Predicting Which High Seeds in 2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Won't Reach 2023 DanceApril 6, 2022
Predicting Which High Seeds in 2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Won't Reach 2023 Dance
Maintaining dominance for consecutive seasons in men's college basketball is not easy. Leaders graduate, stars declare for the NBA draft, more than 1,000 players are already in the transfer portal and coaches leave for greener pastures. Sometimes, we barely recognize anything other than a team's jersey by the time November rolls around.
As a result, many of the top teams from one season end up missing the dance altogether the following March.
More than half of the schools (38 of 68) that participated in the 2021 NCAA tournament were not invited to this year's dance. We aren't just talking about the minor-conference revolving door of automatic bids, either. All of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from last year made it this year, but nine of the 28 teams seeded No. 7 or better did not.
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 2023 NCAA tournament.
Needless to say, there are plenty of unknowns still in play. There are still a few big-name recruits available, most notably 5-star forward Julian Phillips, who decommitted from LSU a few weeks ago. Many NBA draft decisions are yet to be made. Of the nearly 1,100 players who have entered the portal, about 1,000 are still there for the taking, and it's likely just a matter of time before a few hundred more players join that list of "free agents."
But we can still make some way-too-early educated guesses at which teams are most likely to experience a bit of rebuilding.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Also considered: Connecticut, Michigan State, Ohio State, Saint Mary's
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 5
Players Graduating: Jordan Bohannon
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: Keegan Murray, Joe Toussaint, Austin Ash
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
I would be remiss if I didn't start Iowa's section by pointing out that I also expected the Hawkeyes to falter in 2021-22. It hasn't even been five months since my preseason bracket projection in which I called Iowa the "obvious choice" to be the team that goes from a No. 1 or No. 2 seed one March to missing the dance the following March.
But who the heck saw Keegan Murray coming?
Iowa was supposed to struggle after losing a two-time first-team All-American (Luka Garza) in addition to several other key members of last year's team (Joe Wieskamp, Jack Nunge and CJ Fredrick). Instead, Murray blossomed into a first-team All-American, and the Hawkeyes merely slipped from No. 7 to No. 13 in the KenPom rankings.
With Murray now off to the NBA, they can't possibly do it again, right?
Keegan's brother, Kris, did have a couple of mighty impressive performances this season—most notably collecting 29 points and 11 rebounds in a January victory over Indiana—so it's at least possible he becomes a star for the Hawkeyes in 2022-23.
While this team looks to be in good shape down low between "the other Murray," Patrick McCaffery and Filip Rebraca, the big question here is guard play.
Bohannon's college career is finally over after a staggering 179 games, and they've also lost Toussaint to the transfer portal. The former was a veteran leader with more than 2,000 points and 700 assists in his career. The latter led the team in assists this year and was (along with Keegan Murray) one of the only positive aspects of Iowa's defense. Replacing both while also hoping Kris Murray can make a Keegan-esque leap is asking a lot.
Let's not forget that Iowa was a bubble team in mid-February. The No. 5 seed makes it seem like the Hawkeyes would need to have a significant fall from grace to miss next year's tournament, but they had to go 9-1 down the stretch with several quality wins away from home to get there. It wouldn't actually take much for them to slip out of next year's field.
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 6
Players Graduating: None
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: The entire 2021-22 roster
Noteworthy Arrivals: Juice Hill (Murray State), Trae Hannibal (Murray State), Kendal Coleman (Northwestern State)
It's no surprise that LSU is getting noteworthy transfers from Murray State, considering it replaced Will Wade with former Racers head coach, Matt McMahon. However, there's a two-fold problem for the Tigers.
First, what they've gained from the portal is nowhere near what they lost to it.
Hill and Hannibal were the third- and fourth-best players at Murray State, and Coleman averaged a double-double for Northwestern State this past season. Quality pickups, no doubt.
But LSU's two leading scorers (Tari Eason and Darius Days) have both declared for the NBA draft while 11 have others entered the transfer portal. None of them have committed to a new school yet, so it's possible McMahon could convince at least some of them to stay in Baton Rouge. As things currently stand, though, the only player remaining on the roster who scored a single point or grabbed a single rebound in 2021-22 is walk-on Parker Edwards.
And that's because of the bigger problem likely coming LSU's way: NCAA sanctions.
The Tigers got their notice of allegations the week of the SEC tournament and fired Wade before the start of the NCAA tournament, which sure felt like some sort of Hail Mary designed to lessen the impending punishment. But a postseason ban of some sort seems almost inevitable.
Even if they don't get hit with that penalty for the upcoming season, LSU's recruiting pull has already taken a massive hit. Per 247 Sports, the only guy the Tigers have signed in this year's class is unranked, zero-star Cornelius Williams, who had originally committed to Murray State.
If you're betting on any No. 6 seed or better to miss out on next year's dance, LSU is an obvious choice.
Murray State Racers
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 7
Players Graduating: Carter Collins, Jordan Skipper-Brown
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: Tevin Brown, KJ Williams, Juice Hill, Trae Hannibal, DJ Burns, DaQuan Smith
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
At this point, who's left?
All eight of Murray State's leading scorers are either in the transfer portal, graduating or leaving early for the NBA. Brown has already announced that he's signing with an agent and pursuing a spot in the pros. Hill and Hannibal have already committed to LSU. Collins and Skipper-Brown were fifth-year seniors who have already exhausted their bonus year of eligibility.
There's still a chance that new/old head coach Steve Prohm will be able to convince Williams, Burns and/or Smith to come out of the portal and remain with the Racers. But even if all three of those guys come back, there's an awful lot of work to be done to get Murray State back into position for the NCAA tournament.
The last time this program earned a single-digit seed (2012), it took the Racers six years to get back into the dance.
Making matters worse, Murray State is joining a better conference in 2022-23. Instead of it being the Racers, Belmont and a whole lot of weak competition in the Ohio Valley Conference, it'll be the Racers, Belmont and a whole bunch of competent foes in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Gone are the days of the Racers more or less cruising to an .800 winning percentage in league play if they were any good at all. They'll need to bring their A game with them to the MVC, and losing all eight of your leading scorers hardly seems like the best means to that end.
Murray State is going through a complete reset and might need a couple of years to figure things out. However, stay tuned to see what Prohm can get from the transfer portal.
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 4
Players Graduating: Al Durham, Nate Watson
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: None
Noteworthy Arrivals: Christ Essandoko, Jayden Pierre
Luck runs out eventually, right?
Providence fans are beyond fed up with hearing about how "lucky" the team was throughout the 2021-22 season. But whatever you want to call it, we're talking about a team that went 27-6 with an average margin of victory of 5.3 points per game.
By comparison, Vermont went 28-6 with an average scoring margin of 13.5 points. Baylor went 27-7 with a plus-12.9 scoring average. Even Davidson—which made a bad habit of winning nail-biters—went 27-7 with an average scoring margin of 8.5 points.
We simply have to expect some regression to the mean for the Friars, especially considering both of their leading scorers were fifth-year seniors who won't be able to return in 2022-23.
Jared Bynum and Noah Horchler were arguably Providence's two most important players, so potentially getting those veterans back for another season is huge. But replacing Watson's 6'10", 260-pound frame in the post won't be easy. Same goes for Durham's scoring and passing, as the Indiana transfer immediately became an indispensable asset for the Friars.
Ed Cooley is half-man, half-wizard, though. This season was exceptional, but Providence has finished .500 or better in 10 consecutive years now—this despite only ever signing one 5-star recruit who actually played for the team (Kris Dunn). If he figures out a way to steer a still veteran-heavy roster to 20 or more wins in 2022-23, we can't exactly pretend to be surprised.
All the same, Cooley was there when the Friars missed the dance in both 2019 and 2021, and he has never led this team to a top-25 finish on KenPom. He has proven he can do more with less than most, but this is also a program that had spent much of the past decade living on or below the bubble.
Long story short, repeating as Big East regular-season champions is unlikely, and missing the 2023 NCAA tournament altogether is a reasonable possibility.
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 3
Players Graduating: None
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, Isaiah Thompson
Noteworthy Arrivals: Fletcher Loyer
With no pun intended, the big variable here is 7'4" center Zach Edey.
Ivey, Williams and Stefanovic are all off to pursue professional careers for the upcoming season, leaving Purdue to replace three of its four leading scorers—as if you can really replace Ivey's explosiveness or Williams' uncommon combination of scoring, rebounding and passing for a man of his size.
But if Edey remains in West Lafayette, that's at least one very nice building block for 2022-23, because he just had one of the most valuable seasons in recent history.
Edey logged 703 minutes with a PER of 40.9. Per Sports Reference, dating back to 2009-10, the only other players to rack up a PER of at least 37.0 while playing at least 500 minutes are Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke (37.2 PER), Iowa's Keegan Murray (37.8 PER) and Duke's Zion Williamson (40.8 PER). With Williams out of the picture, the Boilermakers will need Edey to play more than 19 minutes per game next year, but he should be a star in the paint.
Who else is going to rise to the occasion, though?
Eric Hunter Jr., Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst and Ethan Morton each shot better than 40 percent from three-point range in 2021-22, but while averaging 7.3 or fewer field-goal attempts per 40 minutes. Can several of those likely starters fill the void of all the shots Ivey, Williams and Stefanovic took, and can they do so without a substantial drop off in efficiency?
Maybe Brandon Newman can be the new volume scorer for Purdue, as he did average more than 10 three-point attempts per 40 minutes played this season. However, if they're banking on a 32 percent shooter to shoulder the load, let's just say the Boilermakers won't be finishing top-five in adjusted offensive efficiency for what would be the fourth time in six seasons.
Purdue's outlook for next year is nowhere near as bleak as it is for LSU or Murray State, but it could be something of a rebuilding season for the Boilers.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 3
Players Graduating: Bryson Williams, Davion Warren, Adonis Arms, Marcus Santos-Silva
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: Terrence Shannon Jr.
Noteworthy Arrivals: Richard Isaacs, Jaylon Tyson
Can Mark Adams work his magic in the transfer portal yet again?
After losing a bunch of key players from the 2020-21 team—Mac McClung, Kyler Edwards, Jamarius Burton, Micah Peavy, etc.—Adams hit several home runs in the super-senior department of the portal. Former UTEP big man Bryson Williams came in and led the Red Raiders in scoring. Hampton's Davion Warren was a major asset on defense who could occasionally pop off for 15 points. Same goes for Winthrop's Adonis Arms.
But those guys were all one-year rentals, and Terrence Shannon Jr. is in the transfer portal. As a result, Texas Tech needs to once again do some shopping for diamonds in the rough.
The Red Raiders do at least have both Kevin McCullar and Kevin Obanor presumably returning next season, so they are in better shape than most of the teams on this list with a pair of double-digit scorers already at their disposal.
And it's not like they just got lucky with transfers this year. TTU has been turning transfer-portal acquisitions into stars for half a decade now. It's only a matter of time before the Red Raiders grab a few tough, instant-impact players, per usual.
As things currently stand, though, Texas Tech does not figure to be a preseason AP Top 25 team, and it may struggle in what should be an absolutely loaded Big 12 conference.
2022 NCAA Tournament Seed: No. 3
Players Graduating: Brad Davison, Chris Vogt
Players Likely Leaving Early/Transferring: Johnny Davis, Ben Carlson
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
Let's be real here: Davis was everything for the Badgers. He led the team in both points and rebounds by a wide margin, and he darn near led in assists, steals and blocks, too. When he was in a groove, Wisconsin could beat anyone. When he struggled, so did the Badgers. And when he didn't play at all, they lost to Providence and almost lost to Nicholls State.
It'd be bad enough if they just needed to adjust to life without that soon-to-be lottery pick. However, Davison, their second-leading scorer, is also out of eligibility, leaving the Badgers to replace nearly 34 points per game just between those two guards. (Though an April Fool's joke by Wisconsin did temporarily give fans false hope of a sixth season for Davison.)
If you'll recall, not much was expected from this team in 2021-22.
Back before Davis became a breakout sensation, the Badgers were picked to finish eighth in the Big Ten—and they likely would've been even lower than that if this program wasn't consistently a single-digit seed in the NCAA tournament.
Could they surprise us again? Of course. They do still have a talented young point guard in Chucky Hepburn and a pair of returning starters in the frontcourt in Steven Crowl and Tyler Wahl. Perhaps former Wake Forest transfer, Jahcobi Neath, will be able to take a huge step forward in his second year in Madison.
If Neath doesn't make the proverbial leap, though, it's pretty much Hepburn or bust in the backcourt, which is a lot of pressure to put on a second-year player who wasn't asked to do much other than stay out of the way of Davis and Davison this season.