There are 10 players from the Big Ten who have until May 25 to decide whether they want to return to college or keep their name in for the NBA Draft: James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana), Vince Edwards (Purdue), Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin), Peter Jok (Iowa), Corey Sanders (Rutgers), Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), Trevor Thompson (Ohio State), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Andrew White (Nebraska), and Troy Williams (Indiana).
Maryland's Robert Carter and Diamond Stone as well as Michigan State's Deyonta Davis have also declared for the NBA Draft, but those three have forfeited their remaining collegiate eligibility by hiring agents.
With their present roster, the Buckeyes are on the fringe of Big Ten title race next winter, with Michigan State, Indiana, and Wisconsin generally regarded as the top threats to take the conference crown in 2016-17. Purdue, Michigan, and Ohio State would fall into the next tier of teams. However, with a few breaks in player movement from other Big Ten squads, the Buckeyes could inch closer to contention.
Here are five players whose upcoming decision of whether to stay in school or leap to the pros will affect Ohio State's position in challenging for the 2016-17 regular-season Big Ten championship:
The Buckeyes' frontcourt has already dealt with a surprising (at least to those outside of the program) exit when freshman Daniel Giddens opted to transfer after the season. Thompson stands to be Ohio State's top big man as a redshirt junior in 2016-17, but if he were to bolt, the Buckeyes would find themselves in a real bind. David Bell, who remains raw and played just 47 minutes during Big Ten play this past season as a redshirt freshman, is the only other forward/center on the roster with collegiate playing experience.
Ohio State does have two freshmen bigs in 6-10 Micah Potter and 6-9 Derek Funderburk entering the fold next winter, but it remains to be seen whether either player will be physically mature enough to play significant minutes at the Division I level.
Thompson, who averaged 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, may not even crack the top five when it comes to naming the Buckeyes' five best players, but at this juncture, Thompson just may be Ohio State's most indispensable player. Without Thompson -- who is expected to return to Columbus -- Matta would be forced to scramble for another big body -- probably from a JUCO -- to fill the void left by Thompson.
Hayes, a veteran of two Final Fours and three Sweet 16s, led the Badgers in scoring in 2015-16, even if his shooting numbers suffered as result of his increased usage. The Badgers' three-man core of Hayes, guard Bronson Koenig, and forward Ethan Happ would be unmatched in the Big Ten in terms of returning production next season, with strong support provided by experienced role players Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter.
With Hayes, Wisconsin is a veritable threat to win the Big Ten. Without the 6-8 Toledo native, however, the Badgers would be left without a premier scorer and would fall back to the middle class.
James Blackmon Jr.
Indiana coach Tom Crean has been carrying the torch for Josh Newkirk, even though the ex-Pittsburgh guard (who averaged almost six points and three assists per game in 2014-15) has yet to suit up in a game for the Hoosiers after sitting out the 2015-16 campaign as a transfer. But make no mistake about it, Blackmon remains Indiana's most important guard for 2016-17.
Blackmon tore an ACL 13 games into last season, but he was averaging nearly 16 points per game prior to the injury and shooting 46 percent from 3. With additional distributing duties headed his way, Blackmon will need to get his teammates more involved next season (he's averaging 1.6 assists per game for his career) and his defense remains a work in progress, but the junior-to-be's scoring and shooting prowess is well-suited to replace Yogi Ferrell's 17.3 points per game.
Aside from Blackmon and Newkirk (who is recovering from microfracture surgery), rising junior Robert Johnson is the only other Hoosier guard back that received meaningful playing time in 2015-16. (Indiana did sign three guards in its incoming recruiting class.) Sans Blackmon, Indiana would be less of a realistic threat to win the Big Ten title and be more of a second-tier squad in the conference, though the blow of losing Blackmon would be softened if swingman Troy Williamed returns to school.
If Purdue loses Swanigan or the Boilermaker to follow him in this article to the draft, the team's chances for winning the 2016-17 Big Ten crown leave with them.
Swanigan averaged 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds as a freshman and should be in line for a jump in production with A.J. Hammons graduating. Directly behind Swanigan on Purdue's depth chart is junior-to-be Isaac Haas, a 7-2 monster who has flashed dominance but has yet to acquire the endurance to play more than 15 minutes per game. Behind Swanigan and Haas is little-used 6-10 reserve forward Jacquil Taylor, who appeared in only 12 games last season.
Edwards, a 6-7 forward who just completed his sophomore season for the Boilermakers, is one of the Big Ten's more versatile players. Edwards is able to check just about any off-guard or forward in the conference defensively, and he's a double-digit scorer who made 40 percent of his triples last winter.
Purdue is actually thinner on the wing than in its frontcourt, as Basil Smotherman, who redshirted last season after playing a minor role with the team from 2013-15, is the Boilermakers' lone option behind Edwards. Losing either Swanigan or Edwards would demote Purdue from the top of the Big Ten's second tier to a squad more in line with Michigan or Ohio State.