Non-NCAA Tournament Teams Bringing in Loaded 2017 Recruiting Classes
The college basketball season is nearing an end and most of the teams in the sport have finished playing games.
While the nation's attention will be fixated on the second weekend of the 2017 NCAA tournament with the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight coming up this weekend, there are plenty of programs who missed the field who are optimistic about next season thanks to a strong recruiting class.
Some of these non-NCAA tournament teams are bringing in strong groups of four or five players to help with a major roster overhaul while others are pinning their hopes on one or two star players coming in and making a big impact.
In either case, most of these teams should be significantly better in the next year or two thanks to top-20 recruiting classes.
Here's a look at 10 non-NCAA tournament teams to keep tabs on for the next few seasons.
Advanced stats come from KenPom as of March 20, 2017. Recruiting rankings courtesy of Scout.com.
Why they fell short: Auburn piled up a 10-2 non-conference record thanks to some light scheduling but things came back down to Earth in SEC play as they finished 18-14 overall with a 7-11 conference mark.
Still a pretty young team, Auburn had a respectable offense (No. 54 adjusted offensive efficiency), but they were mediocre on defense (No. 150 adjusted defensive efficiency).
Incoming recruits: Head coach Bruce Pearl is known for bringing in quality talent and the Auburn class of 2017 is no different. Prized 5-star center Austin Wiley actually enrolled early and played the second semester this season so he's more up-to-speed than he would be as a true freshman next season.
Next season's outlook: With two more top-40 recruits coming in the class of 2017 and Wiley getting more time to develop, Auburn has three more core pieces joining rising sophomores Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper. Those five players also have some talented role players returning as Auburn has some intriguing potential next season if that young talent can come together.
9. Mississippi State
Why they fell short: Mississippi State (16-16, 6-12) was never in serious NCAA tournament contention but things bottomed out when the Bulldogs lost eight of their last 10 games as they only defeated LSU during that span.
Playing almost exclusively underclass players, Mississippi State took a lot of lumps in the hopes of getting better for the future. Rebounding and limiting turnovers is a big reason why the Bulldogs struggled this season. Mississippi State was No. 216 in turnover percentage and No. 246 in offensive rebounding percentage, they need to improve dramatically in both categories.
Incoming recruits: Reinforcements are coming to Mississippi State next season as 5-star guard Nick Weatherspoon has a chance to come in and earn immediate minutes. The younger brother of sophomore guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, the best player on the team, Nick is a playmaker at guard who can score or create.
Next season's outlook: Senior I.J. Ready looks like the only rotation member who is leaving as Mississippi State has a lot of talented pieces on the roster for next season.
The Weatherspoon brothers could be one of the SEC's more intriguing duos while players like guard Lamar Peters, forward Mario Kegler and big man Aric Holman all showed signs of promise. If the team's current roster makes a leap, and Nick Weatherspoon adds another capable guard, then Howland could make the top half of the SEC and a postseason run.
8. Arizona State
Why they fell short: Offense wasn't the issue for Arizona State as the Sun Devils were No. 55 in adjusted offensive efficiency with plenty of talented scorers like Torian Graham, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans. But defense was a major issue for Arizona State as they were No. 260 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Incoming recruits: Bringing in a quality class that includes three 4-star prospects, the Sun Devils have a solid group of players joining the roster next season. Things were already off to a good start in the fall for Arizona State when point guard Remy Martin and small forward Kimani Lawrence signed but things got even better when 4-star center Kenny Wooten pledged in December.
Next season's outlook: Holder and Evans return as double-figure scorers and the addition of a wing scorer like Lawrence and an attacking guard like Martin should once again give Arizona State a potent offense. Improving the defense is going to be the key for this group as they have to hope Wooten can contribute with his athleticism.
Why they fell short: After making the Final Four with Buddy Hield last season, the Sooners only had one senior in Jordan Woodard as they struggled to an 11-20 record. Oklahoma still defended hard enough to be ranked No. 39 in adjusted defensive efficiency (though they struggled to defend the three at No. 261 in the country), but the offense just wasn't the same without Hield's ridiculous shot-making as the Sooners were No. 120 in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Incoming recruits: Adding 5-star point guard Trae Young should be huge for Oklahoma since the in-state guard is an elite shot-maker from three-point range. Young's commitment should offset the loss of Woodard as he can score or distribute. Another 4-star in-state forward is also signed in Brady Manek while 3-star big man Hannes Polla is also on board.
Next season's outlook: The Sooners weren't able to put together a lot of wins last season but they showed a willingness to defend and most of the contributing members of the roster should return besides Woodard. Young's scoring capabilities should really help Oklahoma's inconsistent offense as they have a chance to improve significantly in that area.
6. Texas A&M
Why they fell short: Texas A&M was dealt a couple of tough blows during the season when freshman point guard J.J. Caldwell was ruled ineligible before the season and sophomore D.J. Hogg missed a good chunk of time late in the season with injury. Without consistent point guard play, the Aggies rated No. 320 in turnover percentage as their offense couldn't stop wasting possessions.
Incoming recruits: Four players are entering Texas A&M in the class of 2017. The guard play should be improved thanks to the addition of 4-star guards like Jay Jay Chandler and T.J. Starks. Wing Savion Flagg is another 4-star prospect who is versatile enough to be a potential difference-maker for this team. Isiah Jasey, a 3-star big man, rounds out the class as he adds more interior depth.
Next season's outlook: If Texas A&M returns key sophomores like big man Tyler Davis, Hogg and guard Admon Gilder then the freshman should provide some help on the perimeter. Gaining Caldwell also gives the Aggies another ball-handler and the versatility of a player like Flagg could fit in nicely with the current roster. Point guard play has to be more consistent but Davis is a talented post scorer and Hogg has great size as a wing shooter.
5. Western Kentucky
Why they fell short: In his first season as head coach, Rick Stansbury brought in some graduate transfers like Pancake Thomas, Que Johnson and Junior Lomomba, but the group had a hard time figuring things out despite playing a lot of seniors. The Hilltoppers were No. 199 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 261 in adjusted defensive efficiency and still managed to go 15-19 on the season.
Incoming recruits: Western Kentucky is going to hope that 5-star center Mitchell Robinson is worth the hype as he enters his freshman season as the best shot-blocker in the class of 2017. Robinson is a top-10 player and has a chance to be a one-and-done prospect. Josh Anderson, a 4-star guard from Louisiana, should also help in the scoring column with his ability to get to the basket. In-state guard Taveion Hollingsworth, a 3-star guard, is also signed.
Next season's outlook: The production of Robinson and Anderson is going to be a huge part of Western Kentucky's season as the freshman duo should be helped by the eligibility of Lamonte Bearden after the point guard sat out a transfer year. Western Kentucky should be better defensively because of Robinson's rim presence at the very least, but the key could be the team's ability to mesh on offense.
Why they fell short: A veteran Illinois team ultimately fell short of the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive season as head coach John Groce was fired and the team struggled again on offense. With inconsistent point guard play that was slightly improved from last season, the Fighting Illini saw its offense rank No. 113 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Incoming recruits: Illinois has hired a new head coach in Brad Underwood and his first task will be to figure out which recruits he can try to keep. The group is led by 5-star in-state center Jeremiah Tilmon and 4-star guards Trent Frazier and DaMonte Williams could also be contributors if they come in next season. Javon Pickett, another 3-star guard, is also committed.
Next season's outlook: Coming from Oklahoma State, Underwood just helped the Cowboys to the No. 1 offense in the nation, per KenPom, so he'll be tasked with helping the current roster improve in that area. If Underwood can help retain this class then it will help him start to lay a solid foundation for the future.
Why they fell short: Losing Isaiah Taylor early to the pros really hurt Texas this season as the Longhorns struggled without a consistent point guard. Head coach Shaka Smart still had his team playing solid defense with the No. 22 adjusted defensive efficiency, but without a floor leader the Texas offense struggled a lot during the season.
Incoming recruits: The amount of talent that Texas is bringing in should really help next season and in the future as the team has four 4-star prospects coming into Austin. The signings of shooting guard Jase Febres, forward Royce Hamm and center Jericho Sims were all important but getting point guard Matt Coleman to commit in January was a huge pledge for Texas.
Next season's outlook: There is enough talent in Austin to make a run up the Big 12 standings next season after Texas finished last in the Big 12 with an 11-22 record and 4-14 conference mark. Coleman's addition is huge for the Longhorns as they get a guy who can get players like Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach open looks while getting more post touches for talented sophomore Jarrett Allen.
Why they fell short: Washington lost 13 consecutive games to end the 2016-17 season as they had one of college basketball's most porous perimeter defenses. Head coach Lorenzo Romar was relieved of his duties last week after a 15-year tenure as the Huskies finished 9-22 and 2-16 in the Pac-12 despite having a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft in Markelle Fultz.
Incoming recruits: The key for Washington's immediate success could be maintaining its five-man recruiting class to the best of its abilities. New head coach Mike Hopkins has recruited at a national level during 20 years as an assistant coach at Syracuse, so he'll try to keep the current group together. Prized 5-star forward Michael Porter Jr. could be hard to keep because his assistant-coach father worked for Romar but Seattle natives and 4-star prospects like Daejon Davis and Jaylen Nowell are important for Washington to try to keep. The Huskies also have 3-star guard Blake Harris and 3-star big man Mamoudou Diarra signed.
Next season's outlook: Keeping Porter seems like it could be a stretch, but there is still plenty of important pieces for Hopkins to retain as new head coach. Recruiting Seattle is going to be very important for the Huskies to revitalize the program, and keeping players like Davis and Nowell would be a great start for that.
Why they fell short: Second-year head coach Avery Johnson had a solid season with the Crimson Tide as the team posted a top-10 rating in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. Although Alabama could really defend and get stops, its offense failed to come close to its lofty defensive standards. Ranking No. 153 in adjusted offensive efficiency, the Crimson Tide really struggled to shoot the three as they were No. 311 in three-point percentage.
Incoming recruits: Five recruits are joining Alabama next season as McDonald's All-American and 5-star guard Collin Sexton is the headliner. An elite scorer who can relentlessly attack the rim, Sexton should help the Tide's mediocre offense. Another talented perimeter piece in 4-star wing John Petty is also joining as he should help Alabama's shooting woes. Big men like 4-star Alex Reese, and 3-star Galin Smith are also signed along with 3-star in-state wing Herb Jones.
Next season's outlook: The addition of Sexton is vital for the Crimson Tide because he is the potential elite, one-and-done talent that Alabama needs to carry its team to the NCAA tournament. Sexton and Petty joining talented current players like Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram should make Alabama a lot tougher to defend next season and the team's defense has already shown that it can play at an elite level. If the offense takes a leap and the defense comes even close to 2016-17's effort then the Crimson Tide should be dancing.