Ranking the Most Drastic Offseason Makeovers Ahead of the 2017-18 CBB Season
The Kentucky Wildcats lost eight of their nine leading scorers from last year and will enter the 2017-18 college basketball season at the top of the list of teams that had to make significant roster overhauls.
In Kentucky's case, most of the players were lost as early departures for the NBA draft. Others on this list were ravaged by graduations, transfers or a combination of all three.
Regardless of the reason, these are the teams that will look nothing like they did when we last saw them in March or April.
In previous years, this list was dominated by minor-conference teams that simply went from bad to worse. But this year, six of the 10 most drastic makeovers are taking place at major-conference programs, including blue bloods Duke and Kentucky.
For each of the 10 teams—ranked in ascending order of percentage of points lost—we'll take a look at what's left of the roster to determine whether the team can withstand the severe attrition to remain (or become) a factor on the national landscape.
Every team in our top 10 lost at least 80 percent (rounded up) of its scoring from last season, but here are a few other noteworthy programs that will be trying to replace at least two-thirds of their points.
Memphis Tigers (77.0 percent)
The sad thing about this is Memphis didn't lose anyone to the NBA draft and only got 5.9 percent of its scoring from seniors. The Tigers could have been a strong team with all seven leading scorers returning. But they lost Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 from that group when Dedric Lawson, Markel Crawford, K.J. Lawson, Craig Randall and Keon Clergeot all transferred out. As a result, Memphis should be headed for its first sub-.500 season since 2000.
UCLA Bruins (71.2 percent)
While it may feel like the Bruins lost everything—Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton graduated, while T.J. Leaf, Lonzo Ball and Ike Anigbogu bolted for the NBA after one season—they're actually in decent shape with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh both returning. Pairing that duo with a monster recruiting class should be enough to keep UCLA on the fringe of the national championship conversation.
Illinois Fighting Illini (70.0 percent)
Illinois hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2013, and 2018 doesn't look promising. Signing Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork (19.0 PPG) should keep this season from becoming a complete disaster, but one combo guard isn't enough to make up for losing seven of your 11 leading scorers.
Washington State Cougars (69.8 percent)
If you were wondering if this would be the year Washington State finally gets back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008, here's your heads-up that four of the five leading scorers for the Cougars were seniors. In other words, this is a 13-win team that's probably going to get even worse.
VCU Rams (67.5 percent)
VCU is riding a seven-year NCAA tournament streak, but extending it to eight will be a major challenge after losing six of last year's eight leading scorers. De'Riante Jenkins has breakout potential and transfers Issac Vann and Khris Lane could be impact additions, but depth is going to be a problem.
Nevada Wolf Pack (66.6 percent)
With the addition of four major-conference transfers (Caleb and Cody Martin, Kendall Stephens and Hallice Cooke), Nevada ought to be one of the better mid-major teams in the country. However, the Wolf Pack lost a ton of key pieces in Marcus Marshall (19.7 PPG), Cameron Oliver (16.0 PPG) and D.J. Fenner (13.7 PPG).
10. Duke Blue Devils
Percentage of Points Lost: 79.8
Noteworthy Players Lost: Luke Kennard (722 points; NBA draft), Jayson Tatum (488 points; NBA draft), Frank Jackson (394 points; NBA draft), Amile Jefferson (382 points; graduated), Matt Jones (259 points; graduated), Harry Giles (102 points; NBA draft)
Key Returning Players: Grayson Allen (492 points)
Projected Starting Five: Trevon Duval, Allen, Gary Trent, Wendell Carter, Marques Bolden
Duke has arguably the most noteworthy returnee in college basketball, but the rest of the roster will be unrecognizable.
Though 79.8 percent looks a heck of a lot better than the teams at the top of this list, nearly all of Duke's returning points are contained to one player. Had Grayson Allen decided to skip his senior year, the Blue Devils would have lost all eight of their leading scorers and 96.3 percent of their total points.
As it is, their projected starting lineup consists of Allen, three freshmen and a center who averaged 1.5 PPG and 1.1 RPG last year.
Granted, the freshmen (per usual) are among the best in the nation, and Marques Bolden was a highly rated recruit who should be a lot better if he can avoid injuries at the start of this season. Those four guys, combined with one of the top preseason candidates for National Player of the Year, should be able to do a fair amount of damage.
But even if you're buying stock in the starting five, you have to be a little concerned that Duke has the depth of a half-filled kiddie pool.
Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, Antonio Vrankovic, Alex O'Connell and Jordan Tucker will need to play significant minutes, even if the Blue Devils are able to dodge the team-wide injury bug that plagued them last season. And that's a sizable step down from bringing guys such as Harry Giles, Frank Jackson and Bolden off the bench.
9. Rice Owls
Percentage of Points Lost: 80.7
Noteworthy Players Lost: Marcus Evans (667 points; transferred), Egor Koulechov (635 points; transferred), Marcus Jackson (426 points; transferred), Marquez Letcher-Ellis (271 points; transferred), Chad Lott (186 points; transferred)
Key Returning Players: Connor Cashaw (279 points), Ako Adams (106 points)
Projected Starting Five: Adams, A.J. Lapray, Cashaw, Tim Harrison, Austin Meyer
Next time someone tries to tell you there's not a transfer epidemic in college basketball, bring up the Rice Owls.
This was finally going to be their year. Rice hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1970, but it just went 23-12 without a single senior among its eight leading scorers. Had everyone returned, the Owls likely would have entered the season as the favorites to win Conference USA.
However, when head coach Mike Rhoades left to fill the same opening at VCU, it triggered a domino effect that sent the program into "total-rebuild" mode.
Less than a week after Rhoades announced his decision, Marcus Evans, Egor Koulechov, Marcus Jackson, Marquez Letcher-Ellis and Corey Douglas all decided to transfer out of the program. A few weeks later, Chad Lott became the sixth member of the club, pushing the Owls up to 78.0 percent of points lost via the transfer market.
Say what you will about transferring being a great option for the players and a nice secondary recruiting tool for bigger programs, but poor Rice has been repeatedly ravaged by this system.
In 2011-12, the Owls went 19-16 with Dylan Ennis, Arsalan Kazemi, Omar Oraby, Jarelle Reischel and Julian DeBose among their nine leading scorers. All five would finish college elsewhere while the Owls went a combined 12-49 over the next two seasons.
And who can forget Sean Obi averaging 11.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG as a freshman before transferring to Duke and never seeing the light of day?
8. Austin Peay Governors
Percentage of Points Lost: 81.1
Noteworthy Players Lost: Josh Robinson (590 points; NBA draft), John Murry (511 points; graduated), Kenny Jones (428 points; graduated), Jared Savage (298 points; transferred)
Key Returning Players: Chris Porter-Bunton (189 points), Dre'Kalo Clayton (102 points)
Projected Starting Five: Tre' Ivory, Zach Glotta, Ed Stephens, Porter-Bunton, Clayton
Points lost is the primary concern of this exercise, but it's hard not to notice that rebounding will also be a nightmare for Austin Peay.
Two years ago, the Governors had a nearly unstoppable rebounding machine in Chris Horton. But they might be the worst rebounding team in the nation in 2017-18.
They were already near the bottom of the list in 333rd place with an average rebounding margin of negative-7.0 last year. And from that team, leading rebounder Kenny Jones graduated, No. 2 rebounder Jared Savage transferred, as did freshman Jartavious Dobbs, who was the tallest player on the roster.
What's left is a group with no players taller than 6'6" with any collegiate experience.
They did pick up Ed Stephens, a graduate transfer who averaged 11.6 PPG over the last three seasons with South Carolina State. But a 6'2" shooting guard isn't going to fix that rebounding problem.
Maybe they'll get lucky and 6'8" redshirt freshman Sam McCracken will come to their rescue in the paint, but a seventh consecutive season with at least 18 losses seems almost inevitable.
7. Green Bay Phoenix
Percentage of Points Lost: 81.6
Noteworthy Players Lost: Charles Cooper (425 points; graduated), Kerem Kanter (351 points; transferred), Warren Jones (281 points; graduated), Jamar Hurdle (271 points; graduated), Kenneth Lowe (234 points; graduated), Turner Botz (205 points; graduated), Trevor Anderson (196 points; transferred), Tevin Findlay (129 points; graduated)
Key Returning Players: Khalil Small (324 points)
Projected Starting Five: Small, Kameron Hankerson, Sukhjot Bains, T.J. Parham, David Jesperson
It's hard to believe this is only the seventh-worst case of points attrition in the country, considering Green Bay lost eight of its nine leading scorers. But at least the Phoenix are getting back one starter (Khalil Small) and a pair of reserves who averaged better than 2.0 PPG (Kameron Hankerson and David Jesperson).
Aside from that, though, woof. The only other returning player who appeared in a game was Kaharri Carter, who scored one point in 10 minutes of action.
With six seniors in the primary nine-man rotation, this was always going to be a rebuilding offseason. But that rebuild went from difficult to near-impossible when Kerem Kanter and Trevor Anderson took their combined 21.1 points per game and split for major-conference programs—Kanter to Xavier; Anderson to Wisconsin.
As a result, Green Bay figures to have a starting lineup with two JUCO transfers (Sukhjot Bains and T.J. Parham) and two guys who played a combined total of 14.1 minutes per game last year. The good news is that Marquette transfer Sandy Cohen should be available for the second semester, but how many losses will the Phoenix endure before that boost comes?
6. Iowa State Cyclones
Percentage of Points Lost: 82.1
Noteworthy Players Lost: Monte Morris (575 points; graduated), Naz Mitrou-Long (530 points; graduated), Deonte Burton (527 points; graduated), Matt Thomas (430 points; graduated), Darrell Bowie (190 points; graduated)
Key Returning Players: Donovan Jackson (223 points), Nick Weiler-Babb (139 points), Solomon Young (133 points)
Projected Starting Five: Lindell Wigginton, Jackson, Zoran Talley Jr., Jeff Beverly, Young
During Fred Hoiberg's time at Iowa State, Ames became one of the most popular destinations for noteworthy graduate transfers. For the sake of Cyclones fans, it's good to see Steve Prohm has been able to carry on that tradition, because they desperately needed to add multiple instant-impact players this offseason.
Though the Cyclones ran an 8.5-man rotation, it was all about their fearsome foursome. Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Deonte Burton and Matt Thomas each averaged at least 29.5 minutes per game while no other player topped 17.5.
To lose all four of them in one summer is rather brutal, as it leaves the Cyclones hoping that guys such as Donovan Jackson and Solomon Young can become starters and leaders.
But don't write off Iowa State's 2017-18 season just yet.
Prohm went out and got three graduate transfers who will all vie for a spot in the starting lineup. Jeff Beverly is the most likely starter of the bunch after averaging 15.8 points and 5.9 rebounds last season with UTSA.
There's also Zoran Talley Jr., who put up 11.3 PPG at Old Dominion, as well as Princeton transfer Hans Brase, who was a major piece for the Tigers in 2013-14 and 2014-15 before injuries derailed the past two years.
Prohm didn't exclusively focus on one-year rentals, either. He also landed possibly the best recruit in Iowa State history in the form of Scout's No. 33 overall player, Lindell Wigginton.
No one is expecting this freshman to come in and make us forget about Monte Morris, but if he's even close to as good as advertised, the Cyclones just might make it seven straight seasons with at least 23 wins.
5. Florida International Panthers
Percentage of Points Lost: 83.6
Noteworthy Players Lost: Donte McGill (493 points; graduated), Michael Kessens (375 points; graduated), Eric Nottage (363 points; graduated), Elmo Stephen (290 points; graduated), Kimar Williams (119 points; transferred)
Key Returning Players: Eric Lockett (159 points)
Projected Starting Five: Lockett, Josh Stamps, Trejon Jacob, Willy Nunez, Hassan Hussein
Will FIU actually win any games in 2017-18?
The Panthers went 5-24 last season against D-I competition and will need to replace just about every prominent member of that roster.
All four of the leading scorers graduated and a trio of rotation players transferred. The only significant returnee is point guard Eric Lockett, who bounced in and out of the starting lineup last season due to his inefficiency.
They'll be relying heavily on JUCO transfers to fill those voids. Willy Nunez averaged 20.8 PPG at Indian River State and should immediately become the leading scorer on his new roster. Josh Stamps and Trejon Jacob also averaged double figures last year.
But even if all three of their games translate well and they earn starting roles, the rest of this roster is still filled with question marks and inexperience.
4. California Golden Bears
Percentage of Points Lost: 86.1
Noteworthy Players Lost: Ivan Rabb (434 points; NBA draft), Charlie Moore (416 points; transferred), Jabari Bird (387 points; graduated), Grant Mullins (328 points; graduated), Sam Singer (152 points; graduated), Kameron Rooks (118 points; transferred)
Key Returning Players: Kingsley Okoroh (158 points), Don Coleman (123 points)
Projected Starting Five: Deschon Winston, Coleman, Cole Welle, Marcus Lee, Okoroh
Suffice it to say, this is neither the roster nor coaching situation Marcus Lee thought he was signing up for when he transferred from Kentucky to California.
Cuonzo Martin skipped town to become the head coach at Missouri, leaving first-time head coach Wyking Jones in charge of a rebuilding situation that will almost certainly take multiple seasons to complete.
In addition to the six players above, the Golden Bears also lost seniors Roger Moute a Bidias and Stephen Domingo, so they will enter the 2017-18 season without eight of their 10 leading scorers.
Charlie Moore's decision to transfer is what really crippled the program. The freshman point guard should have been the star of this team for the next one to three years. Instead, he'll be sitting out a year at Kansas while California enters desperation mode at point guard.
The frontcourt combination of Lee and Kingsley Okoroh should be solid, but what the Golden Bears plan to do in the backcourt is anyone's guess.
Though he only shot 37.5 percent from the field and 20.0 percent from three-point range, Don Coleman might be the only viable option at shooting guard and the projected primary scorer among guys shorter than 6'7".
Washington State will likely finish in the basement of the Pac-12 standings, but California will be bringing up the rear along with the Cougars.
3. Oregon Ducks
Percentage of Points Lost: 86.4
Noteworthy Players Lost: Tyler Dorsey (571 points; NBA draft), Dillon Brooks (564 points; NBA draft), Jordan Bell (427 points; NBA draft), Dylan Ennis (425 points; graduated), Chris Boucher (366 points; graduated), Casey Benson (191 points; transferred), Kavell Bigby-Williams (111 points; transferred)
Key Returning Players: Payton Pritchard (290 points)
Projected Starting Five: Pritchard, Elijah Brown, Troy Brown, MiKyle McIntosh, M.J. Cage
Outside of the obvious, usual suspects (Duke and Kentucky), no team was more decimated by NBA draft declarations than Oregon.
Arizona, Florida State, Indiana and UCLA put up a good fight by each losing more than 1,100 points via early entrants, but a combined 1,562 points from Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell made the Ducks the winners of a contest no one wants to enter.
Those decisions didn't exactly come out of left field, though. Dorsey and Brooks both tested the draft waters for a long time in 2016, and Bell put a capstone on a huge junior year with a great NCAA tournament run. But the transfers of Casey Benson and Kavell Bigby-Williams are a big part of why Oregon ranks so high on this list and why depth is a serious concern heading into next season.
To be fair, the transfers that Dana Altman added are better than the ones he lost. Elijah Brown averaged 18.8 PPG last season for New Mexico, while MiKyle McIntosh put up 12.5 for Illinois State—and let's not forget about Georgetown transfer Paul White, who sat out last season.
But without Benson and Bigby-Williams, redshirt freshman M.J. Cage might have to start at center, Roman Sorkin will need to play a much bigger role in the frontcourt and freshman Victor Bailey is just about the only backcourt reserve on the roster.
Even if 5-star small forward Troy Brown is a stud from day one and Cage is immediately ready for full-time duty, this team is one injury away from being in trouble.
2. Pittsburgh Panthers
Percentage of Points Lost: 92.5
Noteworthy Players Lost: Michael Young (648 points; graduated), James Artis (582 points; graduated), Cameron Johnson (392 points; transferred), Sheldon Jeter (268 points; graduated), Chris Jones (229 points; graduated)
Key Returning Players: Ryan Luther (120 points)
Projected Starting Five: Jonathan Milligan, Marcus Carr, Monty Boykins, Jared Wilson-Frame, Luther
Pittsburgh legitimately might be the worst major-conference team in the country this season.
In addition to the five noteworthy players listed above, the Panthers also lost Justice Kithcart, Rozelle Nix, Damon Wilson and Corey Manigault as transfers—four guys who only combined for 774 minutes and 108 points last season, but who would have been strong candidates for starting jobs this year.
All told, Pittsburgh lost nine of its 11 players who scored more than two points in 2016-17.
There are a few programs around the country that could take that type of attrition hit and come back just as strong the following season, but Pittsburgh isn't one of them.
The Panthers failed to land a top-100 guy, and low 4-star recruit Marcus Carr was their only signing in Scout's top 200. This means not only is Carr likely to immediately start at guard, but JUCO transfer Jared Wilson-Frame (14.8 PPG at NW Florida State) and graduate-transfer Monty Boykins (10.7 PPG at Lafayette two years ago) are among the only viable options at the forward positions.
Even the two returning Panthers haven't been anything special. Jonathan Milligan shot 28.6 percent from the field last season, but who else is going to play point guard? And Ryan Luther was a part-time stretch 4 who now likely has to play as many minutes as possible at center.
The nonconference schedule is cushioned with enough cupcakes that Pittsburgh should be able to fare a little better than Oregon State's overall mark of 5-27 last season, but Kevin Stallings would have to be a candidate for ACC Coach of the Year if this team wins more than one game in conference play.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Percentage of Points Lost: 92.6
Noteworthy Players Lost: Malik Monk (754 points; NBA draft), De'Aaron Fox (601 points; NBA draft), Edrice Adebayo (494 points; NBA draft), Isaiah Briscoe (437 points; NBA draft), Derek Willis (267 points; graduated), Dominique Hawkins (178 points; graduated), Mychal Mulder (151 points; graduated), Isaac Humphries (105 points; NBA draft)
Key Returning Players: Wenyen Gabriel (174 points)
Projected Starting Five: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, P.J. Washington, Nick Richards
Narrowly edging out Pittsburgh for the No. 1 spot is a Kentucky team that is no stranger to appearing near the top of this list.
But even this is a little more extreme than usual for the Wildcats. After they had seven players declare for the 2015 draft, they still only lost 85.9 percent of their scoring, thanks to Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress and a few other small role players returning to serve as the veteran presence.
This year, it's Wenyen Gabriel, and that's about it. Second-leading returning scorer Sacha Killeya-Jones (40 points) might be a candidate to start at center, but this is going to be a freshman-dominant team. Per Scout, John Calipari signed six of the top 25, seven of the top 40 and eight of the top 87 freshmen in the country, so, in theory, that shouldn't be a bad thing.
Can the all-freshmen approach really work, though? Calipari turns freshmen into NBA lottery picks like no one else in the business, but his teams have always had at least a couple of returning players to provide leadership. The only exception was the ill-fated 2012-13 season when Kyle Wiltjer—who scored 25 more points as a freshman than Gabriel did—was the only holdover from the previous year.
That isn't meant as a suggestion that Kentucky is headed for another first-round exit from the NIT, but it will be intriguing to watch how quickly all the new guys can jell together and whether the team-wide lack of college experience causes them to fall apart when they hit midseason turbulence.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames. Recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com. Advanced stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and KenPom.com.