Predicting Which High Seeds in 2019 NCAA Tournament Won't Reach 2020 Big Dance

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystApril 10, 2019

Predicting Which High Seeds in 2019 NCAA Tournament Won't Reach 2020 Big Dance

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    Former Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams
    Former Virginia Tech head coach Buzz WilliamsChuck Burton/Associated Press

    Maintaining dominance for multiple seasons is not easy in men's college basketball. Leaders graduate, stars declare for the NBA draft, role players transfer, coaches leave for greener pastures and we barely recognize anything other than the jerseys for most teams by the time November rolls around.

    As a result, many teams that were great one year end up settling for spots in the NIT the following season.

    More than half of the schools that participated in the 2018 NCAA tournament were not invited to this year's dance. And we aren't just talking about the minor-conference revolving doors of automatic bids. Ten of the 28 teams seeded No. 7 or better last year didn't make it this March, including No. 1 seed Xavier.

    Looking at that same pool of 28 candidates from this year's field, it's not hard to pinpoint teams unlikely to participate in the 2020 NCAA tournament.

    Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns in play here. Six top-30 recruits still haven't decided whom they will play for in 2019-20. Dozens of players will declare for the draft before the April 21 deadline, and even more will pull their names out of the draft pool before that June 10 deadline. In other words, it's going to be at least another two months before we have a great idea of what next year's rosters will look like.

    We can make educated guesses, though.

    Teams are listed in ascending order of seed in the 2019 NCAA tournament. When dealing with two or more teams from the same seed line, they are presented in no particular order.

Nevada Wolf Pack

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    Jazz Johnson
    Jazz JohnsonIsaac Brekken/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 7

    Players Graduating: Caleb Martin (19.2 PPG), Jordan Caroline (17.0 PPG), Cody Martin (12.1 PPG), Tre'Shawn Thurman (8.2 PPG), Trey Porter (7.2 PPG), Corey Henson (2.7 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: N/A

    Noteworthy Additions: Lindsey Drew (injury), Jalen Harris (Louisiana Tech), Daryl Edwards (LSU)

    Eric Musselman had an incredible four-year run at Nevada.

    In the season before his arrival, the Wolf Pack went 9-22 and missed the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive season. In his first year, they won 24 games and took home the CBI championship. In each of the next three seasons, they won at least 28 games and went to the Big Dance. He turned Reno into the premier destination for transfers, building contenders out of castoffs.

    But now Musselman is headed to Arkansas, and he leaves behind a depleted roster.

    Six of Nevada's eight leading scorers were seniors, meaning three-point assassin Jazz Johnson (11.0 PPG) and McDonald's-All-American-who-fell-well-short-of-the-hype Jordan Brown (3.0 PPG) are the only returnees who gained much experience this season.

    Getting back point guard Lindsey Drew from a torn Achilles suffered in February 2018 should be a nice boost, as is the addition of Jalen Harris, who averaged more than 15 points per game at Louisiana Tech in 2017-18. But the amount of talent lost is much greater than the amount gained, and it's going to be tough for Nevada to get back to the dance next year.

    With Utah State looking like a strong candidate for the preseason AP Top 25, the Wolf Pack likely won't be the favorites in the Mountain West Conference.

Wofford Terriers

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    Storm Murphy
    Storm MurphyStephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 7

    Players Graduating: Fletcher Magee (20.3 PPG), Cameron Jackson (14.5 PPG), Matthew Pegram (4.8 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: N/A

    Noteworthy Additions: N/A

    Wofford lived and died with Fletcher Magee.

    At 41.9 percent, he wasn't the Terriers' most accurate three-point shooter this season. Storm Murphy (47.2 percent) and Nathan Hoover (46.9 percent) shared that honor, and the aptly named Tray Hollowell (41.2 percent) finished slightly behind Magee. But Magee was the reason those teammates were able to shoot so well. Opponents were so worried about following him around all of his screens that Murphy and Hoover were consistently getting great looks at the rim.

    Without Magee around to draw all of the attention, expect those percentages to drop precipitously.

    If the Terriers were only losing Division I's all-time leader in made threes, maybe they would be OK. They wouldn't be one of the 20 best teams for a second consecutive season, but maybe they would play their way into a No. 11 or No. 12 seed with an otherwise intact returning roster.

    However, they also lose Cameron Jackson, who had advanced metrics through the roof. Jackson's player efficiency rating, box plus/minus and win shares per 40 minutes all ranked in the top eight nationally. The only other players who can say that are Duke's Zion Williamson and Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke.

    Jackson never got 1 percent of the national attention he deserved for his value added while on the court, but he will be sorely missed.

    Factor in that head coach Mike Young is leaving for the Virginia Tech job, and things may fall apart in a hurry for Wofford.

Buffalo Bulls

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    Jayvon Graves
    Jayvon GravesJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 6

    Players Graduating: CJ Massinburg (18.2 PPG), Nick Perkins (14.6 PPG), Jeremy Harris (14.1 PPG), Dontay Caruthers (8.5 PPG), Montell McRae (5.6 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: N/A

    Noteworthy Additions: Antwain Johnson (Middle Tennessee)

    Buffalo has been to the NCAA tournament in four of the past five seasons and has posted a winning record in 10 of 11 years dating back to 2008-09. The Bulls were starting to make a Gonzaga, Butler, VCU or Wichita State type of leap to becoming a mid-major team you expect to see in the Big Dance every year.

    Continuing to thrive after an offseason with this much attrition would require a small miracle, though.

    One of the biggest reasons Buffalo was a borderline Final Four contender in 2018-19 was that five of its seven leading scorers were seniors. That's a great perk to have for a few months, but it immediately becomes an Achilles' heel once the attention shifts to the following season.

    Aside from guards Jayvon Graves (9.8 PPG) and Davonta Jordan (7.4 PPG), the Bulls don't have a returning player who averaged more than 9.1 minutes or 3.2 points per game. They also lost head coach Nate Oats to Alabama, so they'll be breaking in new players and coaches simultaneously.

    Buffalo does have three incoming JUCO transfers in Durey Cadwell, Andre Allen and James Rojas, so at least the roster will have more collegiate experience than is usually the case for a team losing so many seniors.

    It's just impossible to forecast how well it will all come together. And in what has been a one-bid league for the past 20 seasons, even a better-than-expected season could go up in smoke in the MAC tournament.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Brad Davison
    Brad DavisonNati Harnik/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 5

    Players Graduating: Ethan Happ (17.3 PPG), Khalil Iverson (6.9 PPG), Charles Thomas IV (1.6 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: N/A

    Noteworthy Additions: Micah Potter (Ohio State), Tyler Wahl (3-star SF)

    Wisconsin isn't losing as many key players as the other teams on this list, but the Badgers do need to replace the most valuable player in the country.

    Ethan Happ finished each of the last three seasons ranked No. 8 or better in the KenPom Player of the Year standings. Several players have made multiple appearances in the top 10, but Happ is the first to do it in three different seasons. (Even Doug McDermott was unable to accomplish that feat.)

    Happ is just such an impactful player on both ends of the floor. He passes. He rebounds. He scores a ton in the paint. He gets blocks. He gets steals. And though he doesn't often convert from the free-throw line, he gets hacked a lot and gets opposing big men into foul trouble. He may only be one man, but it's going to feel like Wisconsin has several holes to plug because of his departure.

    Khalil Iverson is also a great defender and a veteran who started almost every game in the past two seasons. He ranked second behind Happ in two-point buckets and rebounds and was No. 3 on the team in blocks and steals.

    In other words, Wisconsin needs to replace just about its entire frontcourt presence, which is no small request.

    Even if Ohio State transfer Micah Potter is able to become a key contributor right away, frontcourt depth and overall leadership are big question marks heading into next season. It wouldn't be that much of a surprise if the Badgers miss the tournament for the second time in three years.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    Xavier Sneed
    Xavier SneedBen Margot/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 4

    Players Graduating: Barry Brown (14.6 PPG), Kamau Stokes (11.0 PPG), Dean Wade (12.9 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: N/A

    Noteworthy Additions: DaJuan Gordon (4-star SG), Montavious Murphy (3-star PF)

    Kansas State, which won a share of the Big 12 regular-season title in 2018-19, is about to find out firsthand just how unbelievable Kansas' streak of conference titles (14) was.

    It's one thing to be successful for a few years with a recruiting haul that overachieves and sticks around to graduate. The Wildcats didn't have a single top-150 guy in their 2015 class, but Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade each evolved into a huge asset.

    It's another thing to be successful for five or more consecutive years, bridging the gap between recruiting classes.

    So, with that trio gone, what's next for Kansas State?

    It still has a respectable core of Xavier Sneed, Cartier Diarra and Makol Mawien, and DaJuan Gordon is one of the highest-rated recruits to come through Manhattan in at least a decade. But Kansas State couldn't figure out how to do much of anything in the nine games Wade missed because of injury. One can't imagine that already anemic offense is going to get better by also losing Brown and Stokes.

    And there is no room for error in the conference. Both West Virginia and Oklahoma State should be back in a big way after disappointing seasons. Texas and Baylor will be real contenders. Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State will remain top threats to win the league. Add it all up, and Kansas State wouldn't need to fall that far in order to suffer 12-14 losses just in conference play next year.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Kerry Blackshear Jr.
    Kerry Blackshear Jr.Ben McKeown/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 4

    Players Graduating: Ahmed Hill (13.1 PPG), Justin Robinson (13.5 PPG), Ty Outlaw (8.6 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (16.2 PPG), Wabissa Bede (3.8 PPG—transferring)

    Noteworthy Additions: Emanuel Miller (3-star PF)

    If Kerry Blackshear Jr. sticks around for a redshirt senior season, maybe Virginia Tech will be able to tread water just well enough to sneak into next year's NCAA tournament.

    But if the only true big man on this roster decides to skip towneither as an early entrant to the NBA draft or as a graduate transferVirginia Tech might set a school record for losses in a single season. (Its current low mark is 24 in 1953-54.)

    Head coach Buzz Williams quickly built this team into a perennial contender, but he has already abandoned ship for the Texas A&M job. In his stead, the Hokies hired Wofford head coach Mike Young. It should be a seamless transition in regard to offensive style, since both the Terriers and Virginia Tech rely heavily on three-pointers.

    What three-point shooters are even left for Young to work with, though? Unless Nickeil Alexander-Walker surprises everyone by returning for a third season, the Hokies are going to lose all five of this year's primary perimeter threats.

    There were high hopes that redshirt freshman Landers Nolley II would make a huge impact in 2019-20, but Rivals' Corey Evans reported Monday that Nolley has entered the transfer portal.

    A lot can change during the long offseason, but this roster seems to be getting worse by the day.

LSU Tigers

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    Marlon Taylor
    Marlon TaylorAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 3

    Players Graduating: Kavell Bigby-Williams (7.9 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: Tremont Waters (15.3 PPG), Skylar Mays (13.4 PPG), Naz Reid (13.6 PPG), Javonte Smart (11.1 PPG)

    Noteworthy Additions: James Bishop (3-star CG)

    Thanks in large part to the ongoing FBI investigation, LSU is the biggest wild card on this list.

    Is there any world in which Will Wade is allowed to return as the head coach for the Tigers? If Wade is terminated, would any good coach be willing to sign on with a program that might be facing major NCAA sanctions? And regardless of who is coaching, what the heck is this roster going to look like?

    Before the season even began, most college basketball analysts assumed Naz Reid would be a one-and-done guy and that Tremont Waters would bolt for the 2019 NBA draft. No surprise to see either of those names on the list of early-entry declarations.

    Skylar Mays is more unexpected, though. And while Javonte Smart has not yet declared for the draft, he was the player Wade allegedly was trying to pay to come to LSU. Though he was cleared to return to the team after a one-game suspension, if anything more comes from this investigation in the next few weeks, it might be in his best interest to leave early.

    However, let's assume that Mays leaves, Smart returns and interim head coach Tony Benford takes the full-time job. Is that LSU team making the tournament after losing four of its five leading scorers? Not unless it makes a huge splash in the graduate-transfer market.

Purdue Boilermakers

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    Matt Haarms
    Matt HaarmsTimothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 3

    Players Graduating: Ryan Cline (12.0 PPG), Grady Eifert (5.5 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: Carsen Edwards (24.3 PPG)

    Noteworthy Additions: Brandon Newman (4-star SG), Mason Gillis (3-star PF), Isaiah Thompson (3-star PG)

    It is with extreme caution that we put Purdue here. The Boilermakers were on this list last year because of the departure of four starting seniors. Not only did they make the tournament, though, they also got in as a No. 3 seed and darn near made it to the Final Four.

    However, this time around, there's no telling where the team will go from here. We knew Carsen Edwards had the potential to be an All-Americanwe just weren't sure if that would be enough to consistently win games in the Big Ten.

    Now that he and Ryan Cline are leaving, who shoulders the scoring load?

    Purdue will still be an excellent defensive team, anchored by Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms. Heck, as far as defense is concerned, it's addition by subtraction in regard to Edwards and Cline. If Trevion Williams can get into good enough shape to play 25-30 minutes per game, this may be one of the five most efficient defenses in the nation in 2019-20.

    But what good is defense if you can't score? The top three returning scorers made a combined total of eight threes this season. Only one returning Boilermaker (Eastern) averaged at least 1.2 assists per game. And the Big Ten might be even more loaded top to bottom than it was this year.

    Don't expect a total fall from grace, but 2019-20 Purdue might look like 2016-17 Georgia Tech: Elite defense fuels a few major upsets and an above-.500 record, yet poor offense in a nine-bid conference results in a trip to the NIT.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Garrison Brooks
    Garrison BrooksGerry Broome/Associated Press

    2019 Tournament Seed: No. 1

    Players Graduating: Cameron Johnson (16.9 PPG), Luke Maye (14.9 PPG), Kenny Williams (8.6 PPG)

    Players Likely to Leave Early: Coby White (16.1 PPG), Nassir Little (9.8 PPG)

    Noteworthy Additions: Armando Bacot (5-star C), Jeremiah Francis (3-star PG)

    Do I actually think North Carolina is going to miss the 2020 NCAA tournament? No. No I do not.

    Roy Williams is a Mount Rushmore-level coach. It's probably going to be a down year for depth in the ACC. (Six-bid league, maybe?) Most of the recruiting experts seem to believe the Tar Heels are going to get Cole Anthony, who is arguably the best guard in the 2019 class. And even if they don't get Anthony, they could win 20 games with a starting five of Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot.

    But do I think it's possible for North Carolina to crash and burn after losing all five of its leading scorers, even if it does get Anthony? Yes. Yes I do.

    Let's not forget, one decade ago, UNC won the national championship before losing all four of its leading scorers and a key backcourt reserve. Despite inking the second-best recruiting class in 2009, the Tar Heels missed the NCAA tournament the following year.

    People act like Duke and Kentucky should be in the national championship every year because of their one-and-dones approach, but regardless of how much new talent is required, replacing all of your stars in one summer is not as easy as John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski make it look year after year.

    Whether it ends up being a slow start of a full-blown rebuilding season remains to be seen, but North Carolina is at least likely to have some growing pains next year.


    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.

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