The 10 College Basketball Teams with the Biggest Bust Potential for 2014 Season
A year ago, Kentucky had to replace its entire starting lineup, yet a team filled with question marks was ranked preseason No. 3.
That team finished the season in the NIT losing to Robert Morris. (That's a team, not a guy.)
We should have seen the bust potential, but John Calipari's one-and-done approach had just produced a national champion. Expectations were still high.
Next season several teams that will debut at the top of the polls will also have some big question marks. Appearing on this list of teams with the biggest bust potential is not such a bad thing because it means that team has the potential to be really good. Or the potential to be the 2014 version of Kentucky.
Leading scorer C.J. Fair returns, but after that, the top returning scorer for the Orange is Rakeem Christmas at 5.1 points per game.
The zone is going to work, because the zone always works, but the concern for Jim Boeheim should be where he's going to get his points.
Syracuse has been dependent on its perimeter players to do most of the scoring in recent years. Michael Carter-Williams was so successful as a point guard last year because Boeheim could surround him with shooters. Those shooters graduated.
The only returning player with more than 100 three-point attempts last year is Trevor Cooney, who shot 26.7 percent from deep. If Syracuse doesn't have a couple legitimate scorers emerge to go along with Fair and make life easier for incoming freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, the offense could struggle.
If we're simply judging teams based off the number of NBA prospects, Arizona is the only team in the country that could match up with Kentucky.
This is a team that will likely bring a McDonald's All-American (incoming freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) off the bench. The 'Cats also have one of the best NBA prospects in the country in incoming freshman Aaron Gordon. If Gordon ended up as the best player in this class, I wouldn't be shocked.
The Wildcats are a preseason top five team—I have them fourth. So why are they here?
Well, they'll depend a lot on the front line of Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gordon, and Ashley and Tarczewski combined to average only 14.1 points per game as freshmen. At least two of the three need to become stars for Arizona to meet its potential.
Part of their success could be in the hands of Duquesne transfer point guard T.J. McConnell. McConnell averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 assists as a sophomore at Duquesne, but that was on a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team. Can he put up those numbers in the Pac-12?
I just wrote about why we should not make too much of Michigan losing Trey Burke, because the last time Michigan lost a sophomore point guard to the NBA, Burke showed up and Michigan improved.
John Beilein's offenses are always going to be good, because they're John Beilein offenses. BUT I can't say with a straight face that I'm confident they'll be as good without Burke.
The biggest question mark is how Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III will be able to handle being the go-to guys.
McGary, in particular, relied a lot on Burke to get him easy buckets.
The expectations are still extremely high, and they should be because McGary and Robinson return, but it could take some time for incoming freshman point guard Derrick Walton to pick up the offense.
The Big Ten will be tough again, and if Michigan were to end up as a middle-of-the-pack team, the season would be looked upon as a bust after last year's run.
The Lobos have a lot of pressure on them to prove that the loss to Harvard in the NCAA tournament was a fluke and that they can succeed without coach Steve Alford.
The good news for New Mexico is four of five starters return and not a lot should change as long-time Alford assistant Craig Neal is now the head coach.
That doesn't guarantee success, however, as Neal is a head coach for the first time and has a lot of pressure to succeed right away with the roster he returns. New Mexico was also really good last season because of a great defense, and Tony Snell, who declared for the draft, was the team's most versatile defender.
Oregon and its backcourt created expectations for the 2013-14 season with its Sweet 16 run.
Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis look like they have the potential to become stars.
The emergence of Dotson and Artis certainly helped during the postseason run, but the success of that team was mostly due to its defense.
The Ducks lose their entire starting front line, and the player who will be the most difficult to replace will be Arsalan Kazemi. In his one year at Oregon, he helped turn the team into a good defensive squad and a good rebounding team. Kazemi, according to KenPom.com's numbers, was the best defensive rebounder in the country.
The worry for Dana Altman has to be that his team could go back to being a mediocre defensive and rebounding team, and it's hard to win consistently when that is the case.
Does any coach in the country have more pressure on him than Steve Alford?
This is a school that just fired its coach for winning the Pac-12.
We could go over what UCLA has returning, but it doesn't matter. Alford will be expected to win right away because it's UCLA and the administration has made it clear expectations are to be extremely high.
Well, this is a team that will replace its best player (Shabazz Muhammad) and a senior point guard (Larry Drew). Good luck, Steve!
Baylor could be on this list every season. There's always potential for Baylor to be great because of the talent Scott Drew has continuously brought to Waco. There's also always the potential to bust. Just look at last season.
The Bears were the preseason pick to finish second behind Kansas after an Elite Eight run the year before, and they went 9-9 in the Big 12 and missed the NCAA tournament.
Next season the expectations will be high again because Baylor was dominant in the postseason NIT and big men Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin both decided to return to school.
Drew has to figure out a way to replace point guard Pierre Jackson, the only player in the 2000s to lead a power-six conference in both scoring and assists. That's a task and reason to believe 2013-14 could be a bust.
HOWEVER, you pretty much throw logic out the window with this team, which in the last four years has made the Elite Eight, missed the NCAA tournament, made the Elite Eight and missed the tourney again.
Colorado will be a popular pick as a preseason sleeper next season. The Buffs have been to two straight NCAA tournaments and return their top two leading scorers and four of their top five.
The one loss is Andre Roberson, who decided to leave early for the NBA. Roberson was not a great scorer, but he was one of the Pac-12's best defenders, and he ranked second in the country in rebounding.
The Buffs lost a home game late in the year to Oregon State without Roberson. That was one of only four wins in the Pac-12 for the Beavers. The Buffs also beat Oregon without Roberson, so it's hard to make too much out of those two games, but there's certainly potential to be a bust without him.
Any down year at a Kentucky or Kansas is a bust, and if Bill Self were ever going to have a bust season, this would have to be the one.
Self will replace five starters. The go-to comeback for any Kansas fan is the last time Self had to replace five starters—following the 2008 championship—that team won 27 games, won the Big 12 and made the Sweet 16.
The big difference is that the 2009 team returned Sherron Collins, who was a proven commodity. This team returns Naadir Tharpe, who had a few nice moments last season but is nowhere close to the talent Collins was.
The hope for KU is Perry Ellis will have a breakout season similar to the one Cole Aldrich had as a sophomore in 2009, and the freshman class, ranked second by Rivals.com, will be productive immediately.
The depth of talent John Calipari has been able to convince to come to Kentucky is incredible. The man has eight McDonald's All-Americans on his roster, and another player, Willie Cauley-Stein, projected to be a first-round pick whenever he decides to go pro. And Calipari might not be done yet. UK could still add Andrew Wiggins.
It's hard to keep some perspective here, because we've never really seen a roster with this many potential future pros. But let's remember that Calipari did just miss the NCAA tournament with a roster that had plenty of paper stars. Let's remember that Calipari's rotation will be filled with freshmen, sophomores and one junior, Kyle Wiltjer.
Could all that talent turn into a bust?
When something like a five-loss season that doesn't result in a Final Four would be considered a bust, then yes, there's potential for the 'Cats to be a bust.