Evans Seven: Teams that will be hit hardest by lack of workouts
In last week’s Evans Seven, we targeted the schools that were best positioned to handle this most uncertain off-season. While there has been a move in recent days for on-campus workouts, the chances that the next few months will look like other off-seasons are far-fetched.
With that said, it would appear that those who will welcome an onslaught of newcomers to their programs could have the most to lose because they won't have a summer to pursue on- and off-floor court cohesion. That is why some concern should be felt in Lexington, Durham, Baton Rouge and elsewhere. Analyst Corey Evans looks at seven of those programs.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
Here is all that Kentucky returns from last year’s roster: 138 points, 99 rebounds and five assists. If anybody can achieve the near impossible, it is John Calipari, but this scenario is not one that he could have foreseen.
Player departures forced the Wildcats to venture into the transfer portal. where they won out with Creighton’s Davion Mintz and Wake Forest’s Olivier Sarr - though questions remain as to whether Sarr will be eligible in the fall. Those two, along with redshirt forward Dontaie Allen, will welcome the nation’s top recruiting class, but the players must hit the ground running and accept their roles immediately. Off-the-floor friendships can turn sour when the ball is tipped and a bevy of moving parts are not in sync. The loss of a complete summer together could certainly be detrimental to Kentucky’s ceiling.
Things are not as dire in Durham as they are in Lexington, but there must be some concern regarding the potential loss of summer workouts and what it could mean for Duke’s season.
Just has been the case in recent years, Mike Krzyzewski saw a handful of early departures leave for the NBA. In will come another top-ranked class, one that is led by Jalen Johnson, DJ Steward, Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach. How those four fit alongside returnees Matthew Hurt, Wendell Moore, Jordan Goldwire and Columbia graduate-transfer Patrick Tape remains to be seen.
The Zion Williamson roster had the Canadian trip to prepare for the upcoming season. In doing so, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish learned who would be the alpha of the group prior to the regular season. This group will not have the chance to maximize as many summer workouts or practices, which will surely impact Duke’s season.
Last season was one of peaks and valleys for the Tigers, thanks to a sparkling start in SEC play before tumbling, regaining footing and then easing into March with a chance of a deep run.
While there are questions as to whether Darius Days, Trendon Watford and/or Javonte Smart will withdraw from the NBA Draft, odds are that Emmitt Williams is gone, as are Skylar Mays and James Bishop. In will come at least an eight-man class that will completely transform LSU’s roster. How Will Wade goes about making it all work is definitely intriguing. Whether it is Cam Thomas and Eric Gaines in the backcourt, Mwani Wilkinson, Josh LeBlanc and Shareef O’Neal on the wings, or Josh Gray and Bradley Ezewiro around the rim, there are too many moving pieces to even count, and that is even before discussing the potential of Moussa Cisse’s reclassification.
Either way, Wade has his work cut out for him and the loss of any sort of summer could put the Tigers behind the eight ball before the season begins.
4. NORTH CAROLINA
If the biggest hurdle that Roy Williams must overcome is the loss of summer workouts compared to all that he endured last season, chances are he would take it. Still, his roster will see plenty of turnover in the coming months.
After a season that was his worst in terms of wins and losses, the Tar Heels will lose NBA first-round pick Cole Anthony, four-year contributor Brandon Williams and graduate-transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce while returning practically zero production in the backcourt. The frontcourt is more than sturdy with Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks back and the enrollments of Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe. How these players share a floor together will be a great test study. It will also be interesting to see what UNC gets out of Caleb Love and RJ Davis in the backcourt. Health concerns may revolve around Rechon Black and Anthony Harris, but talent will not be the issue next year. Rather, the big question will be how all of the pieces fit together, and without off-season workouts that question will loom especially large.
5. OKLAHOMA STATE
The Oklahoma State squad that closed out last season will be a completely different team once the ball is tipped again. That might not be such a bad thing, seeing that the Cowboys finished near the basement of the Big 12, but the potential loss of an off-season could be devastating.
It would have definitely helped Mike Boynton to have had a chance to coach the talent that will come to campus via the transfer portal and the Rivals150. However, Cade Cunningham is of a different mold and he is someone that others gravitate toward. A top-five class will join him - one that includes four other players - and Cal Baptist grad-transfer Ferron Flavors will also enroll. How the new players develop chemistry with Isaac Likekele, Yor Anei and the Boone brothers without a full summer remains to be seen, but talent won’t be the reason if the Pokes fall short next year.
While Arizona has been one of the more progressive states when it comes to welcoming back normal life to its residents, there still has to be concern in Tucson regarding how efficient of an off-season the Wildcats can have. They will lose Josh Green, Nico Mannion and Zeke Nnaji after just one year to the NBA Draft, and Max Hazzard, Dylan Smith, Stone Gettings and Chase Jeter have exhausted their collegiate eligibility.
Needless to say, there will be no shortage of holes that Sean Miller needs to fill on the fly. A five-man recruiting class will enroll, although three of those players remain outside of the United States, which brings into question how seamless their transition to campus and workouts will be.
Four others via the transfer realm will also hit the court, as will a potentially healthy Brandon Williams. Add it all up and there are nine newcomers that didn’t see the floor for Arizona last year that will be on the roster next season. How they come together during an uncertain off-season and in a Pac-12 Conference that should be even stronger is anyone’s guess.
7. WAKE FOREST
Wake Forest was the only power conference to undergo a coaching change this off-season. That does not help Steve Forbes when it comes to turning around the Demon Deacons' program, especially during the uncertain times that the pandemic has created.
The Deacons have been the basement of the ACC for the past few seasons, so Forbes is already behind the eight ball. He is a coach that prides himself on getting the most out of his players, but that will be tough to do without a full offseason of on-court work. Furthermore, Wake Forest saw five of its top six scorers from last season either graduate from the program or transfer elsewhere. Chaundee Brown and Olivier Sarr, two potential building blocks for the Forbes-era in Winston-Salem, have left for Michigan and Kentucky, respectively, and two of the school’s 2020 recruits have also decided to withdraw their commitments.
The task of restarting the ACC program is huge, and without an off-season of work to get everyone on the same page that task becomes even more colossal.