CHAMPAIGN -- Conference coaches expect the defending Big Ten champion Fighting Illini to take a few steps back in 2016.
The Big Ten released conference predictions on Wednesday, voting the Michigan Wolverines as this year's favorite to claim conference bragging rights.
Despite coming off a record-breaking season, in which Illinois won 50 games and advanced to an NCAA super regional, coaches picked Illinois to finish 5th in the Big Ten. Maryland, Indiana, and Iowa are also picked ahead of Illinois, in that order.
Illinois is coming off its 30th Big Ten Championship in 2015 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional with a 50-10-1 record. Catcher Jason Goldstein, pitcher Cody Sedlock and shortstop Adam Walton were named Players to Watch.
Sedlock went 4-0 on the mound with a 4.02 ERA and tallied 29 strikeouts. Goldstein was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and posted a .286 batting average with eight home runs and 47 RBI. Walton was also a first-team All-Big Ten choice, hitting .289 and scoring 50 runs.
The full release from the Big Ten including the full list of 39 "players to watch" can be found here.