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Evans Seven: Bubble teams these 2018 prospects could've helped

Jalen Carey
Jalen Carey (AP Images)

We are less than a month until the NCAA's Selection Sunday, and a handful of fan bases will be sweating out their remaining league games prior to the unveiling of the bracket. In this week’s Evans Seven, we pinpoint seven teams that would no longer be on the bubble if they had the help of a specific 2018 pledge.

MORE EVANS SEVEN: Predictions for 2018 | Grading first-year coaching staffs

CLASS OF '18 RANKINGS: Rivals150 | Team | Power forwards | Centers |Point guards | Shooting guards | Small forwards



The Orange have battled through an up-and-down campaign this winter, relying heavily on Tyus Battle - the former top-50 prospect is playing more than 40 minutes per game during ACC play. Syracuse remains in bubble conversations, and while the Orange do have more than enough chances at bolstering their resume in the coming weeks with games against Duke, UNC and Clemson, they might not be in this spot if it had the talents of Jalen Carey. The four-star guard would bring an immediate scoring punch to a Syracuse squad that has been challenged with putting the ball through the basket. Carey is a tough-nosed playmaker and scorer who would take some of the pressure off of Frank Howard and Battle, making the Orange a potential No. 8 or 9 seed rather than where they currently sit: on the outside looking in as March approaches.


Could the Wildcats really miss out on the NCAA Tournament? They would have to stumble a lot down the stretch. Regardless, they are much closer to the bubble than many realize, thanks to their inability to make shots. Not one current member of the Kentucky roster is shooting over 37 percent from beyond the arc. The best three-point shooter has been Quade Green, who has made just 27-of-74 three-pointers this season. The lack of three-point shooting has hurt in the spacing department on the offensive end.

Next year, UK will enroll ever-improving guard Immanuel Quickley and an alpha-dog in Keldon Johnson. But Tyler Herro should likely be the X-factor. Despite shooting just 35 percent from three-point range on the EYBL circuit in the summer of 2017, the top 50 guard is one of the more polished half-court scorers in high school basketball. He was also playing last summer on a bum knee that is now fully healthy, which has made Herro a heavy favorite for Mr. Wisconsin this winter. Herro still has a few months to go before his college clock begins, but just by having him on the floor, questions about Kentucky’s inclusion in the NCAA Tournament would have already been put to bed.

3. LSU 

The Tigers are allowing opponents to shoot over 52 percent inside the arc this year, and during conference play that number jumps closer to 55 percent, easily the worst in the SEC. Somehow, first-year head coach Will Wade has used a roster that has leaned on the talents of former top 50 guard Tremont Waters, a very productive freshman, to lead the Tigers on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament berth. While the expectations in Baton Rouge were low, LSU could have taken things even further if it had Nazreon Reid on campus right now. The nearly 7-foot tall Reid is the definition of a physical intimidator as he brings size, strength and tremendous hands to the paint. Having Reid would immediately stabilize LSU’s frontline, deterring open shots at the basket while also helping in the assists category. Reid’s ability to produce assists is vastly underrated and a statistical category in which the Tigers’ sit in the bottom half of all power league programs.

4. UCLA 

The Bruins have righted the ship in recent weeks. After losing to both of the Oregon schools and to Colorado in consecutive games, UCLA has won five of its last six -thanks to the play of Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh. Issues remain in finding a consistent two-way threat, a role that top-50 wing commit Jules Bernard would have been able to fill admirably.

One of the top scorers on the West Coast, Bernard boasts plenty of offensive value with his three-level scoring skills, but the lengthy wing could also evolve into a defensive stopper, something the Bruins’ current roster lacks. There are no issues in the backcourt, with smaller guards Holliday, Jaylen Hands and Prince Ali. UCLA also has a sturdy frontline consisting of Welsh, Wilkes and Gyorgy Goloman. But the need remains for a wing with size who can score and defend multiple spots, a need that Bernard would fit perfectly.


Kevin Keatts has done a tremendous job of not only keeping his team afloat in the ACC this winter, but also getting his squad on the precipice of an NCAA Tournament bid. The recent emergence of Markell Johnson and the progressions of sophomore big man Omer Yurtseven have definitely helped, but issues remain in the three-point making department and on the glass. It's definitely an issue when a team that boasts a handful of powerful big men sits as the second-to-last ACC team in defensive rebounds. Add in the fact that the Wolfpack make just 34 percent of their three-point attempts and solidifying their perimeter shooting wouldn’t hurt, either.

While not a lights-out shooter or a killer on the glass, the talents of Saddiq Bey could have been a major help right now in Raleigh. On the Under Armour circuit last summer, the Rivals150 wing made over 44 percent of his perimeter tries, a number that would be second on this year’s NC State team. Bey is also a 6-foot-6 wing with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, enabling him to be used anywhere from the shooting guard spot down to the small-ball 4-man’s role, so the four-star wing could help on the glass and in defending different spots. Bey may not be the guy that would have put NC State over the hump, but his talents definitely would have helped.


The loss of Andrew Jones, the Longhorns' only reliable shooter, has put one of the worst three-point shooting teams in America between a rock and a hard place. While the Longhorns have their fair share of talent on their roster, thanks to the unicorn-like abilities of Mohamed Bamba and incremental improvements of freshman guard Matt Coleman, the fact that not one healthy contributor makes over 37 percent of his three-point tries is a major cause for concern. Also, the Longhorns are not as dominant of a threat on the glass as they should be with Bamba, Dylan Osetkowski and Jericho Sims. A mix-and-match forward who can shoot and rebound would be the perfect remedy for the Longhorns' issues.

Enter Kamaka Hepa. The four-star 2018 signee who made 41 percent of his three-point attempts and averaged close to seven rebounds per game on the Nike circuit last summer would be the perfect complement to Texas’ current roster. Hepa would allow greater room for Bamba to navigate inside while also opening more driving lanes for Coleman and explosive athlete Kerwin Roach. That would give the Longhorns more room to breathe when it comes to postseason play.


Providence was once believed to be solidly in the NCAA Tournament field, but three losses in its past six contests did not help its outlook (though a win over Villanova definitely did). The Friars have had problems with their inability to consistently knock down shots from behind the arc. There have been games in which they were lights out from three-point land and others where they failed to make just a fourth of their perimeter attempts.

While they have many of the tools needed to overcome their inconsistencies the Friars would certainly welcome one of the top long-distance shooters in the 2018 class, A.J. Reaves. A 6-foot-5 wing and a top-50 who brings excellent size, athleticism and - most of all - shooting abilities, Ed Cooley would love having the New England native on his current roster. Since he can't, Friars fans must hope that the worst three-point shooting team in the Big East can rely more on its upper-echelon defense - one that is among the best in steals, blocks and field goal percentage - to lead them back to the top bracket next month.

CLASS OF '19 RANKINGS: Rivals150 | Power forwards | Centers | Point guards | Shooting guards | Small forwards