Evans Seven: Programs that would take the biggest hit if stars go pro
We have seen a number of underclassmen already enter their names into the NBA Draft. The deadline to do so is April 22, and the date a player can pull his name out is set for May 20. A number of teams' fortunes will depend on what their top stars decide to do.
In this week’s The Evans Seven, we toss aside Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova and Duke, programs that can compensate for their potential early departures with enrollments of five-star recruits. Instead, we look at seven programs that will be most impacted depending on whether their top prospects return for another year or opt for the NBA.
MORE EVANS SEVEN: Who can knock Villanova off of its perch next season?
1. KANSAS STATE
Things have changed drastically in Manhattan, Kan., since February. The Wildcats were on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but after an Elite Eight run, they're in many polls’ top 10 rankings for next season. The decisions of Dean Wade, Barry Brown and Xavier Sneed will determine whether Kansas State is a Big 12 title contender next season, and each player remains undecided about the NBA Draft.
Wade, despite suffering through a foot injury that sidelined him for the majority of Kansas State’s postseason play, showed great growth during his junior year. He upped his rebounding, scoring and steals numbers and fits the modern-day, small-ball 4-man’s mold.
Brown was the face of Kansas State’s successful winning spree, locking down a number of high-volume scorers on the defensive end while transforming into the team’s go-to scorer.
Sneed, a freak athlete who has shown growth in the shot- making department, is a potential 3-and-D guy in the NBA. The Wildcats have signed just Shaun Williams from the high school ranks, so any losses to the NBA will greatly impact Kansas State’s fortunes next season.
K-STATEONLINE.COM: K-State's main hoop targets for 2019, 2020
2. WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia was going to take a minor step backwards after the graduations of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, two players that bought into the Bob Huggins' Press Virginia playing style. While those two players will be difficult to replace - especially Carter - two other Mountaineers' futures will have a big impact in Morgantown.
Esa Ahmad was sidelined for the first half of the season due to off-of-the court issues, but he scored in double figures in each of WVU’s tournament contests last month. A top 75 prospect out of high school, Ahmad can play either forward position, and he looks like he's ready to take his game to the next level.
The biggest wildcard for WVU is a player that makes its pressing defense go: Sagaba Konate. The most lethal shot-blocker the college game has seen in recent memory, Konate has to expand his offensive repertoire, but there is no disputing what he does around the basket. Losing Ahmad hurts WVU’s offensive potency, while losing Konate’s defensive acumen would hinder its pressing attack.
A strong class enrolls in the fall, but without Konate or Ahmad, the Big 12 won't be able to make as strong of an argument for being college basketball’s top conference.
WVSPORTS.COM: Hoops offseason heats up right away
Next season is it for Nebraska coach Tim Miles. It's the year he has been diligently working toward since taking over in Lincoln six years ago.
Sure, there was the 2014 campaign that saw the Cornhuskers surprise many by earning an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 1998. But since then, Nebraska had been a mediocre team before being a bubble team this past season.
The Cornhuskers don't stand to lose much from a team that finished ahead of national runner-up Michigan in the Big Ten standings, but a lot is riding on the returns of Isaac Copeland and James Palmer. The two transfers from Georgetown and Miami, respectively, found the ideal landing spot to flourish.
Copeland, a mix-and-match 6-foot-8 forward who can defend out to the perimeter while also making shots out to 20-feet, would be better off returning. Palmer, a 6-foot-5 guard, has a better chance of being selected at some point in June’s draft. Palmer evolved into the Big Ten’s top scoring guard during league play, and asking a program like Nebraska to replace someone who averaged over 17 points and four rebounds is a bit too much.
If both return, the Cornhuskers will have their best group since the Tyronn Lue and Erick Strickland days and they will be perceived as a team that could make the second weekend of the tournament next year.
Nevada was one of the best stories from the month of March, thanks to the play of Jordan Caroline, Cody Martin, Caleb Martin and a slew of others. While the Wolf Pack should be again in contention for its third consecutive Mountain West title next year, the return of both the Martin brothers and Caroline would catapult Nevada from league contender into the discussion for a Final Four appearance.
Kendall Stephens and Hallice Cooke, who are both graduating, will be difficult to replace. But filling the void of the team’s best defender and playmaker in Cody Martin, its best offensive weapon in Caleb Martin and its biggest mismatch in Caroline might be too much for the Wolf Pack to overcome.
They will enroll impact transfers Tre’Shawn Thurman, Corey Henson and Marcel Pettway, but using that trio as role players rather than showcase players is the more ideal situation for Nevada. The Martin brothers will turn 23 year old in September, and they may feel like they have hit their ceiling in Reno.
If their return is not in the cards, Nevada remains a Mountain West favorite but it likely won't enter the season being perceived as the best non-power conference team.
5. BOSTON COLLEGE
It has taken some time for Boston College to get back to competing for an NCAA Tournament berth, but perhaps this season's NIT appearance can help catapult the Eagles to more postseason success. Much will be riding on the decisions of Jerome Robinson and Kyran Bowman.
Robinson and Bowman entered the ACC program unheralded, but they immediately left a heavy imprint. Robinson, potentially the ACC Player of the Year next season, averaged over 20 points, three rebounds and three assists, and an early departure could put the program back a year or two. Bowman is the lesser NBA prospect, but he is an elite perimeter rebounder who averaged close to seven boards per game. Bowman, who once committed to North Carolina as a football prospect, is a big-time athlete and an astute alpha dog for the Eagles.
The Eagles will enroll Rivals150 forward Jairus Hamilton and shot-making guard Wynston Tabbs in the fall. They are both solid pieces, but losing Robinson and/or Bowman would hinder Boston College's chances of its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2009.
EAGLEACTION.COM: BC offers three-star guard from Virginia
The Orange were blindsided two weeks ago when their top 2018 recruit, five-star Darius Bazley, decided to forgo his college eligibility and become the first player to spend a year in the G-League before entering the 2019 NBA Draft.
Syracuse will be aided by the return of Oshae Brissett, last season’s freshman sensation, but much will be riding on the final decision of Tyus Battle. The 6-foot-7 wing played more minutes than anyone in college basketball last season, and seeing that Syracuse had a rather limited bench (three of its seven rotation players averaged over 38 minutes per game), it can't afford to lose Battle.
Coach Jim Boeheim does welcome two quality high school prospects this fall: his son, Buddy Boeheim, a sturdy shot-making wing, and tough-nosed guard Jalen Carey. The wildcard for the Orange is East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes, a 6-foot-5 wing who sat out last year due to transfer restrictions. While all three of those players should pitch in, losing Battle, who is a potential tail-end first-rounder in June, could place the Orange on the mighty bubble next March.
CUSECONFIDENTIAL.COM: SU after three-star 2018 PF Bryce Golden
Just like Syracuse, the Boilermakers have their upcoming season riding on the return of just one player, one who is arguably the top player in the Big Ten and could be included in conversations for national player of the year. Carsen Edwards has yet to hire an agent, and his return to West Lafayette would be a giant win for Matt Painter, as he would keep the program in the mix for another run in March.
The Boilermakers lose four starters to graduation this spring. PJ Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Vince Edwards, and Isaac Haas formed one of the best classes in program history and they left a heavy imprint on the program. But Edwards - a 6-foot-1, explosive guard - could see his numbers take a leap into another stratosphere.
Purdue won't be short on up-and- coming talent with Matt Haarms, Evan Boudreaux, Ryan Cline and Nojel Eastern, who should have a breakout season as a sophomore. Edwards is the alpha of the bunch, however, and without him Purdue is a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team that that will fight for a tournament bid. But with him, the Boilermakers are a strong league contender.