Before we get started, two caveats: 1.) Calculating returning minutes to project future success is an inexact science. Just because you have veterans returning doesn't mean you have talent. Experience doesn't always equal success.
And 2.) There might well be a power conference or two returning more minutes played in 2010-11 than the Big Ten -- this topic deserves a much larger, more devoted analysis -- but if such conferences do exist, I'd be surprised. Because pretty much everyone in the Big Ten is coming back.
All right, that's not exactly true. National player of the year Evan Turner is gone. Purdue defensive specialist Chris Kramer has moved on, too. But if you look up and down the conference -- courtesy of some helpful chart action by UM Hoops' Dylan Burkhardt -- you see a host of returning minutes on teams both good and bad.
Michigan State returns 83 percent of its minutes from a team that went to the Final Four. Purdue returns 71 percent, but the number is slightly deceptive thanks to Robbie Hummel's return from injury and the disproportionate influence of the big three on that team. Illinois leads the way at 91 percent, and with the addition of a solid recruiting class could legitimately compete for the conference title. Turner's departure will hurt the Buckeyes, but Ohio State returns plenty of experienced veterans. Northwestern has 77 percent of its minutes returning, and that doesn't account for injured star Kevin Coble, who missed the entire 2009-10 season.
Even lowly Indiana, a team that might again struggle to get to .500, has nearly all of its players returning. This depth runs, um, deep.
What does this all mean? Not a whole lot. Inexact science, remember? Still, if you're looking for reasons to predict a strong season for the Big Ten, this is a good place to start. The Big Ten will have plenty of familiar faces in the upcoming season.