Evans Seven: Teams who will improve most thanks to incoming class
The 2020 recruiting classes that Duke and Kentucky will enroll in the fall is nothing out of the norm for each, but there are a few other programs that will welcome groups that could transform them immediately. In the latest Evans Seven, we assess which programs should see the greatest year-over-year improvement next season thanks to their incoming freshman class.
Roy Williams just finished coaching the worst team he's ever had, and Cole Anthony is headed to the NBA Draft. That is not the recipe for a bounce back next season, but that will change with the enrollment of the 2020 class, a group of six that is Williams’ best recruiting work since arriving from Kansas.
Questions remain as to how the type of roles Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks, alongside five-stars Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe, might have. While it may be difficult to anchor three of the four on the court at the same time, the shot-making skills of RJ Davis, Puff Johnson and Kerwin Walton should allow for greater room for work down low. Caleb Love is the next in the long line of lead guards to take the lead in running UNC’s fastbreak. Rechon Black and Andrew Platek will also help, but this group will only go as far as the 2020 class can take them, but a return to the national rankings is expected.
Oklahoma State won its final four games and its first eight to begin last season, but failed to show for much in between. It coincided with the injury of star guard Isaac Likekele, who will return next season and be bolstered by the nation’s fourth-ranked 2020 class.
If there was ever a program changer, it is five-star guard Cade Cunningham. Sure, he chose the Pokes due to his brother’s hiring, be he is also someone that does things a bit differently and had developed a great rapport with Mike Boynton. Throw in perimeter scoring weapons in Rondel Walker and Donovan Williams, a high-flying athlete that is Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe, and potentially Montreal Pena, and OSU should be a different animal next season. The presence of the Boone brothers and Yor Anei down low, along with shot-making grad-transfer Ferron Flavors, should give Pokes fans every reason to be excited.
Finishing just 17-14 overall and 9-9 in league play during a middling year for the SEC, next season promises to be a great one in Knoxville. The Vols could be one of the few that receive first place votes in the preseason polls in the fall which is due in part to the likely return of SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons, ever-improving big man John Fulkerson, and former five-star guard Josiah James, yet it is also because of its 2020 class.
Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson bring strength and quickness, respectively, to Tennessee. The two dynamic guards complement each other and should be enhanced further by James, VJ Bailey and Santiago Vescovi. Corey Walker is a throwback forward that is as polished of an 18-footer scorer in the frontcourt that the 2020 class can provide. The three, along with Sacred Heart grad-transfer EJ Anosike, should transform the Vols into an outfit that could produce for a Final Four run next March.
Nate Oats’ inaugural campaign in Tuscaloosa didn’t end on a good note. Alabama finished just one game above .500 and saw its top two wings, John Petty and Herb Jones, enter their names into the 2020 NBA Draft. At least one is expected to return but, either way, the Tide should be optimistic for next season thanks to its incoming class.
The top newcomer might actually be a graduate-transfer in Yale’s Jordan Bruner who should answer its interior needs. Former McDonald’s All-American Jahvon Quinerly will see the floor again, and will be aided by two versatile wing-forwards in Darius Miles and Keon Ambrose-Hylton. Junior college standout Keon Ellis will provide for another shot-maker along the perimeter, but it is Josh Primo who could raise their ceiling for success. If he provides the perimeter versatility that he has been good for in the past, playmakes when asked upon, and hits shots whenever allotted, the Tide should be back in the NCAA Tournament after a minor hiatus the past two years.
Finishing in the basement of the Big 12 and just 11-21 overall, there is only one way to go and that is up for Kansas State. However, the Wildcats will be an even younger team next year compared to this past and sit within the deepest league in the sport.
Kansas State will rely on its incoming 2020 class to get back to the type of success the Wildcats enjoyed in years prior. Arguably the best group that Bruce Weber has ever assembled in Manhattan, a completely remade backcourt will be in the fold led by two-way guard Selton Miguel. Nijel Pack brings a scoring punch to the lead guard position while Luke Kasubke is known for his shooting. Seryee Lewis provides for a bouncy presence down around the basket and Davion Bradford is the definition of a rim presence. Two junior college standouts will enroll and UTEP transfer Kaosi Ezeagu will be eligible in the fall. The beginning of the season may be rough, but once role allocation sets in, KSU should make for a tough out during league play.
Things took a turn for the worse when the Panthers lost eight of their final nine games on the season. Tumbling towards the basement of the ACC, the year started out with great promise after an opening night win over Florida State. Chances are those type of wins will become more of the norm thanks to Pitt’s all-encompassing 2020 class.
William Jeffress became the face of it earlier this spring whenever the Erie, Pa., native reclassified and opted to remain in state. The frontcourt remains a guessing game at this point which is why his abilities will be welcomed. The same can be said for Noah Collier, Max Amadasun and John Hugley, the latter someone that can consistently score in the low post and is the type that Pitt has not had since Mike Young.
Trey McGowens’ departure hurts but Femi Odukale could be the sleeper for Pitt. Delaware transfer Ithiel Horton should be ready to go day one, and provide for an even better complement alongside Xavier Johnson compared to the transferred-out McGowens.
Finishing 10th in the ACC last year during a year that the league took a step backwards, Miami needs to get things headed back in the right direction. The 2020-2021 campaign can be just that, thanks to who they have returning to go along with a solid two-man class that should contribute early on.
Miami will not be lacking in the experience department with Chris Lykes, Kam McGusty, Sam Waardenburg, Harlond Beverly and Isaiah Wong set to return, along with Cincinnati transfer Nysier Brooks, but the enrollments of five-star wing Earl Timberlake and Rivals150 forward Matt Cross should enhance their chances for success. Timberlake, a complete do-it-all guard-wing that has the size, strength and toughness to impact an ACC playing floor today, will be an immediate cog along the perimeter. Cross possesses similar traits and while Waardenburg’s presence may limit his playing time, his ability to score and his intangibles give Jim Larranaga a chance to lead his team back to the NCAA Tournament.