College Basketball Insider

College Basketball Preview: Who has the biggest shoes to fill?

Laquinton Ross (USATSI)
Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross will try and replace DeShaun Thomas for the Buckeyes. (USATSI)

Does Syracuse have a point guard capable of picking up where Michael Carter-Williams left off? Does California have a wing good enough to replace Allen Crabbe? And how in the world is Michigan supposed to overcome the early loss of All-American Trey Burke?

These are questions worth asking as the 2013-14 season approaches.

Here's a list of 10 college basketball figures with big shoes to fill.

(List is in alphabetical order.)

Antonio Barton

Tennessee

Vitals: 6-2 | Sr. | G

Comment: In fairness, it's inaccurate to suggest that Trae Golden left some "big shoes to fill" at Tennessee; he's a point guard who shot just 38.3 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from 3-point range last season, which obviously isn't great. But it did leave a hole at the point on an otherwise loaded starting lineup when Golden was removed from the UT program, and if Barton, a transfer from Memphis, can adequately fill that hole then the Vols will make the field of 68 for the first time under Cuonzo Martin.


Jabari Bird

California

Vitals: 6-6 | Fr. | G

Comment: Allen Crabbe didn't do everything for California last season -- especially considering Justin Cobbs averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists per game. But Crabbe did do a whole lot, and Bird, a heralded freshman wing, will likely be asked to step into the starting lineup and be an effective playmaker and scorer right from the jump.


Kenny Chery

Baylor

Vitals: 5-11 | Jr. | G

Comment: Scott Drew still hasn't settled on a point guard, and he probably won't for a while. But somebody will have to replace Pierre Jackson, who led the Bears in scoring each of the past two seasons. And that somebody will probably be Chery -- a junior college transfer from Canada who averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season at State Fair Community College.


Tyler Ennis

Syracuse

Vitals: 6-2 | Fr. | G

Comment: Michael Carter-Williams had no problems last season filling the void left by the departures of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waters. Now it's time to see whether Ennis can fill the void left by Carter-Williams, who averaged 11.9 points and 7.3 assists per season in his one year as a starter before jumping to the NBA.


Chris Jones

Louisville

Vitals: 5-10 | Jr. | G

Comment: Peyton Siva wasn't the nation's best point guard, or even one of the best. But he was a senior starter for a team that won a national championship, and that's not always simple to replace. That said, Jones is clearly capable. The Memphis native is the reigning National Junior College Player of the Year with a unique competitive streak. He's tough and fast and should be really, really good.


T.J.McConnell

Arizona

Vitals: 6-1 | Jr. | G

Comment: I was never the biggest fan of Mark Lyons as a primary ball-handler because he's not the type of primary ball-handler who makes others better. But Lyons did average 15.6 points per game last season while leading the Wildcats to 27 wins and the Sweet 16, and if Arizona wants to be better than that this season -- and, make no mistake, Arizona does want to be better than that this season -- then it'll need strong play from McConnell, a transfer who averaged 11.4 and 5.5 assists last season at Duquesne.


Brandon Miller

Butler

Vitals: Coach

Comment: This list was designed to be about players, and it mostly is. But, while compiling it, I couldn't help but think about how nobody in college basketball has bigger shoes to fill than Miller, because the shoes he's trying to fill belong to Brad Stevens, who left Butler in July to coach the Boston Celtics. Stevens, of course, took the Bulldogs to five NCAA tournaments in six seasons and made consecutive NCAA tournament title games in 2010 and 2011. Matching that was always going to be unlikely bordering on impossible, and Butler's move to the Big East will only make it more difficult.


LaQuinton Ross

Ohio State

Vitals: 6-8 | Jr. | F

Comment: Ross won't be asked to shoot as much as Deshaun Thomas shot last season, so he likely won't score as much either. But the 6-8 junior is the player best equipped to replace Thomas as Ohio State's leading scorer, and Ross showed he's capable when he averaged 15.0 points in just 20.3 minutes per game during last season's NCAA tournament.


Derrick Walton Jr.

Michigan

Vitals: 6-1 | Fr. | G

Comment: Walton almost certainly will not do at Michigan what Trey Burke did at Michigan because what Burke did at Michigan was remarkable. He was a two-year star and the National Player of the Year as a sophomore who led the Wolverines to the title game of the NCAA tournament before entering the NBA Draft; that's a high bar. So it's foolish to expect Walton to touch it -- though it should be noted that the in-state recruit was more heralded out of high school than Burke, point being that Walton is talented enough to team with Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III and take the Wolverines back to the Final Four.


Andrew Wiggins

Kansas

Vitals: 6-8 | Fr. | G

Comment: What would a preseason list be without Wiggins? But, trust me, the KU freshman does belong here because he too has tremendous shoes to fill, and on multiple levels. Most obviously, Wiggins is being asked to fill the shoes of Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley and become the Big 12's next celebrated one-and-done star. But he also needs to makeup for the loss at Kansas of Ben McLemore, a 6-5 wing who averaged 15.9 points last season. Granted, Wiggins and McLemore aren't similar players; let's be clear about that. But Wiggins' impact needs to be as significant for Kansas to be great. That's the point.


 
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