Five teams bounced this weekend that could be back next year
There are always teams that grow after falling short of the Final Four. Here are five candidates that could take the next step a year from now.
While most of the college basketball world is focusing on the four teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament, that’s not the case for coaches of the sport. They’re already looking toward next season, trying to wrap up recruiting classes and figure out the scholarship situation for the 2014-15 season. The transfer market is already in high gear, and coaching changes are bound to lead to decommitments and touted recruits becoming available once again.
Before those things are settled, though, let’s take a quick look a handful of teams that were bounced this past weekend – but could take the next step a year from now.
Arizona: Sean Miller is probably the best head coach in the country without a Final Four, but he will have the pieces to make another deep run next season. Even if Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson declare for the NBA draft, the Wildcats return T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski. If any of those latter two or three go pro, then it’s a different story, but by bringing back that quartet and adding five-star wing Stanley Johnson gives Miller one of the best starting fives in the country. There’s also plenty of depth.
San Diego State: Steve Fisher was in the mix for National Coach of the Year honors this season, overcoming the loss of three starters to win 31 games. The Aztecs will lose Xavier Thames, one of the best players in the country, and double-double threat Josh Davis – but there is still plenty of talent on the roster. Transfer Angelo Chol (Arizona) is eligible, former Virginia transfer James Johnson should get more time, newcomers Trey Kell, Malik Pope, Zylan Cheatham and Kevin Zabo will compete for minutes, and four of the top six returnees are back.
Iowa State: It’s not often a team can lose two All-Americans and expect to be back in the mix, but that’s where Fred Hoiberg has the Cyclones right now. DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim are gone, but Dustin Hogue and Georges Niang are back in the frontcourt – and transfers Jameel McKay (Marquette) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) could be immediate impact players. Monte Morris has developed at the point, and we can always expect Iowa State to make a move in the spring for an immediately-eligible transfer.
Virginia: Like the two teams above them, the Cavaliers are at the point where they can sustain heavy personnel losses and be right back in contention. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell have used up their eligibility, and those two helped Bennett get Virginia to where it is now. Three starters are back, though, and Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill both will have no issue stepping into the starting lineup. They could be more explosive offensively next season.
Stanford: It’s a good thing Johnny Dawkins saved his job by making the NCAA Tournament – because he will have some serious talent on the roster next season. With the addition of Robert Cartwright at the point, Chasson Randle could slide to the two, where he’s at his best. Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis are gone up front, but Reid Travis is a double-double threat from day one, and Stefan Nastic gained confidence late in the season.
Two to reassess in a month:
UCLA: The Bruins could be poised to lose Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine to the NBA draft – but Steve Alford brings in a loaded recruiting class and has Isaac Hamilton sitting out.
Michigan: The Wolverines’ 2014-15 hopes hinge on the NBA decisions of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. They could overcome one leaving, but two makes it difficult for John Beilein.
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