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Maryland women’s basketball picked to win the Big Ten by coaches and media

A year after finishing in second place in the conference, the Terps are expected to be the top dogs once again.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Bridgeport Regional-Maryland vs Oregon David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In four years since joining the Big Ten, Maryland women’s basketball has never finished lower than second place. Conference coaches and media expect that trend to continue, as the Terps are projected to win the league for the fourth time in five years.

Brenda Frese’s team welcomes back four of its five top scorers from last year, including First Team All-Big Ten junior Kaila Charles. Last year, Charles had one of the most productive seasons by a sophomore in school history, averaging 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting just over 50 percent from the field.

Coaches and media are expecting another productive year from Charles, who was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team for the second year in a row. She was one of four players to be named a unanimous selection, joining Iowa forward Megan Gustafson, Michigan center Hallie Thome, and Minnesota guard Kenisha Bell on the coaches list. Gustafson was named Preseason Player of the Year after sharing the award with Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell last season.

With Ohio State losing Mitchell and its other top five leading scorers to graduation and transfer, Maryland will have to deal with some new challengers for conference supremacy. Gustafson and the Hawkeyes will probably be the biggest threat, and Minnesota also returns four starters from a juggernaut offense and has a new head coach in program legend Lindsey Whalen.

The Terps are coming off a 26-8 season overall and a 12-4 record in Big Ten play with a team that was relatively inexperienced and had many players forced to take much bigger loads than the previous season. Last year’s core of Charles, Blair Watson and Stephanie Jones remains intact, and the incoming freshman class has multiple players who could make an immediate impact.

Maryland opens its season on Nov. 9 against Coppin State.