The Big Ten widely was considered the nation's best basketball league this season, and now its stars seem headed for "greener" pastures in the NBA next year.
Indiana guard/forward Victor Oladipo, a consensus first-team All-American, announced Tuesday he would forgo his senior year for the NBA. Oladipo led the Hoosiers to their first outright Big Ten title in 20 years, averaged 13.6 points a game and led the league in field-goal percentage at 59.9 percent. Oladipo also sealed the Hoosiers' Sweet Sixteen appearance with a vital 3-point shot late against Temple.
Ohio State junior forward Deshaun Thomas announced last week he's off to the NBA. He led the league in scoring at 19.8 points a game and also averaged 5.9 rebounds.
It's widely reported that Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller will declare for the NBA draft this afternoon. Zeller was a consensus second-team All-American this year after putting up 16.5 points (fourth in the Big Ten) and 8.1 rebounds (second).
National runner-up Michigan has four players who must decide by April 15 whether they will declare for the NBA draft or return to school. Consensus national player of the year Trey Burke (18.6 points, 6.7 assists) likely will leave. Burke, a sophomore point guard, nearly left the school after last year but opted to stay. Junior shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.5 ppg), freshman center Mitch McGary (6.3 rpg) and freshman forward Glenn Robinson III also could declare.
Michigan State guard Gary Harris (12.9 ppg), the Big Ten's freshman of the year, and junior teammate Adreian Payne (7.6 rpg) also have decisions to make.
Among those electing to stay is Iowa junior guard Devyn Marble, who averaged 15 points a game this year. If Burke and Zeller leave, as expected, Marble will be the Big Ten's third-leading scorer returning next season behind Penn State teammates D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall.
Multiple times Marble has said he plans to return for his senior year.
"Iíll be back," Marble said last week the day before the Hawkeyes played Baylor for the NIT championship in New York City. "Iíve got a lot of things that I want to do as far as playing in the NCAA tournament. Thatís something growing up Iíve always dreamed of being able to do. Thatís the main key ingredient right there.
"We have a really good team coming back so a Big Ten championship isnít that far out of grasp. Thereís a lot of things that I can still accomplish here that would be wonderful, for me and the program."
Five other top-20 scorers also are slated to return. They include Minnesota sophomore point guard Andre Hollins (14.6 ppg), Purdue junior guard Terone Johnson (13.5 ppg), Michigan State junior guard Keith Appling (13.4 ppg), Iowa sophomore forward Aaron White (12.8 ppg) and Nebraska junior guard Ray Gallegos (12.5 ppg).
Oladipo, Zeller and White were the only three players in the league to average at least 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.First-team all-Big Ten Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft (10.0 ppg, 4.6 apg) is a junior. Top players returning from red-shirt seasons because of injury include Northwestern's Drew Crawford and Penn State's Tim Frazier.