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Who to know: Maryland men’s basketball’s biggest competition on the court this season

Maryland will face 15 of the top-100 players in the nation this season.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2020-21 men’s basketball season nears its first tipoff, Maryland will take the court without its two biggest stars from a season ago.

Forward Jalen Smith, who was drafted 10th by the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, and guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who played the eighth-most minutes all-time in a Maryland uniform, leave big holes to fill this year.

The Terps’ sole player in CBS’s top 100-and-1 players list entering the season is junior Aaron Wiggins at No. 84. Maryland’s go-to scorer averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year and will need to take on a leadership role in one of the most competitive Big Ten seasons of all-time. In particular, he’ll need to improve his consistency from beyond the arc.

Fifteen players within the list are set to go against Maryland this season, 14 of which will be in conference play. Here are the biggest names the Terps will take the floor with this winter in both nonconference and Big Ten games.

Luka Garza, senior center: Iowa Hawkeyes (No. 1)

After taking home Big Ten Player of the Year honors in a season where he averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, Garza is back for more hardware at Iowa. The senior is the only player of all three All-American teams from last year to return for the 2020-21 season, earning him an easy spot on the preseason All-American First Team.

Garza is a favorite to repeat as conference player of the year and is in a small group to already be considered as the National Player of the Year. The Hawkeyes open the season ranked fifth in the nation, which is the highest of any Big Ten team.

Aya Dosunmu, junior guard: Illinois Fighting Illini (No. 3)

Rounding out the Big Ten duo on this year’s preseason All-American First Team is Dosunmu. The guard averaged 16.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest in 2019-20 and has taken the Fighting Illini to No. 8 in preseason national rankings.

The guard is one of two players (Garza) to be a unanimous choice to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team after finishing his sophomore campaign on the conference’s second-team. Dosunmu, alongside Kofi Cockburn, hopes to bring Illinois its first conference title since 2005.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, sophomore forward: Indiana Hoosiers (No. 14)

After leading the Hoosiers in points per game (13.5), rebounds per game (8.4) and blocks per game (1.8) as a freshman, Jackson-Davis was named to All-Big Ten Third Team. The 6’9 forward was one of three players on Indiana to start all 32 games last season and has been named to CBS’s All-American Second Team to open up his sophomore campaign.

Kofi Cockburn, sophomore center: Illinois Fighting Illini (No. 17)

Standing at 7’0, Cockburn is the perfect complement to Dosunmu’s play-making abilities at the guard spot. In his freshman campaign, Cockburn averaged 13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, earning him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and a unanimous spot on the conference’s All-Freshman Team. Cockburn and Dosunmu have a chance to be the best big-little combination in the country this season.

Nate Reuvers, senior forward: Wisconsin Badgers (No. 30)

The 6’11 forward led the Badgers in scoring with 13.1 points per game and was a strong defensive presence with 1.9 blocks per game las season. Reuvers is the center of a Wisconsin offense that finished with a share of the Big Ten regular season title in 2019. He personally finished on the All-Big Ten Third Team and opens up his senior campaign with Preseason All-Big Ten honors.

Joey Hauser, redshirt junior forward: Michigan State Spartans (No. 35)

The Spartans are in need of a new leader after both Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman left East Lansing this offseason. Hauser, fresh off sitting out the 2019-20 season due to NCAA transfer rules from Marquette, could be that guy for Michigan State. In 34 games for the Golden Eagles in 2018, Hauser averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds, leading to Big East Freshman of the Week five times.

Isaiah Livers, senior forward: Michigan Wolverines (No. 38)

Two of the Wolverines’ top-three scorers from a season ago will not be returning to Ann Arbor for this year. The remaining piece of that threesome is Livers, who scored a team-high 12.9 points per game. Despite playing in just 21 games, the big-man was named a All-Big Ten Honorable Mention as one of five players at Michigan who averaged double-digit points. Livers’ role will surely increase as the team’s best scorer returning this season.

Joe Wieskamp, junior guard: Iowa Hawkeyes (No. 40)

Though not the star on his own team, Wieskamp proved as a sophomore that he is one of the best players in the Big Ten. The forward averaged 14 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season, which ranked second only to Garza. Wieskamp’s play-making ability earned him a spot on the Preseason All-Big Ten Team.

Micah Potter, redshirt senior center: Wisconsin Badgers (No. 42)

Playing alongside Reuvers in the paint, Potter averaged over 10 points and six rebounds per game in his first season in Madison after transferring from Ohio State. Potter appeared in just 20 games in 2019-20, but his promising size and complement to Wisconsin’s go-to scorer in Reuvers has landed Potter on the 2021 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watchlist, which features the top-20 centers in the nation.

Ron Harper Jr., junior guard: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (No. 44)

Harper led a surprisingly good Rutgers team in 2019 to a 20-11 finish, the most wins for the Scarlet Knights since 2003. An average of 12.1 points per game was good for a team-high along with 5.8 boards per game. Alongside Preseason All-Big Ten selection Geo Baker, Harper has a chance to take Rutgers to its first NCAA Tournament since the 1990-91 season.

Marcus Carr, redshirt junior guard: Minnesota Golden Gophers (No. 48)

The Pitt transfer solidified his role as Minnesota’s star last season after averaging a conference-high 36.8 minutes per game. Carr averaged 6.7 assists per game, second in the Big Ten, and 15.4 points per game, eighth in the Big Ten, in his first year for the Golden Gophers. Though there was a chance he would be a one-and-done in the transfer and head to the NBA, Carr returned to Minnesota as one of the best guards in the conference.

Aaron Henry, junior forward: Michigan State Spartans (No. 54)

As Michigan State’s member of the Preseason All-Big Ten Team, Henry has some big shoes to fill this season. The 6’6 forward averaged just over 10 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 2019, but the offseason seems to have worked in Henry’s favor as he has reportedly improved substantially since last taking the floor for the Spartans.

Aamir Simms, senior forward: Clemson Tigers (No. 68)

Simms returns as the Tigers’ leading scorer (13.0) and rebounder (7.2) from a season ago. The senior also was lights out from deep, shooting 40% from the three-point line on 85 attempts. His points and rebounds per game both ranked in the top-20 within a star-studded ACC in 2019-20. Standing at 6’8, Simms is an all-around threat that can attack in the paint and be lethal from the outside.

Trevion Williams, junior forward: Purdue Boilermakers (No. 77)

Williams finished atop Purdue’s statistical rankings in points per game (11.5), rebounds per game (7.5) and field goal percentage (51.5%) in his sophomore season. Standing at 6’10 and 265 lbs., the Chicago native is one of the more dominant big men in the Big Ten this season, earning him Preseason All-Big Ten honors.

Franz Wagner, sophomore guard: Michigan Wolverines (No. 87)

Brother of Moritz Wagner who dominated for the Wolverines as one of the best big men in the country before getting drafted in 2018, Franz has made a name for himself at Michigan as well after a stellar freshman year. An average of 11.6 points in 27 starts led Wagner to three Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors late into the season. The Berlin, Germany, native was also named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.