Evans Seven: Programs with most on the line in month of July
July was supposed to be the month that coaches would be scouring the nation in hopes of finding the next face of their programs. Instead, they are waiting for news on waiver requests, NBA departures, transfers and potential high school commitments.
In the latest Evans Seven, we examine which programs have the most riding in the month of July. Depending on how the month plays out, these programs could be positioning themselves into national title contention - or not.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
1. TEXAS TECH
Crazy how far things have come in Lubbock. Just five years ago Texas Tech fans would have been satisfied with hearing bubble talk in March. But thanks to Chris Beard’s stewardship of the program, the Red Raiders are consistently in the discussion about national title contenders. But with a July that could bring even greater news, Beard’s tea, could go from being on the periphery of that discussion to a major talking point as far as who could cut down the nets in April.
Mac McClung is awaiting word regarding the waiver that he submitted to play immediately. If received, Texas Tech could be granted the services of one of the more entertaining, athletic guards in the game. Another important element regarding how far the Red Raiders can go is Jon Kuminga. Granted, the chances are very, very slim, but if Kuminga plays college ball it will be in Lubbock. It is Texas Tech versus the G League for him.
Could the fact that the NBA opened a small loophole that would allow eligible college prospects to enter the upcoming draft put the kibosh on Kentucky’s waiver chances with Olivier Sarr? It remains to be seen, but no traditional transfer may have had a better chance of immediate eligibility in the fall than Sarr. Big Blue Nation will be anxiously awaiting word regarding Sarr, and if good news is granted, Kentucky would have the center that it has been diligently searching for in the past year.
Sarr is a ready-made producer in the frontcourt, and he will be surrounded with a plethora of playmakers, athletes and shot-makers who should have as good of a chance as anyone to take home the national title. Beyond that, Kentucky remains in the fight for Jon Kuminga and Moussa Cisse, the Wildcats trail behind other programs with both. They could also see Jacob Toppin’s waiver granted, but there is a strong likelihood that he will take a sit-out year, the same route that his older brother, Obi Toppin, took on the way to his national breakout.
Surprisingly, Moussa Cisse remains available, which can only be good news for Memphis. A month ago, LSU was the hands-down favorite to land the talented big man, but with weeks passing since his expected commitment and with Cisse residing in the back yard of Penny Hardaway’s program, could he be rethinking things and instead decide to pick a different color Tiger? That we should most definitely find out this month, along with the waiver appeals of Landers Nolley and DeAndre Williams.
Nolley and Williams are two of the best traditional transfers this offseason, but neither has a tremendous case to see the floor in the fall. Of the two, Williams does have a prior coaching change working in his favor. If both are granted waiver requests, Memphis gains two super-versatile wing-forwards that would give Memphis one of the deeper perimeter cores in the game, and that could equate to a group that competes for the national title - if all goes right.
4. FLORIDA STATE
Leonard Hamilton has routinely made his Florida State outfit one of the best in the ACC, but his roster for the upcoming season could be the best that he has ever assembled if all breaks right this month. Sure, the early exits of Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams hurt, as does the graduation of longtime stalwart guard Trent Forrest, but the Seminoles have oodles of talent heading into the program. That talent level could be improved greatly, depending upon what Alex Tchikou and Moussa Cisse ultimately decide to do.
Cisse has only visited one program and that is Florida State, but even with the slight advantage, landing the elite rim protector over LSU or Memphis will not be easy. The same can be said for Tchikou, whom the staff has compared to former FSU standout Jon Isaac. If they can somehow land another post option that can impact the program right away, national title talk about Florida State would be much more deserved.
Gonzaga’s most recent win came with Andrew Nembhard, one of the best and most productive guards to transfer in recent years. Nembhard likely won't push for a waiver to play immediately in the fall, which should give the Zags a chance to compete for a national title during the 2021-2022 season. But if they want to be national title contenders for the upcoming season, a whole lot rides on what Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi decide regarding their NBA fate.
None of them are likely to be selected in the first round of October’s draft, but there is a role that all three could - and would - fill in the league. Kispert might be of the greatest need thanks to his shot-making, while Ayayi may boast the greatest upside. Thanks to the uncertainty that the offseason has granted due to the lack of predraft workouts and the combine itself, getting a pulse on which way any of the three is leaning has not been easy. But decisions should be made by the end of the month and if they all return to Spokane, then Gonzaga might be the clear-cut favorite to win it all come April.
The work that Scott Drew has done since taking over in Waco is the best the entire sports world has seen in recent memory. However, the elusive Final Four has remained out of his reach since he broke into the profession. Might that change this season? The loss of Freddie Gillespie will sting, but the enrollments of two four-star centers, along with a Rivals150 guard who can score - LJ Cryer - should help. As will Adam Flagler and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who each sat out last season due to transfer restrictions. But for the Bears to have their best chance at March glory, Jared Butler and MaCio Teague must return to the program.
Butler has the better chance of the two to be selected by the NBA, and his intangibles and predraft interviews have drawn great reviews from NBA personnel. A fringe first-rounder, could Butler decide to return for one more season and cement his status as a top 30 selection? If so, Drew would have a more-than-capable Final Four squad. We should know in the coming weeks.
It is not too often that Iowa is mentioned among championship contenders. But the Hawkeyes are a must in that conversation for this season, although that comes with one caveat: Luka Garza must return for his senior season. One of the best and most productive players in the sport last season, it would be Garza and then everyone else competing for national player of the year honors if he decides to head back to Iowa City for one last season. In doing so, Iowa would have arguably the most stunning offense in the sport with Jordan Bohannon, Joe Weiskamp, CJ Fredrick, the McCaffrey brothers and an underrated five-man 2020 recruiting class. An Iowa team without Garza is more of a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, one that would hover around the 8 or 9-seed line. With Garza, however, the Hawkeyes are a potential Final Four team that could go down as one of the best in school history.