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Big 10: Can anyone contest the New Kids on the Block (Maryland)?

Maryland is favored to roll through the Big Ten yet again in just their second season as conference members. But will their ride go without a bump this time around?

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, a conference newcomer came in and swept through the Big Ten. This year, the Maryland Terps, in their second year in the Big Ten, will look to do the same.

Seven Big Ten teams received votes in the Associated Press and USA Today Preseason Top 25 Coaches with Maryland leading the way.

The Terps, coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, are ranked 6th in the USA Today poll and 9th in the AP Poll.

Last season, Maryland went through conference play without a blemish finishing 18-0 and 34-3 overall. The Terps return four of its starters, but lose one of its key assets in junior Lexie Brown.

Last season, Brown was named as the Big Ten Tournament's outstanding player and made the All-Tournament team.

Despite losing a quality point guard, Maryland head coach Brenda Frese has complete confidence in her four "super seniors"—seniors who have been through now two Final Fours.

"We're fortunate that we have two senior point guards that have both started in their careers in that position. If we were to have to thrust younger players in that role, then we'd be worried," Frese said.

Maryland has point guard options in Brene Moseley, Chloe Pavlech and Kristen Confroy, but as of now, who will take the permanent position is a work in progress, Frese said.

Both Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones got international experience over the summer. Walker-Kimbrough won the Silver medal with Team USA in the Pan American Games and Jones won Gold with Team USA in the World University Games.

"I think it helped me a lot just learning from different people on the team," Walker-Kimbrough said. "It was great to play alongside three-time national champions. They led us and I learned a lot from them, not necessarily physically, but mentally.

"I can take how they think and apply that to things we do here at Maryland," she added. "In the PanAm games, it wasn't all about the scorers. It was about those who had to play defense, rebound and pass too. I can apply that to Maryland— for me personally I won't always need to score, but coach may need me to do those other things."

Maryland may be the Big Ten favorites again, but conference staple Ohio State might have something to say about that.

The Buckeyes came in higher in the AP Poll at 6th and 10th in the USA Today Poll. Ohio State returns all five starters from last year's 24-11 squad, led by the nation's leading scorer in Kelsey Mitchell.

Mitchell was named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year last month and became the first freshman to lead the nation in scoring.

Alongside Mitchell, Ohio State returns Ameryst Alston to combine for the highest-scoring backcourt in the Big Ten.

"That's a big part of our identity as a program. We want to be one of the fastest, most aggressive teams in the country and that can be reflected in the number of points we put up," said Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff. "We were playing at a really fast pace, and that will certainly be the case again this year, and we have the personnel to do it."

The Buckeyes also had a busy offseason, playing in Brazil in early August and picking up two Atlantic Coast Conference transfers in Sierra Calhoun (Duke) and Stephanie Mavunga (North Carolina).

Mitchell said she's excited to see how their ACC attitudes translate into the Big Ten, while McGuff said the additions bring national prominence and exposure to his team.

Behind the unanimous Maryland and Ohio State 1-2, there is a discrepancy between the conference coaches' preseason rankings and the media rankings.

In the coaches' rankings, Michigan State comes in as the third-best team for the 2015-16 outing, but the media has Northwestern favorited.

Michigan State, ranked 24th in the AP Poll and earning votes in USA Today, return their top-two scoring leaders.

Northwestern checks in at 19th in the AP Poll and 23 in the USA Today Poll and return their top-five scorers from last season's team that made an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Northwestern is entering this season after having one of its best outings last year, racking up 23 wins, its most since the 1995-96 season. Now, head coach Joe McKeown said it's a matter of not "living on your laurels."

"We went from the worst to the NCAA tournament. The jump we've made has been incredible since I've been here," he said. "To have that upperclassmen leadership, they know the struggle we've been through—what they've been through they feel really invested. You want that to carry through the whole team, and that's where having them really helps. They've paid their dues."

Iowa, Rutgers and Nebraska also received votes in the preseason polls.

Mitchell was unanimously selected as the preseason player of the year. The Buckeyes and the Terps led the way in All-Big Ten Team selection with two players each—Mitchell and Alston for Ohio State, and Jones and Walker-Kimbrough for Maryland.

Also selected to the Coaches team was Ally Disterhoft (Iowa), Aerial Powers (Michigan State), Rachel Banham (Minnesota), Rachel Theriot (Nebraska), Nia Coffey (Northwestern), and Kahleah Copper (Rutgers).

Tori Jankoska, of Michigan State, was chosen to the media all-conference team.

Meanwhile, some of last year's conference bottom dwellers like Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue and Penn State will look to surpass the .500 mark this year in Big Ten play. This may again be a difficult task with another top-heavy conference yet again this year.