Friday, April 24, 2015

Morning News: Kris Dunn Returning, Christian Wood Gone, Damion Lee To Lousiville, And Much More

Kris Dunn will torment Big East opponents for at least one more season.

Kris Dunn Returning For His Junior Season As a potential first round draft pick, Dunn had been on the NBA Draft fence. Dunn was the engine that made everything go for Providence this past season. He was incredibly explosive offensively, leading the nation with an absurd 50.0% assist rate, but his high turnover rate also cost Providence quite a few games. But if he had gone pro, Providence would have lost four of five starters and been due for a rebuilding season. With him back, Providence has an excellent chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Christian Wood To The NBA Draft UNLV had great news a week ago when they picked up 7'0" McDonald's All-American Stephen Zimmerman, but that good feeling didn't last long as Wood will join Rashad Vaughn in the NBA Draft. Even without Wood, UNLV does still have plenty of front court depth, with 6'10" defensive monster Goodluck Okonoboh joining Zimmerman and 6'8" Oregon transfer Ben Carter, among others. But Wood was the one proven frontcourt scorer, and UNLV doesn't have much of a backcourt to speak of right now. Unless they can add another significant backcourt contributor, UNLV is looking most likely at an NIT bid next season.

Louisville Adds Damion Lee We knew that Louisville's roster was headed to significant turnover, with almost every player from their regular rotation leaving, but Damion Lee was arguably the most sought after player on the transfer market. The 6'6" wing was easily the best player on Drexel this past season and will be eligible to play immediately, with one year of eligibility remaining. Along with Trey Lewis and a deep recruiting class, Louisville is going to have a talented team next season, but it's going to be difficult in the offseason to project just how well all of the pieces will work together.

Derryck Thornton Reclassifies, Will Join Duke Derryck Thornton had been considered one of the top prospects in the 2016 recruiting class, but he has reclassified to 2015 and will be joining Duke. This will help very much in replacing Tyus Jones, and giving Duke a legitimately strong starting point guard next season. With North Carolina and Virginia both losing a legitimate player to the NBA Draft in the past week or so, Duke is inching closer to seriously contending for the ACC title next season.

VCU Adds Korey Billbury VCU's roster is in flux after the loss of Shaka Smart, and they suffered decommits from their entire 2015 recruiting class, but this is a significant pickup for new head coach Will Wade. Billbury was an explosive scorer for Oral Roberts this past season, averaging 14.4 points per game. He was a bit of a volume scorer, so he might not average those numbers next season in the Atlantic Ten, but he will be eligible immediately and could be the difference if VCU is able to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Pittsburgh Adds Sterling Smith  Sterling Smith is yet another "graduate transfer", a successful player from a smaller school looking to have one final year at a big program. Smith scored 13.9 points per game this past season for Coppin State, and he will provide much needed backcourt depth. His defensive skills will also buoy a Pitt defense that was a tire fire this past season. He's far from guaranteed an NCAA Tournament berth at Pitt, but the Panthers should at least be in the bubble hunt.

Eric Paschall Joining Villanova Paschall will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but he was the 2014-15 Atlantic Ten Freshman of the Year, so this is a significant addition for Villanova. The year of seasoning will probably be a benefit anyway, as Paschall was talented but raw as a true freshman. He has the potential to turn into one of the better Big East players by the time he graduates.

George Washington Adds Jaren Sina And Alex Mitola Mike Lonergan added two significant transfers on the same day, though one of them will have to sit out next season. Sina, a starter for Seton Hall who fit into the stereotypical "glue guy" mold will have to sit out next season but will then have two years of eligibility. Mitola, who led Dartmouth in scoring this past season with 12.4 points per game, has one year of eligibility and will play right away. Mitola will fit in nicely on a roster that returns its top four scorers and also adds Tyler Cavanaugh from Wake Forest, and which needed backcourt depth more than anything else. They should definitely be in the tourney bubble mix next season.

Ricky Tarrant To Memphis Tarrant was Alabama's second-leading scorer (13.1 per game), so this is a significant pickup for Memphis as Josh Pastner tries to save his job by getting back to the NCAA Tournament. With Tarrant joining the Lawson brothers onto a team that returns almost all of its key players, Memphis should certainly be improved next season. But considering the lack of respect the AAC got this past season, I'm not sure Memphis can possibly be confident on the bubble.

Shannon Evans Leaving Buffalo With Bobby Hurley gone, the exodus of players from Buffalo has begun with Shannon Evans, their best perimeter player. With Justin Moss still set to return, Buffalo has to still be considered a significant threat to win the MAC, but at this point I've got to back off my preseason projection of Buffalo as MAC favorite. For now, I think Central Michigan is the new favorite. As for the next destination for Shannon Evans, it would be hard to bet against Arizona State.

Anton Grady Leaving Cleveland State It seems like Cleveland State gets hit hard by graduate transfers every year, and Anton Grady is the latest.  They had already lost Trey Lewis to Louisville, and now star big man Anton Grady is gone as well, though he hasn't yet decided on a destination. Certainly these two defections will seem to end any realistic chance of Cleveland State challenging for the Horizon League title next season.

Nigel Johnson Transfers To Rutgers Nigel Johnson was perhaps the best player off the Kansas State bench this past season (he also started seven games), so he'll immediately become one of the best players on Rutgers. He won't be eligible for the 2015-16 season, but Rutgers is going to stink this coming season anyway. With relatively strong 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes, Rutgers does appear to slowly be upgrading its talent level under Eddie Jordan, but there's still no sign that they're going to be seriously competitive in the Big Ten anytime soon.

Manu Lecomte To Baylor The Miami transfer didn't wait long to make his decision, going with Baylor. He'll have to sit out the 2015-16 season, but he'll provide Baylor with the type of shooting threat that Scott Drew loves to surround his big guys with. Lecomte hit 46% of his shots from behind the arc this past season.

Chris Walker Leaves Florida The former McDonald's All-American has been a massive disappointment for Florida, never being a significant contributor off the bench in two seasons. And next season he'll be at another school. Walker is still a talented kid, and so he'll have plenty of Division I suitors, but it's hard to expect too much of him with how little he's developed at the Division I level.

Evan Payne Joins Long Beach State Payne averaged 18.0 points per game for Loyola-Marymount this past season, so this is a significant addition for their conference rivals. That said, Payne will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, so he won't be able to help Long Beach State challenge UC-Irvine for the 2016 Big West title.


bill said...

LMU and Long Beach St. aren't in same conference.

Jeff said...

Ah, thanks for pointing out that brain fart. Not sure how I made that mistake.