Rivals Roundtable: Who misses NCAAs, possible Cinderella, next big commmit
The Rivals basketball roundtable is back with Corey Evans, Dan McDonald and Krysten Peek, talking NCAA bubble, mid-major candidates for the Final Four and the next Rivals150 prospect to commit.
1. Who will be the last team out of the NCAA field, and what needs to be done to reach the tournament next season?
Evans: I cannot see Texas making it primarily because a 16-loss team has never received an at-large bid. The Longhorns have one of the more unique resumes as they have defeated Kansas, Kansas State, Purdue and UNC but lost to Georgia, Oklahoma State and several bubble teams.
Next year should be the better despite Jaxson Hayes likely leaving for the NBA, along with Dylan Osetkowski and Kerwin Roach graduating. Shaka Smart seems to have more than enough shooters now with the returns of Kamaka Hepa and Jase Febres, along with the enrollment of Donovan Williams. Another offseason of development from its two-headed point guard tandem of Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey, along with five-star Will Baker and Rivals150 forward Kai Jones arriving on campus should get Smart’s first NCAA Tournament win as the head coach in Austin.
McDonald: Unfortunately for Clemson, I don't think the Tigers will be a part of the NCAA Tournament this year because of that tough loss against NC State in what many considered an elimination game on the bubble. It's going to be tough for Clemson to get back next year, too. Losing Shelton Mitchell, Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas will be tough and they'll be filling those spots with some younger, inexperienced players. Next year will likely be a rebuilding year for Brad Brownell.
Peek: The fact that Indiana is still considered a bubble team blows my mind. Yes, the Hoosiers have beaten Michigan State twice (first went to OT and the second game Romeo Langford hit a last-second shot) but they've also had some bad loses and were 8-12 in conference play.
It's a disappointing season, especially with in-state legend Langford most likely leaving for the NBA draft, but Archie Miller will have plenty of talent coming in next year. Five-star Trayce Jackson-Davis will be coming in and 6'4" shooting guard Armaan Franklin.
2. Is there another Loyola-Chicago lurking as a Cinderella bracket-buster?
Evans: While the random occurrence of seeing a mid-major program make a run to the Final Four has become less random in recent years, I am going to bet against it. I do believe that a six seed or worse will make the final weekend (the last six Final Fours have featured a No. 7 seed or lower) and though it could bear the name of Buffalo, Murray State or Wofford, I don’t see it in the cards.
McDonald: If you consider Buffalo and/or Wofford in that category, then there absolutely could be. The field seems pretty wide open this year for a team you wouldn't expect to make a run. If Georgia State is able to get out of the Sun Belt as the automatic bid, that's another mid-major team with a lot of fire-power and a lot of experience against high-major teams.
Peek: Wouldn't it be great if Ja Morant and Murray State made a run in the tourney this year? I know a lot of basketball fans know the name, but with Murray State being in the OVC, they haven't exactly had a ton of TV time this season. Now on the biggest stage and featuring a future top 3 draft pick, I want nothing more than to see this Murray State team make a run and maybe face off against Morant's old AAU teammate, Zion Williamson and Duke somewhere down the road.
3. Keion Brooks committed Friday night. Who will be the next Rivals150 player to come off the board?
Evans: It seems that the next would be Cole Anthony. The other five-star prospects remain in a complete stall pattern and while that could definitely be the case for the top-five guard, Anthony looks to be ready to commit. UNC is who will receive his pledge and that decision will come much easier now that it is all about certain that Coby White will be a one-and-done.
Oregon is doing all it can to delay his commitment, but it is rather inevitable; Anthony will be a UNC Tar Heel and could come as soon as by the end of the month where it would not be a giant surprise for him to announce at the McDonald’s All-American Game.
McDonald: I'll go with Trendon Watford. His high school season is done, so he can shift his focus to the recruiting process. His recruitment is mostly down to Alabama, LSU and Memphis, but then Duke decided to get involved and shake things up a bit. The recruiting scandal at LSU could make it hard for the Tigers to get him with the uncertainty around Will Wade's future. Unless Duke comes through with an offer, I think Watford picks Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers in the not-too-distant future.
Peek: Watford is the closest player to possibly make a decision. The five-star forward is down to Alabama, Duke, Indiana, LSU, & Memphis. As things stand now, Alabama, Memphis and LSU are in a good spot but who knows how the Wade situation will swing the odds for LSU.