Rival Views: Team that will rebound after missing '17 NCAA Tournament
Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans don’t always see eye to eye. In this edition of Rival Views, the two debate the team most likely to make the 2018 NCAA Tournament after missing out this season.
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BOSSI'S VIEW: TEXAS A&M
The roster and recruiting class that I keep locking in on when I think about programs that should return to the NCAA Tournament next year after (likely) missing it this year is Texas A&M’s.
Yes, the Aggies are likely to lose freshman power forward Robert Williams, who has surprised everybody with his ascension to the level of potential NBA Lottery pick. However, four of their other top five scorers – Admon Gilder, Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg and Tony Trocha Morelos – should all be back. However, it’s who the Aggies have sitting out and the talent they have coming in from their 19th ranked 2017 recruiting class that should really supplement all the returning talent.
Anybody who has seen the Aggies this year knows that point guard play has been a struggle. Next year, help is on the way. Not only did the Aggies sign a high-scoring four-star point guard in T.J. Starks from the class of 2017, they will also have 2016 four-star point guard J.J. Caldwell available after sitting this season out. Caldwell was ranked No. 58 nationally. Tough and versatile four-star wing Savion Flagg is a player that could eventually compete for All-SEC honors and big man Isiah Jasey will add depth and athleticism.
With or without Williams, the Aggies look ready to make a return to the NCAA’s in 2018.
Another team to keep an eye on is going to be Washington. I know, I know, this year is going to make six-straight without a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, replacing potential No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz isn't going to be easy either. But 2017's No. 1 player Michael Porter Jr. may be even more talented than Fultz and could be the guy that leads the Huskies back to the NCAA Tournament. Add in local four-star guards Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell, along with Rivals150 point guard Blake Harris and it's as good a chance as the Huskies are going to have.
EVANS' VIEW: UCONN
UConn, barring a run through the AAC Tournament next week, will miss out on the NCAA Tournament this season. However, thanks to its returning cupboard of talent, a coach that has already cut down the nets as a national champion and a quality 2017 recruiting class, look for the Huskies to be dancing next year.
Things didn’t start off on a strong note for the Huskies as they dropped games to Wagner and Northeastern to kick off the season. They then saw star wing Terry Larrier go down with an ACL injury and then top freshman guard Alterique Gilbert was sidelined due to a shoulder injury. Both will be back next year. Throw in expected improvement from Christian Vital, Vance Jackson, Jalen Adams and Juwan Durham, and UConn should have enough on its hands for a much better season in 2017-18.
On the recruiting front, UConn put together the best class within the AAC this winter. Makai Ahston-Langford, an absolute speedster with the basketball in his hands, should slide in nicely behind Adams. Tyler Polley is a long and rangy forward that should become a mismatch weapon in the frontcourt thanks to his shot-making and ball skills. Finally, Josh Carlton enters the mix at center as the DeMatha Catholic star is a high-level passer and rebounder and should immediately help out around the basket.
Add it all up and the Huskies look primed and ready for a bounce-back season next year with playmakers, versatile wings and intriguing big men around the bucket.
While UConn is expected to return to the tournament after a year hiatus, Auburn could also be poised to return to the top bracket of play for the first time since 2003. Bruce Pearl has laid down the proper foundation at the SEC program and after adding five-star center Austin Wiley in the middle of the season, more help is on its way. Chuma Okeke and Davion Mitchell, both four-star prospects, should create a dangerous lineup alongside Mustapha Heron, Jared Harper and Danjel Purifoy.