigan’s biggest weakness at this point is in the paint, where it will rely on the trio of redshirt freshman Mark Donnal, freshman Ricky Doyle and freshman DJ Wilson. For that group, Kaminsky will be a tall order, especially after the 25-point, 11-rebound outing he posted at Crisler Center last season. The good news: The Wolverines don’t travel to Madison, only hosting Wisconsin on Jan. 24.

2. Michigan State

Why they’ll win: The returning talent doesn’t look great on paper, but coach Tom Izzo almost always gets the most out of his players. Last year was an exception, when the Spartans returned a very talented team but were hampered by injuries and never seemed to click. This year, they lose forward Adreian Payne and guard Gary Harris to the NBA, but Izzo said at Big Ten Media Day that he’s optimistic about his team. That usually works out well for Michigan State.

Why they won’t: The losses of Payne, Harris and guard Keith Appling will sting, as the Spartans only return guard Branden Dawson as a double-digit scorer. Point guard Travis Trice and guard Denzel Valentine are rising leaders, but will it be enough? Michigan State is also inexperienced inside after the transfer of Kenny Kaminski.

How they match up with Michigan: The in-state rivalry games, Feb. 1 in East Lansing and Feb. 17 at Crisler Center, will be interesting again. Both teams are inexperienced and counting on last season’s role players to step up. The game could be decided by momentum again, as it was with Michigan’s late-game surges last season.

3. Ohio State

Why they’ll win: The Buckeyes struggled to shoot at times last season, relying mostly on athleticism and defense. They might have to do so again, but with a bit more experience. Shannon Scott is more than capable of replacing Aaron Craft at point guard, providing similar good defense with a better threat on the offensive side. Ohio State will rely more on center Amir Williams and forward Sam Thompson, plus highly touted true freshman D’Angelo Russell, who was the team’s leading scorer in its exhibition game.

Why they won’t: The top three scorers — LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Craft — are gone from a team that didn’t score that well to begin with and was upset by Dayton in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. They’ll have some struggles early on, but so will most teams in the Big Ten. Starting four seniors, including Temple transfer Anthony Lee, will help.

How they match up with Michigan: The Wolverines rallied to beat Ohio State in Columbus last year and didn’t host the Buckeyes. The series is back to a home-and home this season, in Columbus on Jan. 13 and Ann Arbor on Feb. 22. Both will be high-stakes games, with the Buckeyes owning a slight edge in experience but Michigan returning more scoring.

4. Nebraska

Why they’ll win: The Cornhuskers were a revelation last year, losing only one Big Ten home game — to Michigan on a buzzer beater — at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Third-year coach Tim Miles will look to make even more progress after Nebraska’s fourth-place Big Ten finish and NCAA Tournament berth. He has the pieces, too: leading returning scorer Terran Petteway (18.1 points per game) is a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate.

Why they won’t: Nebraska returns Petteway and a host of role players including Shavon Shields, but duplicating success is always a tough task. Like Wisconsin, the Cornhuskers will face their highest expectations in years, and Miles, who has greatly overachieved in Lincoln, has a difficult job ahead of him in meeting them.

How they match up with Michigan: The Wolverines embarrassed Nebraska at Crisler Center last January, before the Cornhuskers went on their late-season tear. After Michigan won in Lincoln, Nebraska won eight of its last nine. The Wolverines are the only returning Big Ten team Miles hasn’t beaten yet, and they don’t have to go to Lincoln this winter.

5. Minnesota

Why they’ll win: After suffering a handful of close conference losses last season and just missing the NCAA Tournament, Minnesota won the NIT. The Gophers are now more familiar with Pitino’s full-court pressure. They also return two senior guards in Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu and two solid big men in Maurice Walker and Elliott Eliason. Both of those will be important in Big Ten play.

Why they won’t: The schedule does Minnesota no favors, with trips to almost every top Big Ten school — Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska — and home games against just two of those four. The Golden Gophers also lost Austin Hollins, so Andre will have to get acclimated with a new backcourt mate.

How they match up with Michigan: The Wolverines stole a couple from Minnesota last season, winning in Minneapolis in the Big Ten opener and perhaps keeping the Golden Gophers out of the NCAA Tournament with a late-season win in Ann Arbor. They don’t have to return to Williams Arena, but Minnesota’s backcourt tandem and style of play could cause problems at Crisler Center on Jan. 10.

6. Iowa

Why they’ll win: The Hawkeyes crashed and burned down the stretch last season, going from No. 10 in the country to blowing a late lead to Tennessee in the First Four in the NCAA Tournament. But they seem motivated to make up for it by getting back to the top half of the Big Ten, and they have the depth to do it. Senior Aaron White (6-foot-9), junior Adam Woodbury (7-foot-1) and senior Gabriel Olaseni (6-foot-10) head a talented frontcourt.

Why they won’t: Just about everything that could go wrong for Iowa did in the second half of last season. The loss of Roy Devyn Marble, by far the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer at 17 points per game, will hurt, too. Iowa has the depth to run the floor and put pressure on the ball in coach Fran McCaffery’s system, but the Hawkeyes will have to find a way to score points to go with it.

How they match up with Michigan: The two teams played two entirely different games last season, first a 75-67 Michigan win at Crisler Center and then an 85-67 Hawkeye blowout win in Iowa City. Iowa’s size will give the Wolverines problems, but if they can counterbalance it with skill on the perimeter, they should be OK.

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