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McCamey back to Illinois; Big Ten looking like strongest league

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's Draft Deadline Day, as you may have heard, and with the news coming in during the past 48 hours of what players are making smart or dumb decisions, prognosticators can better attempt to rank and file teams and conferences for 2010-11.

Make no mistake, that's what this is about for the college-minded pundits and fans. We wanna know who the heck is coming back so we can appropriately adjust our expectations and being looking at the 2010-11 season entirely too early.

And with the deadline coming and going, it's looking like the Big Ten will be The Conference to Beat after news today that Demetri McCamey and teammate Mike Davis would (intelligently) forego this year's NBA Draft and return to the Illini next season.

With Purdue getting its core of players back and Michigan State having Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers return as well, the Big Ten could have three teams capable of reaching the Final Four.

Illinois' ceiling is hard to gauge right now — to a certain extent, McCamey has some growing up to do — but this combo returning to Champaign is going to do wonders for Bruce Weber. Illinois just went from a middle-of-the-road to a fighting-for-the-top team.

Let's look at the rest of the conference.

Remember, the Big Ten was considered 2009-10's best as well. That largely-agreed-upon opinion shifted come February, but a lot of that had to do with injuries.

On top of what we've already mentioned, Wisconsin gets to annoy the hell out of everyone thanks to Jon Leuer returning, and he could very well run away with the Player of the Year award in the the conference if he plays as well as his heart desires. Seriously, do not sleep on Leuer. In fact, I'd expect a handful of profile pieces on the kid by the time Valentine's Day rolls around. And Jordan Taylor is a name that's ready to go national.

Northwestern gets Kevin Coble back on a redshirt senior season. Had he played all of last year, it's very possible the Wildcats could have reached their first Dance.

Plus, Tournament-goers Minnesota don't lose a lot. It's easy to forget how quickly Minnesota was dispatched by Xavier in the first round, but they did get back to the tournament.

Even teams like Penn State caught a break today. Talor Battle — a fringe Draft candidate — showed some common sense and decided to return to University Park. The Nittany Lions and ever-improving Indiana Hoosiers won't be world-beaters, but they'll certainly be pests within the conference.

Yes, some teams took hits with early departures. Michigan (clock's ticking, Beilein) lost Manny Harris, who clearly made the right decision by signing with an agent long ago, and Ohio State, which has a loaded class coming in, said goodbye to Evan Turner.

But the Big Ten being the center of the college basketball universe preseasons in a row? This is the alternative universe we were never properly notified about, I suppose.

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