Bossi's Best: Ten programs that will rebound in 2020-21
Like any sport, there are ups and downs in college basketball. In this week’s edition of Bossi’s Best, national analyst Eric Bossi takes a look at 10 programs for which there are better days ahead, specifically next season.
Starting Five: Big weekend for LSU, gut check time at Duke
2022 Rankings: Top 75
Things already look to be trending back upward for Dan Hurley’s Huskies. They’ve won six of their last eight and have a blossoming young star in freshman guard James Bouknight. They’ll lose guard Christian Vital, who has lit up scoreboards, and when freshman shot blocker Akok Akok will be able to return from an Achilles tear is unknown, but they get the majority of their best players back and there’s a lot of excitement about the potential of Howard transfer R.J. Cole.
Archie Miller’s Hoosiers are currently on the bubble for this year’s NCAA Tournament and an appearance would be their first since 2016. But, Indiana’s potential in the 2020-21 season is looking pretty considerable in what should be a loaded Big Ten. Assuming star freshman big man Trayce Jackson-Davis decides to stay in school, they’ll return nine of their top 10 players and they’ll have as much backcourt experience as anybody in the country.
All three members of their 2020 recruiting class rank inside the Rivals150 and there’s a very good chance that five-star junior point guard Khristian Lander graduates this summer and enrolls for next season as well.
Indiana fans have all the reason in the world to be skeptical, but it’s hard to imagine them not taking a big step forward next season.
The Hurricanes made three-straight NCAA Tournaments between 2016 and 2018 before taking a step back in 2019. It’s been another tough year in 2020 but there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Coral Gables. Of their top seven scorers, only guard Dejan Vasilijevic is a senior. Leading scorer Chris Lykes could be one of the most dynamic scorers in the ACC next season and freshman guards Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly have both had flashes of future brilliance.
It’s been a nightmare of a year in Chapel Hill for Roy Williams and the Heels. Injuries, poor shooting and inconsistent play have added up to perhaps the worst year of Williams' Hall of Fame career.
Freshman star Cole Anthony will be gone to the NBA but the Heels will return an experienced frontcourt led by Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot. Most importantly, they're getting a talent infusion from 2020’s No. 2 recruiting class that features four(!) McDonald’s All-Americans in guards Caleb Love and R.J. Davis along with big men Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler.
Unlike many of the other teams on this list who will be returning some serious firepower, Oklahoma State is going to lose three of its top four scorers to graduation. But, Mike Boynton and the Cowboys will hopefully be getting a fully healthy year from guard Isaac Likekele and young players such as freshman forward Kalib Boone have had some great flashes of potential down the stretch.
Most important of all, the Cowboys get 2020’s top-ranked player Cade Cunningham, who is just as much of a leader and producer on the defensive end as he is on the offensive end.
He’ll headline their No. 6-ranked 2020 recruiting class and help to instill the winning culture they’ve been working so hard to rebuild in Stillwater.
Jeff Capel and the Panthers aren’t going to make their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2016 this season, but they’ve taken steps forward since last season and all signs are pointing toward a return in 2021. The Panthers return their four leading scorers and their top scorer and rebounder Justin Champagnie has been one of the nation’s biggest freshman surprises.
Hopes are extremely high inside the program that Delaware transfer Ithiel Horton will be an impact player in the ACC. Champagnie, Horton and experienced guards plus a talented big man in 2020 four-star center John Hugley should be a recipe for a big year three under Capel.
There probably aren’t many Purdue fans who are worried about the direction of their program. Matt Painter has been incredibly consistent while leading the Boilermakers to five-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Should they miss this season, there is exactly zero doubt that they’ll be back next season.
Led by big man Trevion Williams, they should return six of their top seven scorers and they’ve been able to redshirt a pair of four-star recruits Brandon Newman and Mason Gillis as freshmen. Mix in incoming four-star guards Ethan Morton and Jaden Ivey and the 2019-20 season will be forgotten pretty quickly.
Losing senior guard Lamonte Turner after 11 games was a crushing blow for Rick Barnes and the Volunteers but they aren’t totally dead for the 2020 NCAA Tournament just yet. Looking ahead, though, there is a lot of reason for excitement in Knoxville.
Oregon transfer Victor Bailey should add scoring punch, former five-star Josiah-Jordan James should take a big step forward as a sophomore and Santiago Vescovi has had some very impressive moments since enrolling mid-season.
After coming up just short in the 2019 National Championship game against Virginia, Texas Tech should still make the 2020 NCAA Tournament. However, Chris Beard’s Red Raiders are leaking a little bit of oil coming down the stretch and they’ve lost three-straight games as they prepare for No. 1 Kansas to finish out their regular season.
Leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey is likely going to leave for the NBA but fellow first-year players Terrence Shannon and Kevin McCullar look like budding Big 12 stars. UNLV transfer Joel Ntambwe should be ready to make an impact and big man Tyreek Smith is capable of making noise as a redshirt freshman in 2020-21.
High-scoring forward Timmy Allen will be back as a likely preseason All-Pac-12 pick, Both Gach is a capable wing scorer and freshman point guard Rylan Jones looks like a future All-Pac-12 floor general. Incoming four-star shooting guard Ian Martinez is a potentially big-time scorer and four-star big man Caleb Lohner has a chance to impress.
In year 10 as the head coach of the Utes, there’s going to be pressure on Larry Krystkowiak to get the Utes back to the NCAA Tournament and the pieces to do it look to be in place.