CBB Teams Getting a Boost in 2018-19 from Players You've Forgotten About
If you thought the Kansas Jayhawks were good this year, just wait until they get to add Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore to the rotation after they transferred into the program last offseason.
Winning with transfers is the new normal in college basketball. We're still waiting for the strategy to produce a national champion, but let's just say that neither Michigan (Charles Matthews) nor Loyola-Chicago (Clayton Custer and Marques Townes) would have gotten to the Final Four without recruiting that secondary market. And we would be remiss if we didn't note that Nevada made it to the Sweet 16 with five former transfers in its starting lineup.
In addition to Kansas, which teams are benefiting the most from players who were sitting on the bench for the entire 2017-18 season?
Using the Verbal Commits list of 885 transfers from last summer as a guide, here's a reminder of forgotten players who ought to make a huge impact in their new homes.
VCU Rams (Marcus Evans)
Marcus Evans scored more than 660 points in each of his first two seasons with Rice before opting to take his talents elsewhere. With Jonathan Williams and Justin Tillman both graduating, this combo guard should be entering a situation where he can shine. He also averaged 2.2 steals per game as a freshman, so he should be a strong first line of defense.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (Michael Weathers)
Michael Weathers was Mr. Do It All for Miami (Ohio) in 2016-17. The freshman point guard averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. At a program where Jawun Evans and Marcus Smart have starred in recent years, that type of ball-dominant lead guard should fit in perfectly—especially considering the Cowboys lose Jeffrey Carroll, Kendall Smith and Mitchell Solomon this offseason.
Alabama Crimson Tide (Tevin Mack)
Tevin Mack was having an outstanding sophomore season with Texas, averaging 14.8 points per game and shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range. But he only lasted 15 games before being suspended for a violation of team rules and subsequently deciding to leave the program. With the exception of John Petty, Alabama was dreadful from three-point range this season, so they'll gladly welcome this shooter.
Texas Longhorns (Elijah Long)
Texas lost Mack to Alabama, but it picked up Elijah Long from Mount St. Mary's. He averaged 15 points per game two seasons ago, along with 5.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Perhaps most important, he shot 38.2 percent from three-point range, which is a stroke the Longhorns could have desperately used this year.
Duquesne Dukes (Marcus Weathers, Frankie Hughes, Craig Randall II, Tavian Dunn-Martin)
Our one honorable mention with multiple incoming transfers, Duquesne loaded up on guys who should be able to play a sizable role for a team losing a bunch of seniors. Not one of these players was a double-digit scorer in his previous home, but the Dukes did get a handful of sixth men who might be ready for starting jobs.
7. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Brandon Clarke (San Jose State), 2016-17: 17.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG
Joel Ayayi (Redshirt Freshman)
Gonzaga is on the long list of teams that would be one of the top title contenders if everyone decides to return for another season. Even if Killian Tillie and/or Rui Hachimura decides to go pro, though, the Bulldogs should still be in good shape with the addition of two players who sat out this past year.
The more noteworthy of the duo is Brandon Clarke, because of what he did for San Jose State in 2016-17.
The Spartans have been one of the worst programs in the country over the past seven seasons, tied for the eighth-most total losses during that time. But with Clarke leading the way, they went 14-16 two years ago—their only season since 2010-11 with at least 10 wins. This past season without him, they went right back to being awful, finishing 4-26.
Given everything he did for them, that shouldn't be a surprise. Clarke was the only player in the past four seasons and one of just five in the past decade to average at least 15 points, eight rebounds, 2.5 blocks and one steal over the course of a full season. With the exception of Dedric Lawson, he was arguably the most coveted sit-a-year transfer on last year's market because of that remarkable versatility. Clarke should absorb a good chunk of the minutes that Johnathan Williams III is leaving behind.
The other departing senior (Silas Melson) might also bequeath a fair amount of playing time to a new Zag. Joel Ayayi played at INSEP in France, which also produced Gonzaga players Ronny Turiaf and Killian Tillie. He redshirted this year, but he could be a staple in next year's backcourt rotation.
6. Arizona State Sun Devils
Rob Edwards (Cleveland State), 2016-17: 16.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 35.4% 3PT
Zylan Cheatham (San Diego State), 2016-17: 9.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 SPG
Arizona State is going to look a lot different in 2018-19 without Shannon Evans II, Tra Holder and Kodi Justice, but the Sun Devils might be just as good. In addition to a recruiting class headlined by Taeshon Cherry, head coach Bobby Hurley had a pair of guys on the bench who could be major contributors.
The big wild card is Rob Edwards.
The numbers displayed above look solid, but he committed a lot of turnovers and shot just 40.4 percent from the field in his two seasons with the Vikings. Is he truly an inefficient player, or was that a product of being surrounded by a dismal supporting cast? If the decrease in volume results in an uptick in efficiency, he'll be an important piece of this puzzle.
The Sun Devils are also adding Zylan Cheatham. The forward was a top-75 recruit back in 2014, but a broken foot forced him to redshirt his first season at San Diego State. Once healthy enough to play, it didn't take long for him to break into the starting lineup. However, the fit was never a good one. He should look more at home in the up-tempo, offense-dominated system at Arizona State.
There should be plenty of touches to go around for both transfers, as Evans, Holder and Justice combined to average 47.4 points per game as seniors.
5. Seton Hall Pirates
Quincy McKnight (Sacred Heart), 2016-17: 18.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.6 SPG
Taurean Thompson (Syracuse), 2016-17: 9.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Romaro Gill (JUCO Transfer)
Few teams are being gutted by graduations quite like Seton Hall. Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Angel Delgado each averaged at least 13.6 points per game this past season, but they're all leaving. Fifth-leading scorer Ismael Sanogo was also a senior, which means the Pirates need to replace four starters.
They do still have Myles Powell to shoulder the scoring load, and both Myles Cale and Michael Nzei are reserves who should be ready to take on a larger role in 2018-19. However, it's the incoming transfers who will determine whether Seton Hall makes the NCAA tournament for a fourth consecutive season or whether it falls to the back of the Big East pack.
Taurean Thompson should immediately become a starter in the frontcourt. He was painfully inconsistent as a freshman at Syracuse, but he scored at least 18 points in six games. Thompson also blocked multiple shots almost a dozen times. He'll need to keep the fouls under control, but he flashed more than enough potential with the Orange for us to believe he could become the second-leading scorer and a force in the paint for the Pirates.
McKnight is much less of a sure thing, even though his numbers look a lot better than Thompson's. He was an inefficient volume scorer at Sacred Heart. To get those 19 points per game, he needed nearly 15 field goal attempts. In the process, he averaged 5.7 turnovers per 40 minutes and committed at least nine turnovers in four games as a sophomore. As with Rob Edwards at Cleveland State/Arizona State, though, perhaps the improved supporting cast will help him become a more valuable contributor.
And then there's the 7'2" wild card: Romaro Gill. The big man averaged 5.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game at Vincennes before redshirting. If he can give the Pirates 15 to 20 minutes per game of rebounding and rim protection, he could tag team with Sandro Mamukelashvili like Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms did for Purdue.
4. North Carolina State Wolfpack
C.J. Bryce (UNC-Wilmington), 2016-17: 17.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.0 APG
Devon Daniels (Utah), 2016-17: 9.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG
When North Carolina State signed Kevin Keatts as its new head coach last March, the Wolfpack probably didn't know C.J. Bryce would be a part of that UNC-Wilmington package. They aren't complaining, though, given how critical he was to the success of the Seahawks as a sophomore.
Prior to a disappointing showing in the NCAA tournament against Virginia, Bryce had scored at least 16 points in each of his final nine games. Long before that, he put up 16 points and eight rebounds against Duke as a freshman in the 2015 NCAA tournament.
Bryce isn't the only 6'5" guard the Wolfpack are adding to next year's roster. There's also Devon Daniels, who was a starter at Utah from day one as a freshman. In a December game against Xavier, he led all players in scoring with 19 points. Six weeks later, he scored a career-high 24 points against Washington.
With Allerik Freeman and Sam Hunt both graduating, there should be room in the rotation for both guys to make a major impact. They'll join forces with Markell Johnson, Braxton Beverly and Torin Dorn in what should be one heck of a solid backcourt.
Even if Omer Yurtseven returns for a third season, NC State should play a lot of small ball next year. Fortunately, Keatts is the right man for that job, given the success he had with those undersized rosters at Wilmington.
3. New Mexico Lobos
JaQuan Lyle (Ohio State), 2016-17: 11.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 40.7% 3PT
Vance Jackson (Connecticut), 2016-17: 8.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 39.7% 3PT
Carlton Bragg Jr. (Kansas), 2016-17: 5.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG
For six years under Steve Alford and for one season after he left to take the UCLA job, New Mexico averaged 26 wins. The Lobos went just 2-4 in the NCAA tournament during that stretch, but they earned a pair of No. 3 seeds, a No. 5 seed and a No. 7 seed. They were every bit the annual mid-major threat that Butler, Creighton and Wichita State were.
Over the past four seasons, though, they have averaged 17 wins and haven't even sniffed the NCAA tournament. And three of the four leading scorers for this year's team are graduating. New Mexico would be in serious trouble if not for its trio of major-conference transfers.
In fact, because of these three transfers, New Mexico ought to challenge for the Mountain West title.
All three guys were top-100 recruits, which is much better talent than New Mexico is typically able to get.
From that perspective, Carlton Bragg Jr. (No. 24 in 2015) is the most noteworthy acquisition, although he won't be eligible to join the team until the second semester. Perry Ellis blocked Bragg's path to playing time as a freshman at Kansas. In his sophomore season, the Jayhawks primarily went with Josh Jackson as a small-ball 4. When he did get to play, he averaged 15.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per 40 minutes during his two years with the team. He should instantly become New Mexico's primary big man.
2. Nevada Wolf Pack
Nisre Zouzoua (Bryant), 2016-17: 20.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.5 APG, 36.7% 3PT
Jazz Johnson (Portland), 2016-17: 15.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 41.5% 3PT
Corey Henson (Wagner), 2016-17: 14.6 PPG, 2.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 35.3% 3PT
Tre'Shawn Thurman (Nebraska-Omaha), 2016-17: 13.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 APG
Iowa State used to be the most popular destination for transfers, but Nevada and head coach Eric Musselman have clearly ascended to that throne. The Wolf Pack made it to the Sweet 16 this year with a starting five constructed entirely of former transfers, and next season should be a similar story.
However, the reason they are at No. 2 with 64.5 incoming points per game instead of No. 1 is because this year's batch is made up of up-transfers instead of down-transfers.
Caleb and Cody Martin came from North Carolina State. Kendall Stephens spent three seasons at Purdue. Hallice Cooke went from Oregon State to Iowa State before joining Nevada. All four were talented high school players who were looking for a better fit where they could shine and thus transitioned from major-conference programs to a mid-major.
These four new players, on the other hand, are guys who put up big numbers with teams who didn't amount to much, and there's nothing close to a guarantee that any of them will be able to match their old production in their new home.
If Nevada gets back the Martin twins, Jordan Caroline and Josh Hall, though, it doesn't need these new transfers to put that many points on the board. Even if each one scores half as much as he did in 2016-17, it would be more than enough for the Wolf Pack to remain in competition with Gonzaga for the title of top non-major team in the country.
Of the bunch, look for Corey Henson to make the biggest impact in 2018-19. Replacing Stephens (7.9 three-point attempts per game) is going to be a challenge, but Henson is a career 36.4 percent shooter who isn't shy about letting it fly.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Dedric Lawson (Memphis), 2016-17: 19.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.1 BPG, 1.3 SPG
K.J. Lawson (Memphis), 2016-17: 12.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.8 APG
Charlie Moore (California), 2016-17: 12.2 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 35.2% 3PT
Considering Kansas has been able to sign top-notch recruits like Andrew Wiggins and Josh Jackson in recent years, it's not even fair that the Jayhawks are also able to add all of this talent from the transfer market.
Without question, Dedric Lawson was the star of last offseason's transfer cycle. He did more than a little bit of everything in his two seasons with Memphis, stuffing the stat sheet like it was a Thanksgiving turkey. He had 19 double-doubles, as well as eight games with at least 10 combined assists, blocks and steals. If the Tigers hadn't been so disappointing, he would have gotten a lot more love in the conversation for national player of the year.
His brother is a darn fine player, as well. K.J. wasn't as consistently excellent as Dedric was, but he had a few massive double-doubles in his own right. Most noteworthy, he put up 28 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in a January win over Houston, followed by 12 points and 19 rebounds against East Carolina just nine days later. And he probably won't even have a starting gig on this loaded roster.
The most important player, though, might be Charlie Moore. The Jayhawks have plenty of big men and some three-point shooters, but point guard could be a problem if Moore is unable to lock down that job. He was an excellent lead guard in his one season at California, and he'll be joining quite the fraternity where Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham turned into stars.