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April 13, 2010
Exit Interviews
Sweet 16 and Beyond

by Bradford Doolittle

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This complete's a four-part series. We had a similar rundown for Thursday's losers on March 22-. On March 23, we followed with the teams that went down on Friday.. Finally, we ran down the second-round losers are March 24. . The finale of the series was of course slated to appear last week, but I underestimated just how much my schedule would be altered by the start of the baseball season. My apologies for the wait.- 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.

TEAMS THAT LOST IN THE SWEET 16

Cornell: The Big Red scaled new heights this season, advancing all the way to the Sweet 16 after wins over Temple and Wisconsin. Ivy League teams do this every once in awhile, though Cornell was better than most. Next season, it's back to reality. Cornell loses seniors Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Alex Tyler, Jon Jaques and Geoff Reeves. Wittman was the Ivy League player of the year and the big gun in the nation's best three-point offense. Dale was the slick, good-shooting point guard that made it all work and Foote was the skilled seven-footer that allowed Cornell to go toe-to-toe with the big boys. On top of all that, the architect of this season's run, head coach Steve Donahue, will move on to replace Al Skinner at Boston College. The top returnee will be sophomore guard Chris Wroblewski, a 45-percent three-point shooter this season. I'll be watching freshman Eitan Chemerinski, not because I'm particularly high on his basketball skills but because we have something in common: We can both solve a Rubik's Cube.

Northern Iowa: For a week, Northern Iowa was the darling of March Madness. After knocking off top overall seed Kansas in a game punctuated by one of the tournament's signature moments--Ali Farokhmanesh's pull-up three in the final minute, the Panthers seemed to have a great chance of becoming the next mid-major to challenge for a regional title. UNI was headed to St. Louis for the Sweet 16, the site of its conference's tournament and an easy drive for Panther faithful. Unfortunately, UNI ran up against the monotonous tournament machine operated by Tom Izzo up in Michigan. After back-to-back Missouri Valley regular-season titles (UNI shared with Creighton in 2009), the Panthers seem to have established themselves as the du jour signature program of the four D1 programs in Iowa. Iowa State is struggling to get back to where it was under Larry Eustachy, Iowa was among the dregs of the Big 10 and Drake's 2008 emergence turned out to be a one-year proposition. Head coach Ben Jacobson signed a 10-year extension after the win against Kansas, rather than exploring the vacancy at Iowa, so that suggests UNI could remain as the class of the state for awhile. Jacobson will have to replace Farokhmanesh plus fellow-departing seniors in forward Adam Koch--the MVC player of the year--and seven-footer Jordan Eglseder. Returning will be rugged junior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Koch's younger brother Jake, a redshirt freshman, who will need to prove he can take on a much larger load on offense. Defense-first guard Johnny Moran was a sophomore and he'll need to improve his outside stroke to help compensate for the loss of Farokhmanesh. Freshman Marc Sonnen will also help out on that front. Another 30-5 season may not be in the offing for the Panthers, but they should again contend in the MVC.

Ohio State: The talent spigot in Columbus, Ohio, remains wide open and the stream shows no sign of slowing. First--technically--Naismith Award winner Evan Turner might decide to return for another run at the national title because he was, after all, just a junior. As of this second, he has not yet signed an agent. Then again, Monica Bellucci might spy me walking down the sidewalk and decide I'm just what's missing from her life. In other words, Turner is gone. Sophomore William Buford will take over as the Buckeyes' focal point next season. He's another multi-skilled swing player, though it remains to be seen if he can improve his already-solid assist rate to become the offense creator that Turner was. He's also not going to lead the Big Ten in rebounding, like Turner did. But he's a solid player in his own right. Returnees joining Buford include David Lighty, whose been at Ohio State since Woody Hayes headed up the football program, or at least it seems that way. Rangy sharpshooter Jon Diebler and inside anchor Dallas Lauderdale will join Lighty and Buford in what promises to be a more egalitarian scoring distribution than the Turner-dominated attack of this season. Thad Motta's team lacked depth this year, but that could change with another high-power recruiting class, ranked second in the nation by Rivals.com. The class is headlined by rugged forward Jared Sullinger (No. 3 by Rivals), who is joined by Deshaun Thomas (18), Jordan Sibert (37), Aaron Craft (104), Lenzelle Smith Jr. (124) and J.D. Weatherspoon (137) as ranked recruits. Look out.

Purdue: Purdue fans will always wonder what would have happened if Robbie Hummel had not been injured, but the Boilermakers acquitted themselves well in the tournament. A popular pick to be upset in the first round, Purdue knocked off Siena and Texas A&M before falling to eventual champion Duke in the Sweet 16. Matt Painter loses seniors Keaton Grant and Big Ten defensive player of the year Chris Kramer. However, the big guns all return: Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. (Johnson is still mulling over a leap to the NBA.) Three freshmen, Kelsey Barlow, D.J. Byrd and Patrick Bade all saw significant time this season, as did sophomore Ryne Smith and diminutive point guard Lewis Jackson. Painter landed Rivals' No. 19 recruiting class, which includes ranked recruits in point guard Terone Johnson (No. 46) and wing Anthony Johnson (100). The talent cupboard will be far from bare next season with or without JaJuan Johnson, though with him, the Boilermakers are probably a top-five team in the preseason.

St. Mary's: The Gaels were able to withstand the loss of Paddy Mills last season and not lose a beat. If they can do the same now that Omar Samhan is graduating, it'll show just how far Randy Bennett's program has come. It won't be easy. Samhan was the anchor for St. Mary's on both ends of the floor. Samhan's cohort in the paint, Ben Allen, is also gone. Freshman Matthew Dellavedova should emerge as a big-time scorer in the new pecking order. Fellow first-year players Mitchell Young and Jorden Page will also move into larger roles. Ace-shooting point guard Mickey McConnell will team with Dellavedova to give the Gaels a solid one-two punch. Bennett will have to find replacements for his key big men, though no one will be able to fill the void left by Samhan. It's hard to imagine St. Mary's going into the tank unless Bennett takes another job, but they will likely take a step back next season.

Syracuse: After losing Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris off his last couple of teams, this could have been a transitional year for Jim Boeheim, but instead the Orange went 30-5 and 15-3 in the Big East on the way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The loss to Butler in the Sweet 16 put a bit of a damper on the season, but it was still another terrific campaign for Boeheim. Now he's faced with another early departure after emergent Wesley Johnson announced he's turning pro. Top three-point shooter Andy Rautins graduates, as does Arinze Onuaku, whose absence left Syracuse shorthanded in the tournament. Returning will be a young core that may lack sizzle, but should keep the Orange competitive. Freshman Brandon Triche and sophomore Scoop Jardine should emerge as team leaders in the backcourt, while Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph will hold down the inside. That core will be joined by another banner haul for Boeheim on the recruiting front, ranked No. 5 by Rivals. Rivals Top 150 talents include center Fabricio de Melo (No. 16), wing Dion Waiters (29), C.J. Fair (111) and Baye Moussa Kieta (145).

Washington: The Huskies finished their season with a flurry, winning their last four regular-season games before winning the Pac-10 tournament and, thus, avoiding any problems with the bubble. Washington proved its post-season worth with a pair of victories in the NCAA Tournament, including an 18-point shellacking of No. 3 seed New Mexico. Washington's run ended with a hard-fought loss to West Virginia. All in all, a successful campaign for head coach Lorenzo Romar, who has now won 26 games in each of the last two seasons while also moving beyond the first round of the Big Dance. Now, he'll have to replace talented wing Quincy Pondexter, the only senior on this year's squad, but an important one. Returning will be undersized guards Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton, plus top inside player Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Freshman point guard Abdul Gaddy could emerge as a core player next season, while burly Tyreese Breshers could move into a larger role. All in all, there is a lot of talent coming back and the Huskies should again be in the thick of the race in the Pac-10.

Xavier: Just another successful season for the Musketeers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season before losing a double-overtime classic to Kansas State. First-year coach Chris Mack proved that he should do just fine after replacing Sean Miller, but he'll have a couple of key holes to fill. Top interior player Jason Love graduates and sophomore sensation Jordan Crawford has entered his name in the NBA Draft, though he hasn't signed with an agent. From what I saw in the tournament, Crawford is an NBA player, but we'll see what happens in his workouts. Assuming he leaves, Xavier will look to talented freshman Mark Lyons to become even more of a scorer, while Terrell Holloway will become even more of a team leader from the point guard position. Jamel McLean becomes the new top presence in the paint, unless seven-footer Kenny Frease develops. Junior Dante Jackson, a shooting specialist on the wing, also returns and will carry more of the scoring load. Mack also will work in Rivals' No. 22 recruiting class, which includes four prospects ranked from the No. 83-130. Losing Crawford is tough, but this is a program on solid footing.

TEAMS THAT LOST IN THE ELITE 8

Kentucky: Wildcat fans, this is what you asked for. Now you got it. John Calipari, basketball's ultimate quick-fix artist, rode into Lexington and brought with him a hyped recruiting class that included two players who will likely be picked in the top five of the next NBA draft--John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Fellow freshman Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe also declared for the draft, as did junior Patrick Patterson, who is waffling a bit over his choice. Assuming those five players all stay in the draft and adding the two seniors, Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson, the only players who saw much time this season that will be back are sophomore forwards Darnell Dodson, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins. Right now, the top recruit is wing player Stacey Poole (No. 27 at Rivals), but Calipari is apparently high on the list to get Brandon Knight, Rivals' No. 1 overall player who hasn't yet signed. One way or another, Calipari will have talent in Lexington next year. Just don't get used to them Wildcat fans.

Kansas State: Frank Martin was a question mark after replacing Bob Huggins at Kansas State, but he's won over the fan base in Manhattan and quickly established himself as one of the up-and-coming coaches in college basketball. His Wildcats advanced to the West Regional final before falling to Butler. KSU was built around a pair of hard-nosed guards in Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. Clemente was a senior and Pullen is likey mulling a jump to the NBA. If Pullen returns, K-State will again be highly rated. Starters Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and Dominque Sutton all return, as does highly-touted big man Wally Judge, who showed a lot of improvement over the course of his freshman year. Freshman Rodney McGruder could emerge to replace some of Clemente's outside shooting and seven-foot freshman Jordan Henriquez-Roberts might become a shot-blocking monster if he can improve a foul rate that was high even on one of the game's most foul-happy rosters. Martin has the Wildcats on firm footing.

Tennessee: Bruce Pearl survived a tumultuous campaign to put the Volunteers oh-so-close to the first Final Four in school history. Tennessee knocked off Ohio State in the Sweet 16 before falling to Michigan State in the East Regional final 70-69. UT's four NCAA Tournament games were decided by a total of 22 points and that includes a 15-point win over Ohio in the second round. The run came after the Volunteer's best player, Tyler Smith, was dismissed from the program after being arrested on New Year's Day. Instead of folding, Tennessee knocked off Kansas and Kentucky in the regular season and went onto the best postseason in school history. Pearl loses a ton of talent as seniors Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince all are moving on. Next year's Volunteers will be built around sophomore forward Scotty Hopson and center Brian Williams, both starters this season. Junior Melvin Goins will take over at point guard and wing Cameron Tatum will become a key outside threat. Pearl will also have the luxury of working in Rivals' No. 4 ranked recruiting class, which includes versatile forward Tobias Harris (No. 5 at Rivals), scoring guard Jordan McRae (42) and Trae Golden (55). With all of the departures in Lexington, the Volunteers could emerge as next season's favorites in the SEC West.

Baylor: Love him or hate him, there is no questioning the accomplishments of Scott Drew in Waco. The Bears are coming off the best basketball season in school history, which culminated in a competitive loss to champion Duke in the South Regional final. Next season's prospects hinge on the decisions of a pair of Baylor's juniors, LaceDarius Dunn and Ekpe Udoh, concerning the NBA draft. (By the time you read this, Udoh will likely have announced his decision.) Two key players from this year's team, Tweety Carter and Josh Lomers, graduate. However, the cupboard is still stocked for Drew, who clearly has upped the ante in Waco. Athletic forward Quincy Acy will return, as will 6'10" Anthony Jones. Freshman guard A.J. Walton saw key minutes this season and will replace Carter. Drew landed Rivals' sixth-ranked prospect in 6'11" Perry Jones, a McDonald's All-American who will either step in for Udoh or play alongside him--a scary proposition for Big 12 opponents. We don't quite yet know who will comprise the 2010-11 Baylor roster, but we know they'll be pretty good.

TEAMS THAT LOST IN THE SEMIFINALS

Michigan State: Another season, another Final Four for Tom Izzo. If you can explain to me how he does it year-in and year-out in a one-and-done format, please do. Senior Raymar Morgan will not be back. Everyone else will, including Kalin Lucas, who missed the end of this season with an injury. Durrell Summers, Draymond Green, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, Derrick Nix--all back. On top of all that, despite so many returnees, Izzo landed the No. 6 class at Rivals, including top 50 prospects in center Adreian Payne (No. 20) and point guard Keith Appling (34). Are you kidding me? Muddying the waters could be an NBA jump from Summers, something that Lucas is also pondering. Both would be well-advised to return. If they do, Michigan State is an upper-level contender for next season's national title. Given Izzo's success in the postseason, the Spartans may be at that level even if they don't.

West Virginia: It was a dream season of sorts for the Mountaineers, who won 31 games and advanced to the Final Four. Unfortunately, the enduring image for most will be Da'Sean Butler's horrid knee injury suffered in the second half of the semifinal loss to Duke and the shots of Bob Huggins cradling the head of his sobbing star. Butler was a senior and was West Virginia's best player, so he'll be tough to replace. Huggins also loses sophomore Devin Ebanks, who declared for the draft and plans to hire and agent, plus senior forward Wellington Smith. Returning will be point guards Darryl "Truck" Bryant and Joe Mazzulla, plus inside anchor Kevin Jones. Casey Mitchell will enter his senior season as a key outside threat and freshman wing Dalton Pepper looks like a scorer. The best hope for another run to prominence may be 6'9" Deniz Kilicli, who missed much of this season because of NCAA sanctions resulting from playing with a professional player on a team in Turkey. He was behind the proverbial eight-ball once he returned this season, but is considered to possess outstanding low-post skills. If it sounds like Huggins will still have plenty of weapons next season, it's because he will.

THE LAST TWO STANDING

Butler: Damn, I thought that last shot was going in, didn't you? If you think Butler was a one-year wonder, guess again. First of all, despite having "major" programs drooling over him, Butler coach Brad Stevens signed a 12-year contract extension. That may not keep him around for the next decade, but it is a pretty good indication that he's in no hurry to leave. Stevens loses a couple of seniors in Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes, but the big guns should all be back: Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and Ronald Nored. Stevens also landed Khyle Marshall, the highest-ranked recruit in the Horizon League. Junior guard Zach Hahn, a solid three-point threat, is Veasley's likely replacement. The trends only point up for the Bulldogs, whom I've already seen ranked as high as No. 3 in early forecasts for next season. When the 2011 NCAA Tournament rolls around, it's unlikely anyone is still going to be making "Hoosiers" comparisons.

Duke: Mike Krzyzewski has had better teams at Duke that didn't win the national title but, nevertheless, the four titles Coach K has won are an appropriate testament to the excellence his program has stood for during his 30 seasons at the school. We know that seniors Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek are gone. We're not sure yet about Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. Brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee will become more crucial in the next Duke rotation. Freshman Andre Dawkins can shoot. Watch for Seth Curry--brother of Stephen and son of Dell-who will be eligible next season after transferring from Liberty. The top recruit is Kyrie Irving, a combo guard ranked No. 9 by Rivals. Coach K also landed an interior scorer in Joshua Hairston (No. 49). Overall, Rivals ranked his class seventh in the nation. With or without Singler, this will be another talented team. With Singler, they may be favored to repeat.

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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