CBB Teams Getting a Boost in 2017-18 from Players You've Forgotten About

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystApril 5, 2017

CBB Teams Getting a Boost in 2017-18 from Players You've Forgotten About

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    Derryck Thornton started at Duke, but he's going to become a star at USC.
    Derryck Thornton started at Duke, but he's going to become a star at USC.Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Don't call it an epidemic, but transfers have become almost as important as the one-and-done superstars in college basketball.

    Two of the four teams in the 2017 Final Four (Gonzaga and Oregon) had at least one transfer in their starting lineup. Meanwhile, guys like Semi Ojeleye (SMU), Canyon Barry (Florida), Conner Frankamp (Wichita State) and Manu Lecomte (Baylor) were crucial pieces of teams that had great regular seasons.

    Which teams will be getting that type of boost next year?

    For this exercise, we're only interested in players who transferred last offseason and sat out an entire year. Guys like Jahmal McMurray, Harry Froling and Sam Cunliffe could be major second-semester additions, but we've seen them play in the past four months. Graduate-transfers are right out.

    Last year, Gonzaga was No. 1 on this list because of Nigel Williams-Goss and Johnathan Williams III, and the Zags went 37-2 en route to the national championship game. We're not expecting quite that much out of this year's No. 1 team, but Nevada could have one heck of a season with all the former transfers it will put on the floor in 2017-18.

    Teams are ranked in ascending order of projected impact of their sat-out-a-year transfers.

Single Player Rankings

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    Kansas is going to be relying heavily upon a transfer in 2017-18.
    Kansas is going to be relying heavily upon a transfer in 2017-18.Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    There are enough teams adding multiple impact transfers that we could have just focused on them. But considering there were multiple former 5-star recruits who sat out this season, this list would be incomplete without the transfers who will be single-handedly trying to improve their new teams.

    10. Jalen Hudson, Florida: The Gators lose three key seniors, but the addition of this former Virginia Tech Hokie should help soften the blow. Hudson bounced in and out of the starting lineup in his two seasons in Blacksburg, but he was a solid scorer in his limited minutes.

    9. Issac Vann, VCU: As a freshman at Maine, Vann averaged 16.4 points per game. It's tough to forecast the A-10 value of a leading scorer from a program that hasn't won more than a dozen games since 2011. But VCU is losing a ton of seniors and has little choice but to find a spot in the starting lineup for Vann.

    8. Devin Watson, San Diego State: Watson averaged 20.3 points and 4.9 assists per game as a sophomore at San Francisco, but how will he fit in a system where defense is imperative and the pace of play is nowhere near as high?

    7. Kory Holden, South Carolina: There is a massive hole in South Carolina's offense with both Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice graduating. Holden averaged 17.7 points per game two years ago with Delaware and could be a key addition if he used the year off to improve his defense. He averaged just one steal for every 74 minutes with the Blue Hens, which absolutely will not cut it under Frank Martin.

    6. Charles Matthews, Michigan: With Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins all blocking his path to the court, Matthews never got much of a chance to strut his stuff at Kentucky. But with the Wolverines losing both Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin, Matthews ought to start and shine in Ann Arbor.

    5. Cane Broome, Cincinnati: Broome ranked eighth in the nation in points per game in 2015-16, averaging 23.1 for Sacred Heart. But as is our question for Vann and Watson, is he an elite scorer or just the product of a system that didn't have any better options? The Bearcats haven't had anyone average 14 points per game in the past three years. If he's the real deal, it would be huge.

    4. Daniel Giddens, Alabama: Arguably the biggest star of Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class, Giddens should immediately become the starting center for the Crimson Tide. Coupled with incoming stud freshman Collin Sexton, he could help put Alabama basketball back on the national map for the first time in more than a decade.

    3. Marcus Lee, California: Things never quite worked out for Lee at Kentucky, but with Ivan Rabb jumping to the NBA, the former Wildcat should be one of the top frontcourt players in the Pac-12 in 2017-18. 

    2. Derryck Thornton, USC: Thornton did not have a good debut year with Duke, but maybe the former 5-star point guard wasn't prepared to reclassify a year early to try to save the Blue Devils. The Trojans have a bit of a backlog in the backcourt with Jordan McLaughlin, Elijah Stewart, De'Anthony Melton, Jonah Mathews and Shaqquan Aaron presumably all still in the picture, but Thornton might push them over the top.

    1. Malik Newman, Kansas: Newman was supposed to help make Mississippi State a contender again, but he left for Kansas after one mediocre season with the Bulldogs. With Frank Mason graduating, Newman should immediately become the starting point guard for a team chasing its 14th straight Big 12 title. There isn't a more important individual transfer in the country.

7. Arizona Wildcats

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    Even if he's granted a sixth year of eligibility, will Talbott Denny play much for Arizona?
    Even if he's granted a sixth year of eligibility, will Talbott Denny play much for Arizona?Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Dylan Smith, UNC-Asheville (13.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.9 APG)

    Talbott Denny, Lipscomb (5.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG)

    As far as the talent is concerned, Arizona could easily be a top-five team on this list.

    Dylan Smith was a scoring machine as a freshman at UNC-Asheville. An awful turnover rate had a negative impact on his overall efficiency numbers, but these things happen when you make a first-year shooting guard your primary ball-handler. Let him play off the ball and just focus on his jump shotSmith attempted 232 three-pointers in 2015-16—and he could be something special.

    And then there's Talbott Denny, who rarely shot the ball in his three seasons at Lipscomb. Despite that aversion to scoring, he blossomed into a solid rebounder and a respectable passer for a 6'6" power forward. Originally from Tucson, he could easily become a hometown favorite, provided he is granted a medical redshirt for another season after tearing his ACL this past summer.

    But as far as application of that talent is concerned, we almost didn't put Arizona on the list. The Wildcats will likely get back seven of the nine guys in their primary rotation and will add one 5-star and three 4-star players to that roster.

    In other words, there's no room at the inn. Smith and Denny will get some minutes in November and December, but it's possible neither one is a significant contributor by the time Pac-12 play begins. If a handful of guys (Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins) declare for the NBA draft, though, there's a chance these transfers become important pieces.

6. Colorado State Rams

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    Will Kevin Dorsey propel Colorado State to another solid year?
    Will Kevin Dorsey propel Colorado State to another solid year?Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Kevin Little, Maine (14.7 PPG, 2.6 APG)

    Kevin Dorsey, Minnesota (6.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.4 APG)

    Robbie Berwick, Florida State (2.4 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

    Lorenzo Jenkins, Arkansas (three points, two rebounds)

    Colorado State is one of many teams that desperately needs a few impact transfers. Leading scorer Gian Clavell (20.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG) and star big man Emmanuel Omogbo (13.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG) both graduate, leaving a gaping hole atop the list of options for the Rams. Juniors Prentiss Nixon and Jeremiah Paige will likely ascend to leading roles, but who takes their place?

    Enter Kevin Little and Kevin Dorsey.

    Little averaged 7.7 three-point attempts per game two years ago at Maine, which is even more than the 7.5 Clavell averaged this past season. Little should immediately be a key contributor in what figures to be a predominantly four-guard lineup.

    But Dorsey might be the more important addition for a team that had one of the worst assist rates in the nation last season. He never got the chance to be a primary ball-handler with the Golden Gophers, but the 4-star point guard could be just what the Rams need.

    What the Rams really need, though, is someone to grab some rebounds. And 6'7" Lorenzo "Doobie" Jenkins is a decent start. He only played one game with Arkansas before transferring to Colorado State, but the wing-forward immediately becomes one of the tallest players on this roster. If he can become a lite version of what Derek Willis was for Kentucky for the past two years, the Rams will be a contender in the MWC once again.

5. Saint Louis Billikens

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    Could this former Michigan State starter help revive Saint Louis?
    Could this former Michigan State starter help revive Saint Louis?Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Javon Bess, Michigan State (2.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG)

    D.J. Foreman, Rutgers (7.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG)

    Adonys Henriquez, UCF (10.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.0 APG)

    After three consecutive rebuilding years with 21 losses, Saint Louis could be back on the path to national relevance, thanks to this trio of incoming transfers.

    Javon Bess brings the most winning experience to the Billikens, as he was a small, important piece of Michigan State's 29-win season in 2015-16. The Spartans won their first 13 games with Bess in the starting lineup and immediately suffered their first loss when they moved him to a reserve role. His season averages aren't reflective of what he'll be bringing to the table in Saint Louis.

    Bess will now be playing alongside former Big Ten enemy D.J. Foreman. He wasn't an efficient scorer in his two seasons with Rutgers, but who was? If he can cut down on his turnover and foul rates, he'll at least provide value as a great rebounder in the A-10which Saint Louis will desperately need after losing senior Reggie Agbeko.

    Adonys Henriquez is the one who could really help bring Saint Louis back from the dead.

    The Billikens were an awful offensive team this season, and they're losing their best three-point shooter (Zeke Moore) as a transfer. But Henriquez is a career 36.9 percent shooter who spends most of his time on the court looking for that shot. If he's able to consistently put points on the board, Saint Louis ought to at least get back to a .500 overall record this year.

4. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Tommy Hamilton IV could be a star at Texas Tech.
    Tommy Hamilton IV could be a star at Texas Tech.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Tommy Hamilton IV, DePaul (8.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 44.8% 3P%)

    Brandone Francis-Ramirez, Florida (2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

    Quite a few Big 12 teams are adding key transfers. Kansas will likely be handing its keys to Malik Newman. Dylan Osetkowski should be a major addition for Texas. And Iowa State is hoping Ray Kasongo can become a primary frontcourt weapon.

    But Texas Tech takes the cake with its two incoming players.

    Tommy Hamilton IV is a 6'11" center with serious three-point range. In his three years at DePaul, he drained 68 triples and shot 42.5 percent. But he bounced in and out of the starting lineup and never seemed to have the stamina to be a full-time player. The Red Raiders will need him to log a good chunk of minutes after they lost three of their four primary frontcourt players from last season.

    Brandone Francis-Ramirez is much more of a wild card. A top-50 recruit in the class of 2014, he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2014-15 season and never came close to finding his shooting stroke in 2015-16, making just 24.4 percent of his two-point attempts and 16.9 percent of his threes. Scouts loved him in high school as a big, slashing shooting guard, and it's possible that guy finally shows up in Lubbock.

    Texas Tech doesn't need much to improve upon this past season. Of their 14 losses, 10 were decided by a single-digit margin. If both Hamilton and Francis-Ramirez are able to make positive contributions alongside the likes of Keenan Evans and Zach Smith, the Red Raiders could be headed back to the NCAA tournament.

3. St. John's Red Storm

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    Justin Simon might be the crown jewel of the sat-out-a-year transfer market.
    Justin Simon might be the crown jewel of the sat-out-a-year transfer market.Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Marvin Clark, Michigan State (3.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 42.3% 3PT)

    Justin Simon, Arizona (2.3 PPG, 1.2 RPG)

    It might seem silly to rank a team this high for adding two guys who didn't do much of anything two seasons ago, but only if you've forgotten how much promise Justin Simon carried with him to Arizona.

    The 6'5" point guard was a 5-star recruit in the 2015 class, but he barely saw the court in Tucson. And with Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons signed for the 2016-17 season, Simon didn't want to waste another year of eligibility as a third-string reserve.

    Instead, he transferred to St. John's for what should be an absurdly good three-headed backcourt. He and fellow sophomores Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds could bring St. John's back from the dead to compete for a Big East title. (If neither one jumps to the NBA, that is).

    Where the Johnnies need the most help is rebounding, though, and Marvin Clark could be of assistance. Despite sharing the glass with the likes of Matt Costello, Deyonta Davis and Denzel Valentine, Clark averaged 10.3 rebounds per 40 minutes as a sophomore at Michigan State.

    As potentially the primary power forward for the Red Storm, Clark should at least play more than 9.7 minutes per game in putting that ratio to better use.

2. UCF Knights

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    Aubrey Dawkins could be a star for his dad.
    Aubrey Dawkins could be a star for his dad.Duane Burleson/Getty Images

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Aubrey Dawkins, Michigan (6.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 44.0% 3PT)

    Dayon Griffin, Louisiana Tech (11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 37.8% 3PT)

    Terrell Allen, Drexel (9.8 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.6 SPG)

    Central Florida has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2005, but that could change with a lot of help from guys who spent this past 24-win season watching from the sideline. The Knights do lose seniors Matt Williams (15.1 PPG), Tank Efianayi (8.2 PPG) and Nick Banyard (6.2 PPG), but the pieces they're bringing in should be more than enough to fill those holes.

    Dayon Griffin is the big one. He made a huge jump from his freshman to sophomore season at Louisiana Tech and could be headed for another leap after a year dedicated to strength and conditioning. Griffin fired up 148 three-pointers in his second year with the Bulldogs. As a result, he should be the primary guy tasked with replacing much of UCF's 2016-17 perimeter game.

    But Williams, Efianayi and Banyard attempted a combined 482 threes, equating to roughly 13.4 shots per game. Even noted gunners like Jimmer Fredette or Marshall Henderson couldn't do that on their own. Fortunately, Griffin will have plenty of help from Aubrey Dawkins.

    The former Wolverine and son of current UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins, Aubrey was a sharp shooter in his two seasons at Michigan, hitting better than 43 percent from downtown each year. But U of M already had half a dozen three-point weapons, which minimized his playing time before he left. He's a near lock to start at small forward for the Knights.

    And then there's point guard Terrell Allen. He was just about the only thing that went right for 6-25 Drexel two years ago, and he should fit in beautifully on a UCF team that rarely recorded assists and had one of the worst turnover margins in the country.

    With B.J. Taylor, Tacko Fall and A.J. Davis each presumably returning for another year, the Knights should have a strong enough mix of old and new to become one of the top contenders for the 2018 AAC title.

1. Nevada Wolf Pack

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    Caleb and Cody Martin left the Wolfpack to join the Wolf Pack.
    Caleb and Cody Martin left the Wolfpack to join the Wolf Pack.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Incoming Transfers (Previous Season's Stats)

    Caleb Martin, N.C. State (11.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 36.1% 3PT)

    Cody Martin, N.C. State (6.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)

    Kendall Stephens, Purdue (6.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG)

    Hallice Cooke, Iowa State (2.6 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

    Gonzaga almost won the 2017 national championship by adding three former major-conference transfers.

    How could we not like Nevada's prospects for 2017-18 when it's adding four such players?

    Granted, there's not a Nigel Williams-Goss in this bunch, but the Wolf Pack are getting four guys who could make a significant impact.

    Kendall Stephens and Hallice Cooke both put up lackluster numbers in 2015-16, but they were great before that. Cooke shot 45.6 percent from three-point range as a freshman at Oregon State before injuries derailed his career. If he's able to make a full return to health, it would be a huge get for Nevada. And Stephens shot at least 37 percent from downtown in each of his first two seasons at Purdue before struggling to even see the floor as a junior. Both shooting guards should go a long way toward helping Nevada replace Marcus Marshall and D.J. Fenner.

    The Martin twins are the big prize, though.

    When they opted to leave N.C. State for Nevada, the Wolf Pack instantly became a breakout candidate for the 2017-18 season. Caleb has proved to be the more versatile of the two brothers and was given more of a chance to showcase his talent with the N.C. State Wolfpack, but both will be key pieces of the Nevada Wolf Pack rotation.

    There are still a few dominoes to fall for this team. Cameron Oliver (16.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG) might jump to the NBA. Elijah Foster (12.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG) may or may not be welcomed back on the roster after his domestic battery charge was dismissed in January. But if Eric Musselman has both of those guys, Jordan Caroline, Lindsey Drew and all four of these transfers, the Wolf Pack will be a threat to win more than just the Mountain West Conference.

    Stats are courtesy of KenPom.com and Sports ReferenceRecruiting information courtesy of Scout.com.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.