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March 23, 2010
Exit Interviews
Friday's Victims

by Bradford Doolittle

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We're going to complete this series in four parts. We had a similar rundown for Thursday's losers on Monday-. On Wednesday, we'll follow with the 16 teams that lost over the weekend. Finally, we'll run down the last 16 teams on April 6, the day after the 2010 national champion is crowned in Indianapolis. - BBD

This year, there were 35 teams in the NCAA Tournament that also earned berths in last season's bracket. That means that while we can count on plenty of new blood when March rolls around in 2011, roughly half of the teams we've been watching will be back next year. To help us get an idea of who will be back and who will be rebuilding, we offer a primer of how each eliminated team shapes up for next season. In the newspaper business, we called these obits, but for many of these teams, such a somber term need not apply.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff: What a strange season. Pine Bluff went on a cha-ching, 11-game road trip to open the season, playing big boys like Michigan, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Georgia Tech, UTEP and Oregon. They lost all 11 games, but were usually competitive. The Golden Lions then went 14-4 in the SWAC, won the postseason tournament and beat Winthrop in the NCAA Tournament play-in game. UAPB closed the season like it began, playing powerful Duke and losing by 29. The Golden Eagles lose seven seniors, including four starters off this year's team. The only returning regular is offense-challenged sophomore Savalance Townsend, who will be looked upon to improve his efficiency and to become the bedrock of next year's offense.

Clemson: After an up-and-down regular-season that landed the Tigers the No. 10 seed in the East, Clemson drew a tough-opening round assignment against the rabid defensive pressure of Missouri. The result was an 86-78 loss that was Clemson's third straight first-round defeat to a lower-seeded team. Coach Oliver Purnell is now 0-6 in the NCAAs with three different schools. Gone is senior forward Trevor Booker, who is the only ACC player to hit the following career marks: 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 blocks and 100 steals. Mizzou put the clamps on Booker, holding him to 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting in his final college game. Purnell also loses three-point specialist David Potter, but returns three starters. Demontez Stitt and Andre Young will give Clemson experience in the backcourt, while Jerai Grant, Harvey's son, is an emerging talent on the interior. Athletic wing Tanner Smith is back and freshman big Devin Booker has potential. Freshmen Noel Johnson, Milton Jennings, and Donte Hill all will step into larger roles. The pieces are in place for Purnell to maintain his team's excellent defense, but someone is going to have to emerge as the top dog on offense in Trevor Booker's stead.

Florida State: The Seminoles caused a lot of teeth-gnashing in their first-round loss to Gonzaga among those who bought into their standing as the nation's top defensive team. The inept offense shot 56 from the floor against the Zags, raising questions about teams with extreme offense/defense splits that lean in favor of the latter. The vaunted defense allowed .500 shooting against Gonzaga, the first time in 68 games FSU allowed an opponent to break even. Next year's defense should be just as strong for Leonard Hamilton, who loses only senior forward Ryan Reid. The anchors of the FSU system all return--Chris Singleton, Solomon Alabi and Xavier Gibson, unless the former two decide to test NBA waters. The Seminoles were 299th nationally in experience this season and first in effective height and if everyone returns, they'll be very similar in 2010-11. Hamilton's group will have to become more efficient on offense. He'll look to returning wings Deividas Dulkys and Luke Loucks, as well as long point guard Derwin Kitchen to improve. Hamilton also has ranked prospects in No. 59 Okaro White, another long wing athlete and No. 70 Ian Miller, a score-first point guard, coming to Tallahasee. Add in 7'0" freshman Jon Kreft, who is already enrolled at FSU, and the 'Noles should be loaded next season.

Houston: The offseason upheaval started right away for the Cougars after head coach Tom Penders resigned on Monday. Penders won 121 games in six seasons in Houston, and after the Cougars won the Conference USA Tournament as a No. 7 seed, he landed the school its first NCAA berth since 1992. So what's next for the one-time college basketball behemoth? Finding a new coach will of course be the first step and it's tough to say how attractive the job is going to be. The most likely candidate is probably an assistant in a power program, though L.A. Clippers assistant John Lucas has already been mentioned. Whoever comes in will have to replace Aubrey Coleman, who used more 34.3 percent of Houston's possessions while he was on the court and he was on the court a lot: 91.7 percent of available minutes. Coleman also led the country in scoring. Coleman's backcourt partner, Kelvin Lewis, is also gone. Whoever takes the job will hopefully be able to build around the five freshman on this year's roster, if none of them leave in the wake of Penders' departure. Either way, a team that lost 16 games, its head coach and a player responsible for more than a third of the team's offense is looking at a rebuilding campaign.

Louisville: Rick Pitino's senior backcourt of Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith did a lot of winning in their four years at Louisville, but their careers came to a somewhat disappointing end. The Cardinals finished a ho-hum 20-11 this season and 11-7 in the Big East before falling to California in the first round of the South Regional. While a bit disappointing compared to the standard set by Louisville in recent seasons, the dropoff wasn't a surprise after Earl Clark and Terrence Williams both left school early to become first-round NBA draft picks. From this year's team, Pitino also loses senior wing Reginald Delk. Sophomore Samardo Samuels led the Cards in scoring and rebounding and will be the anchor of next year's squad. Junior Preston Knowles will battle promising freshman Peyton Siva for time at point guard, with Knowles the probable starter. Sophomore shot-blocking fiend Terrence Jennings will also be a key component of next year's squad. Freshmen wings Rakeem Buckles and Mike Marra both saw action this season and will move into larger roles. Rivals.com No. 45 recruit Justin Coleman, a swing man who can score, will join this group. The key for Pitino will be finding a point, whether it's Knowles or Siva, that can keep the offense humming while the other pieces improve. If Jennings can avoid foul trouble and double his minutes, the defense should improve its No. 77 finish this season.

Minnesota: The Gophers were enigmatic to the end. Tubby Smith's roster was bursting with quality athletes, but the results were inconsistent all season. Minnesota emerged from the bubble with a run to the Big Ten Tournament final, but lost in the first round to Xavier even though the game was played in nearby Milwaukee. Before the game, rumors started circulating that Smith was headed for the Auburn job. Smith denied the rumblings, but that couldn't have helped his team during the preparations for the NCAAs. Smith loses team leader and point guard Lawrence Westbrook to graduation,, as well as senior forward Damian Johnson, a super-athletic defensive whiz and efficient dunker on offense. Smith will look to touted freshman Rodney Williams to replace Johnson. Williams may be an even more impressive natural athlete than Johnson, but still has to learn to better apply those talents to basketball. Ralph Sampson III returns for his junior season and could be a breakout player if he maintains his arc of improvement. Replacing Westbrook won't be easy and next year's roster looks like it will again be short of consistent scorers. Smith didn't land much on the recruiting front, but does return shooting specialist extraordinaire Blake Hoffarber.

Morgan State: The Golden Bears went 15-1 in the MEAC but loses leading scorer Reggie Holmes, who averaged 21.5 points per game and took nearly 32 percent of his team's shots in winning the MEAC's player of the year award. An emerging player is freshman Dewayne Jackson, a face-up 6'8" forward that hit 41.9 percent from behind the arc. His usage rate was below average, but his athletic indicators suggest a player that will be able to become more adept at creating his own offense. Morgan State's top weapon may be head coach and John Gasaway favorite Todd Bozeman, who was named the MEAC's top coach for the third straight year.

New Mexico State: The Aggies recovered after a slow start when Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater returned in December from academic squabbles and won 19 of 24 games, including three in the WAC postseason tournament, before falling to Michigan State in a hotly-contested first-round game. The early problems sunk the Aggies' overall numbers, but things are looking up for this program. Marvin Menzies loses only senior sharpshooter Jonathan Gibson from this year's team, but returns plenty of shooting to maintain his team's No. 45 standing in effective field-goal percentage. Seven-footer Hamidu Rahman isn't that nimble, but supplies a presence at the back of the defense and Gillenwater showed just how productive he can be with 17 points and 11 boards of the bench against Michigan State.

Oakland: The Summit League champs were on a roll entering the NCAA Tournament, with 20 wins in 21 games. However, the Grizzlies weren't especially competitive in an 89-66 first-round loss to Pittsburgh. Oakland loses its most efficient three-point threat in Derick Nelson as well as point guard Johnathon Jones. However, the Grizzlies get their top player back, 6'11" center Keith Benson, who was in the top 25 nationally in both defensive rebounding and shot-blocking. You'd have to think that with Benson returning, Oakland will again be a favorite in the Summit, but coach Greg Kampe is going to have to come up with consistent play from his perimeter players to keep opposing defenses from collapsing around his star big man.

Oklahoma State: With James Anderson announcing his intention to turn pro on Monday, Cowboys coach Travis Ford is going to have find replacements for his two most-explosive players. Anderson's running mate on the wings, Obi Muonelo, finished his college career in OSU's tough first-round loss to Georgia Tech. Ford returns his only two players with any kind of size--6'7" Marshall Moses and 6'8" Matt Pilgrim, who really came on towards the end of the year. He also has a bevy of young guards in Keiton Page, Ray Penn and Fred Gulley. However, Ford is going to have to come up with some offensive focal points to replace a pair that combined to hit 154 three-pointers in Muonelo and Anderson. He does have three-star recruit Brian Williams and the No. 38 recruit on the Rivals list, Michael Cobbins, who may be the best bet to eventually supply the star power lost in Anderson.

Siena: Poor Saints. The injury to Purdue's Robbie Hummel resulted in Siena becoming a popular upset choice in the first round, but in the end, Fran McCaffery's squad came up short, 76-64. It seemed like a letdown, though Purdue is now in the Sweet 16 and there really shouldn't have been such a surge of support for a No. 13 seed. It didn't help that Siena had won in the first round of the NCAAs in each of the two previous tournaments. The Saints' all-for-one attach was orchestrated by one of the nation's top passers in Ronald Moore, but Moore was a senior. So were leading scorers Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, the MAAC player of the year. McCaffery doesn't appear to have a ready replacement for Moore, but junior Clarence Jackson should help take up some of the scoring slack. The biggest loss may turn out to be McCaffery, whose name is being mentioned in conjunction with some of the big-time openings like St. John's. If he stays put, McCaffery will have some holes to fill but, then again, his Saints didn't miss a beat this season despite the loss of star guard Kenny Hasbrouck, now with the Miami Heat.

Temple: All season, Temple seemed underrated and under-appreciated. Then, with a chance to do something about it in the Big Dance, the Owls dropped a 78-65 decision to tournament darling Cornell in a game that wasn't even that close. The Owls haven't made it out of the first round in nine years. Still, Fran Dunphy's team won 29 games and lose only wing Rayn Brooks and guard Luis Guzman from this year's squad. That's the good news. According to Rivals.com, the bad news is that while the Philadelphia area is currently at a peak in terms of top-shelf prep talent, none of those players has signed with the Owls. Dunphy will rely on what he has. That includes Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen, who averaged a double-double. Freshman Ramone Moore has explosive ability and will get a chance to improve his efficiency with enhanced court time. Finesse big man Micheal Eric will also become a featured performer.

UC Santa Barbara: The Gauchos' shaky offense bit them in a 68-51 loss to Ohio State in the first round of the Midwest Regional. Coach Bob Williams had a relatively young squad that actually shot the three-ball pretty well but couldn't do much inside the arc. They'll need better point guard play to improve a No. 305 ranking in turnover percentage and better work from bigs that couldn't rebound or get to the line. Sophomore Orlando Johnson, the Big West player of the year will be back to anchor next year's roster. Johnson scored 20 points in the loss to the Buckeyes. Sophomore center Greg Somogyi, a 7'2" shot-blocking monster, may not fit with Williams' small-ball ways, but he may the best hope for helping to fix some of the problems off the glass. Unfortunately, he's unskilled on offense, so look for another three-point dominant team next season for Williams.

Utah State: It seemed like there were about 20 teams named either the Tigers, Aggies or Grizzlies in this tournament, so perhaps I had Stew Morrill's team confused with somebody else when I picked them for the Sweet 16. Utah State still finished 27-8 and went 14-2 in the WAC's regular season, so the campaign was far from a bust. He loses point guard Jared Quayle, a key component of the No. 19 Offensive Rating achieved by the Aggies this season. However, Morrill returns multi-talented forward Tai Wesley, one of his conference's most-skilled players even though he doesn't have much of an outside shot. Everyone else also returns and Morrill signed a solid three-player recruiting class, so the Aggies should be right there with New Mexico State atop the WAC next season.

Vermont: The Catamounts were unable to repeat the first-round upset they pulled off against Syracuse in 2005, falling to the Orange 79-56. Vermont loses its top two players, Marqus Blakely and Maurice Joseph, as well as point guard Nick Vier, so it looks like rebuilding time for coach Mike Lonergan. Forward Evan Fjeld will be a senior next season and will be Longergan's top player. The Catamounts are always tough in the America East, but a return trip to the Big Dance looks like a long shot.

Wofford: The smallest school in the tournament nearly pulled off a big upset, pushing Wisconsin to the brink before falling 53-49. The Terriers waltzed through the Southern Conference in both the regular season and postseason tournament and lose only senior Junior Salters among significant contributors off this season's squad. Physical Noah Dahlman will return to anchor the interior game. The Terriers could use a more consistent three-point threat, especially with Salters leaving. That could come from a couple of sophomores, Jason Dawson and Kevin Giltner, who played bit roles this season.

You can follow Bradford on Twitter at twitter.com/@bbdoolittle.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Around the Rim (03/23)
<< Previous Column
Exit Interviews (03/22)
Next Column >>
Exit Interviews (03/24)
Next Article >>
Five Thoughts (03/23)

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