10 Bold Predictions for the 2014 College Basketball Offseason
Now that UConn has been crowned the 2013-14 national champion, the spotlight may be drifting away from college basketball, but the offseason brings its own kind of action. There are coaching vacancies to fill and new recruits to add, but the immediate concern here in April is the cluster of potential season-changing underclassmen debating whether or not to leave for the NBA.
One such star is Arizona guard Nick Johnson, a do-it-all leader whose scoring and defense earned him consensus first-team All-American honors. Of course, in a deep draft class that already includes big-name scorers such as Andrew Wiggins and T.J. Warren, Johnson could also get lost in the shuffle.
Will the Wildcats’ scoring leader stay or go? Read on for a pick as to how that decision will shake out, along with nine more predictions on some of the biggest events to come in the months before the 2014-15 season tips off.
Travis DeCuire Will Be the Next Head Coach at California
The Golden Bears are the one top-tier program that still has a head-coaching vacancy to fill.
As such, they’ll be a focal point for plenty of big names—Ben Howland, Shaka Smart and Tommy Amaker have all been thrown around—but expect comparative unknown Travis DeCuire (right) to get the nod.
DeCuire, an assistant at Cal for the past six years, was anointed by retiring head coach Mike Montgomery as his preferred successor.
Considering how well a similar arrangement worked out for UConn assistant Kevin Ollie (who also had no prior Division I head-coaching experience), look for the Golden Bears to chase some of the same magic with the former Montana point guard.
The Harrison Twins Will Stay at Kentucky
For the first time since 2005-06 at Memphis, John Calipari will get to coach the same starting point guard for two seasons in a row.
Although Coach Cal’s record for turning out one-and-done freshmen is justly celebrated, Andrew Harrison (along with his shooting guard brother Aaron) has good reason to stay in Lexington.
Even after a sensational NCAA tournament run, neither brother is anything like a lock for a first-round pick, with Aaron Harrison missing altogether from ESPN’s latest rankings of the top 35 prospects.
The financial incentive for Andrew to stay is just as significant—as a 6’6” point guard, he has a real shot at a future lottery and a much bigger payday—giving both standouts excellent reason to return to Lexington.
Branden Dawson Will Leave for the NBA
In the press conference following Michigan State’s season-ending loss to UConn, Branden Dawson confirmed that the broken hand that cost him more than a month of his junior year will be a factor in his draft-entry decision.
Although that statement could be interpreted several ways, the bet here is that Dawson feels a career-threatening injury is too real of a possibility for him to put off the NBA any longer.
Although the 6’6” forward has nothing resembling an NBA-level offensive game, he’s an A-plus athlete whose defense and rebounding will give him a foothold in the pros.
That formula has worked well for some other collegiate stoppers of late (including the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard and the Bucks’ Khris Middleton), so look for Dawson to roll the dice, too.
Stevie Clark Won’t Find a Major-Conference Landing Spot
Former Oklahoma State guard Stevie Clark showed tremendous on-court promise as a freshman, including 16 points and six assists in his second collegiate game.
However, his off-court problems kept him off the court so frequently that Cowboys coach Travis Ford eventually threw him off the team.
Considering the level of immaturity that the sharpshooting point guard showed—the last straw, after two other suspensions, was an arrest for urinating out of a moving vehicle—it’s hard to imagine any big-name program taking a chance on him right now.
Even Chane Behanan, a far more proven player with a championship pedigree, had to settle for mid-major Colorado State when he got the boot at Louisville, so don’t expect Clark to find his next home with a recognizable team.
Mitch McGary Will Stay at Michigan
In spite of Mitch McGary having lost most of the 2013-14 season to a back injury, the Michigan sophomore is taking a hard look at heading to the pros.
That fact was made abundantly clear on Tuesday, when the high-motor big man filed (along with Wolverines classmates Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III) for an evaluation of his draft prospects.
As much potential as the 6’10”, 255-pound McGary boasts, he played barely more than one college season, and his performance in eight games as a sophomore (9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and a mere 0.8 blocks per game) showed plenty of room for improvement.
With plenty of other low-post options already ticketed for the 2014 draft, look for McGary to receive (and follow) advice to stay in school and show that he’s ready to handle himself in the pros.
Nick Johnson Will Jump to the NBA
Doug McDermott notwithstanding, it’s a rarity in contemporary college hoops to see a consensus first-team All-American stay in school.
Now that Arizona star Nick Johnson has earned that distinction, the gritty shooting guard has little to prove by staying another season in Tucson.
The biggest concern about the 6’4” junior at the next level is how well he’ll be able to create his own shot, but the offense-first Pac-12 will provide few opportunities for him to make any kind of statement to scouts on that score.
It’s also in Arizona’s interest to make its offense less perimeter-oriented, not more, so Johnson won’t be likely to put up eye-catching numbers if he does return.
Archie Miller Will Stay at Dayton
Despite signing a contract extension during the NCAA tournament, Archie Miller has seen his name come up in connection with any number of 2014 coaching vacancies.
That’s no great surprise for a rising young coach who just guided his 11th-seeded Flyers to a spectacular Cinderella run to the Elite Eight.
Despite Miller’s obvious appeal, though, there isn’t an open job that seems to fit him at this stage of the coaching carousel’s rotation.
California is the only program that both needs a coach and might have the cachet to pry Miller out of his deal with Dayton, but the Golden Bears haven’t shown any interest, so look for a high-scrutiny season with the Flyers in Miller's future.
Bryce Dejean-Jones Will Transfer to Iowa State
UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones would love to become this year’s Lasan Kromah—a graduate transfer who arrives in the right place at the right time to win a national title—but at a different position.
Dejean-Jones felt pigeonholed as a shooting guard with the Rebels, but he wants to play a more on-ball, combo-guard role in his final season at the college level.
As such, it’s little surprise that the two schools reported to have offered him scholarships to date, Iowa State and Arizona State, are both losing elite floor leaders and looking for a replacement.
Expect the Cyclones’ Fred Hoiberg, the John Calipari of transfer recruiting, to convince Dejean-Jones to bring his talents to Ames and replace another graduate transfer success story, DeAndre Kane.
Myles Turner Will Sign with Kansas
On Wednesday, Joel Embiid officially announced that he’s off to the NBA. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, he made his decision early enough that his replacement might still be arriving in the freshman class of 2014.
Myles Turner, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the country, is the only 5-star freshman-to-be who has yet to make his college decision.
Having seen how well Embiid—with his similar build and playing style—flourished under Bill Self, Turner has good reason to head to Lawrence alongside Cliff Alexander (his teammate at the McDonald’s All-American Game) and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Jabari Parker Will Stay at Duke
For the second year in a row, the National Freshman of the Year is set to shock the pundits by refraining from an immediate jump to the NBA.
Marcus Smart didn’t exactly have a textbook-perfect sophomore season, but that hasn’t stopped Jabari Parker from weighing his options after a sensational college debut.
One more year in school is a year closer to a degree that could do him a lot of good in his post-basketball life, but few surefire top-five picks are going to consider that factor.
More immediately, though, it’s also a chance for Parker to erase a dreadful finish to his first year (the upset loss to 14th-seeded Mercer) and quite possibly win a national title alongside a boatload of incoming McDonald’s All-Americans.