Eight NCAA Tournament teams from last season that won't make it back in 2018
These teams went to The Big Dance in March, but could take a step back this season
Earlier this week, we provided you an optimistic outlook for the season ahead by giving a list of. Now ... the other part of the equation. The universe must have balance, meaning it's only fair to assess and guess on the programs that will be replaced. Below, my modest forecast on the teams that made the 2017 NCAAs but -- due to coaching changes, significant roster turnover or otherwise -- don't figure to be dancing in March.
This is preseason bulletin board material, I know, and I don't write this with any joy, malice or rancor. But if I'm going to put new teams into the NCAA Tournament, I have to take others out. If anything, looking at last season's field of 68, it feels like we'll have a hearty percentage of the same squads getting back. So this could be a year of relatively tame change among at-large bids from major conferences.
- Last season's seed: No. 7
- Key nonconference opponents: Auburn (Nov. 29), at Saint Mary's (Dec. 19)
Given the loss of Archie Miller to Indiana and four senior starters completing their career with the Flyers, this is one of the easiest picks of the crop, alas. After Miller took the IU gig, discussion in coaching circles was that the UD situation was probably a three-year rebuild given the roster set to play this season. And that's not meant as a big slight to the current Flyers. They can grow in time, but this group is vastly different from last season. Anthony Grant's thrived in the A-10 before (his success at VCU landed him the Alabama job), and he may well again, but the Flyers will be in for a season of baby steps, stumbles and learning opportunities.
- Last season's seed: No. 3
- Key nonconference opponents: at Florida (Dec. 4)
The highest-seeded team that doesn't make it back. You can sometimes tell a lot about a team heading into a season based on how its coach schedules the first 12 games or so. In Florida State's case, only a practical annual rivalry mandate with Florida blips on the radar. All other teams scheduled don't forecast in our top 50. The Seminoles had a big-time regular season in 2016-17, but after winning 26 games, the team lost Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes to early NBA Draft entry. Plus, 7-foot-1 megalith Michael Ojo graduated. The Noles have an intriguing freshman class, but this group will probably be a bit too green -- and lacking a strong enough out-of-league slate -- to break through to the field of 68.
- Last season's seed: No. 5
- Key nonconference opponents: at Missouri (Nov. 10), Iowa (Dec. 7)
The Cyclones are probably going to be an exhibit on how hard it is to make the NCAAs year after year after year after year. Right now, ISU's streak is at six seasons. It's been a good run as of late with Fred Hoiberg and Steve Prohm. But with the exception of a handful of programs, every team slips into a down year every 4-8 seasons. Even the proud programs like ISU. Perhaps Prohm's going to make me look a fool, but ISU was picked by league coaches to finish ninth, and that's because one of the most offensively savvy and mistake-free point guards in the past decade of college basketball is gone. Monte Morris has graduated, and so has thunderdunker matchup nightmare Deonte Burton. In fact, ISU lost six seniors. A big step back is inevitable.
- Last season's seed: No. 11
- Key nonconference opponents: Arizona State (Nov. 23), at Vanderbilt (Dec. 3), Georgia (Jan. 27)
Bruce Weber most certainly did not have a one-man team last season, but for all Wesley Iwundu did, I still think he was vastly underrated. Iwundu was the team's do-it-all star in the shadows, a guy who didn't get ink because K-State wasn't relevant most of the season. He's gone now, and so is D.J. Johnson. The Wildcats eked into the Big Dance last year anyway. Probably going to flirt with the bubble, but this looks like an NIT squad to me this season, in part because a lack of depth. If the Wildcats wind up in that 14-to-18-win range and are in the NIT, will Weber stay on? He's the only coach even remotely near a "hot seat" situation in that league.
- Last season's seed: No. 10
- Key nonconference opponents: Purdue (Nov. 14), VCU (Nov. 20), Georgia (Dec. 2), Wisconsin (Dec. 9)
Marquette lost three seniors of a team that went 19-13 and shot the most accurate percentage from 3-point range (42.9) in the sport. Steve Wojciechowski's team isn't going to be that good again from deep, and the defense has miles to go. Marquette fans would absolutely take finishing sixth in the Big East right now if you offered that, vs. chancing any better outcome. A fun program, and Wojciechowski's going to keep it steady, but probably an NIT year. The schedule is plenty challenging, and I like that a lot. I'll eat crow if MU winds up winning at least two in Maui, and is able to take the game vs. Wisconsin. Do that, then the NCAA Tournament picture changes significantly for this program.
- Last season's seed: No. 10
- Key nonconference opponents: Texas A&M (Nov. 20), Wichita State (Dec. 9), Florida State (Dec. 16), Arkansas (Jan. 27)
The Big 12 was statistically rated as the strong conference, per multiple mainstream advance analytic services, last season. It sent six squads to the NCAAs. The conference is set up to be fairly good again, and could send six once more, but between Iowa State, K-State and the Pokes here, it looks probable that these three will be swapped for others (NBA pick. The Cowboys were picked last in the Big 12 preseason poll.). Mike Boynton takes over after his former boss, Brad Underwood, left for Illinois. Boynton's been trying to keep the ship steady after his chief assistant, Lamont Evans, was arrested in the FBI's investigation into bribery and fraud in college hoops recruiting. OSU also lost Jawun Evans, who was an
- Last season's seed: No. 7
- Key nonconference opponents: at Clemson (Dec. 19), Texas Tech (Jan. 27)
Frank Martin will forever be remembered in South Carolina because of what he helped accomplish last season. The program had almost no basketball history as it pertained to March. Then, as a 7 seed, the Gamecocks definitively beat second-seeded Duke the first weekend, then got by Baylor and Florida to become one of the few major-conference Final Four teams to double as a Cinderella-type. The SEC Player of the Year, Sindarius Thornwell, graduated. P.J. Dozier, who would've probably been a preseason All-SEC honoree, left early for the NBA Draft. USC has good pieces coming back, but the schedule isn't overly difficult in the non-con, and the SEC is going to be tougher this season. Don't label this a "Final Four hangover." It's going to be a regression to the mean, historically, for South Carolina -- which is hoping to land five-star YouTube phenom and in-state prospect Zion Williamson so that the 2018-19 season can be a return to form for Martin.
- Last season's seed: No. 11
- Key nonconference opponents: Illinois (Nov. 28), at Charlotte (Dec. 5), Tennessee (Dec. 23)
Danny Manning did a tremendous job getting Wake to the NCAAs while fighting through arguably the toughest version of the ACC in that conference's history. But now the Deacs have lost John Collins to the NBA (and through camp and the start of the season, Collins looks tremendous). Fortunately, Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods and Mitchell Wilbekin are back, but the ACC is going to be fairly deep again. Here's the problem: Wake's schedule, as its projects now, isn't that difficult. When you've got a non-con that's probably not going to be as good as at least half the teams from power conferences, it's going to put you at a further disadvantage. Entering the season, with Wake's OOC schedule as it is, it looks like this team will need to get to 22 or 23 wins to feel good about an at-large bid, and I don't see that happening.
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