Predicting Which High Seeds in 2014 NCAA Tournament Won't Reach 2015 Big Dance
For national champion UConn and many other top finishers from the 2014 NCAA tournament, another trip to March Madness is all but a given. Sometimes, however, even the tourney's most talented teams take too many losses (from graduation or the NBA) to return to the field of 68.
One of the most prominent examples for 2015 will be the Creighton Blue Jays, coming off a No. 3 seed and a 27-win season. As dangerous as the Creighton offense was with All-American Doug McDermott leading the way, the version without the high-scoring forward won’t have the firepower to compete in next year’s Big East.
Herein, a closer look at the Blue Jays and the rest of the half-dozen single-digit seeds from last season’s Big Dance who will be settling for NIT bids (or worse) next spring.
Massachusetts (Midwest No. 6 Seed)
Alley-oops from Chaz Williams to high-flying Raphiael Putney were among the signature moments of UMass’ 24-win season in 2013-14. With both seniors gone, the Minutemen will be a radically different team next season.
Monolithic Cady Lalanne is good enough to keep UMass from disappearing altogether, but a No. 6 seed doesn’t have that much margin for error in the first place.
Look for Lalanne and Derrick Gordon to keep the Minutemen in the bubble conversation much of the year before landing in the NIT.
Cincinnati (East No. 5 Seed)
If Sean Kilpatrick were the only top Bearcat heading off into the graduation sunset, Cincinnati might be able to recover.
Mick Cronin’s defense was so overwhelming last season that even the loss of the team’s one effective offensive weapon might not have been enough to sink next year’s squad altogether.
However, along with the high-scoring guard, Cincinnati loses its top two frontcourt players, shot-blocker Justin Jackson and versatile Titus Rubles.
Without a single returnee who averaged as many as seven points per game, and with just one 4-star recruit arriving in the freshman class, the Bearcats will be rebuilding rather than dancing in 2014-15.
Oklahoma State (West No. 9 Seed)
Even with Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State struggled to win on a consistent basis, as in its convincing second-round defeat at the hands of Gonzaga. Worse yet, Smart isn’t the only critical player the Cowboys are losing.
Between the lottery-bound point guard and senior shooting guard Markel Brown, OK State is watching more than 35 points per game of scoring head out the door.
The recruiting class isn’t terrible—and could be great if Myles Turner comes to Stillwater—but a foundation of swingman Le’Bryan Nash and designated sniper Phil Forte III is too little for Travis Ford to build on in the space of one offseason.
New Mexico (South No. 7 Seed)
It’s hard to blame New Mexico’s Alex Kirk for leaving early for the NBA. This way, the hulking junior center won’t have to watch the team disintegrate around him.
Kirk, point guard Kendall Williams and forward Cameron Bairstow are all departing, leaving second-year coach Craig Neal with a very bare cupboard.
Creighton (West No. 3 Seed)
No team in the country was more dependent on a single player than Creighton on Doug McDermott. For the past three seasons, the All-American scoring star has been the heart of the offense for a team that hasn’t played a whole lot of D.
Now that McDermott has graduated, the Blue Jays are going to find the Big East a much less welcoming conference. Even the return of veteran point guard Austin Chatman won’t save Creighton from a severe drop-off in the post-McDermott era.
Saint Louis (Midwest No. 5 Seed)
Jim Crews has done astounding work in two years since replacing the late Rick Majerus as head coach, but he’s never faced a challenge like next season’s. Crews’ Billikens lose all five starters from the squad that fell to Louisville in the round of 32.
Reserve Austin McBroom—the top returnee for SLU—scored just 7.3 points per game, and a deep but lightly regarded recruiting class offers little hope of a savior.
Crews’ vaunted defense will have some bite left, but with neither experience nor scoring on hand, that won’t be enough to compete in the Atlantic 10.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.