All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
PROGRAMS ON THE RISE
Iowa: Seven teams from the Big Ten got a bid last year, but Iowa, with a 9-9 conference record, did not. This should be the season for Fran McCaffery’s program to get a bid to the tournament. The Hawkeyes return a bulk of their talent, with Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White and Mike Gesell are all back among other key contribuors. Iowa will bring in transfer Jarrod Uthoff and freshman Peter Jok. Iowa hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2006. That should change this year, and the future looks even brighter.
Harvard: The Crimson upset No. 3 New Mexico in the NCAA tournament — the team’s second-straight appearance — this past March, and it’s not far-fetched to see Harvard staying past the first weekend this year. Harvard not only returns Wesley Saunders, Laurent Rivard, Siyani Chambers and Kenyatta Smith, the Crimson also see the return of Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, the team’s top players from its first trip to the NCAA tournament. Add in top-100 recruit Zena Edosomwan and another strong 2014 recruiting class, and the expectations are at an all-time high. This is a top 25 team, and will be for the near future.
Providence: Although the Friars lose Vincent Council (and Ricky Ledo), Ed Cooley could still end up in his first NCAA tournament in Providence. Bryce Cotton, a healthy Kris Dunn, and talented freshman Brandon Austin make up the back court, while Kadeem Betts and LaDontae Henton will be joined by transfers Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers. The Friars are a sleeper in the new Big East, and they’re only getting better as Cooley continues to land high-profile recruits.
LSU: Like Iowa, LSU could be making its return to the NCAA tournament this season, or at worst case be on the bubble. The Tigers still have Johnny O’Bryant III, Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer, while 6-foot-9 five-star recruit Jarell Martin headlines a six-man class for Johnny Jones that also includes four-star commits Tim Quarterman and Jordan Mickey. LSU is going to fight for a bid from the start this season, and with Jones showing consistency landing high-profile southern recruits, the Tigers should be able to sustain success.
Tennessee: The Volunteers just missed out on the tournament in Cuonzo Martin’s first two years at the helm, but that should change this season. Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes decided to return to school, while the frontline will get a boost with Jeronne Maymon returning to 100 percent. Adding Antonio Barton, a Memphis transfer and Robert Hubbs, a five-star freshman, will help round out the back court. The best news? Martin’s already landed two in-state top 20 recruits. It’ll take a lot to compete with Kentucky and Florida for SEC supremacy, but the Vols are headed in the right direction.
Others: Boise State, Colorado, Rhode Island, Towson
PROGRAMS ON THE DECLINE
Miami: The Hurricanes won both ACC titles a season ago, but pretty much everybody but Jim Larrañaga is gone. Kenny Kadji, Durant Scott, Trey McKinney Jones, Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson and sophomore point guard Shane Larkin, who was drafted 18th overall, all have to be replaced. Angel Rodriguez won’t play until 2013-2014. Coral Gables won’t see a repeat performance from The U this season, especially with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pitt now on the conference schedule. Larrañaga is in full-on rebuilding mode.
Butler: Brad Stevens was ready to be the big-time coach in the new Big East, until the Boston Celtics made him offer he couldn’t refuse. Butler was quick to hire Brandon Miller, and the Bulldogs have been very good with their coaching hires in the past. But Miller is replacing a guy who went to two NCAA title games, and is now leading a program that has bounced from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 to the Big East in three years. He’s without leading scorer Rotnei Clark or second-leading scorer and top rebounder Andrew Smith, and he suffered a big blow with Roosevelt Jones was ruled out for the season with a wrist injury. Miller will likely thrive as the new coach, it just may not be in his first season. The Bulldogs need to prove they can survive as something other than a plucky mid-major.
N.C. State: Mark Gottfried has to replace his entire starting five from one of last year’s most disappointing team. This leaves a big whole for T.J. Warren to fill, though he is reportedly in great shape. But Tyler Lewis is the only other player returning, who logged more than 10 minutes a game last season. Adding LSU transfer Ralston Turner in with another good recruiting class — Cat Barber, BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington — is a good sign, but the concerns with the Wolfpack start up top. Can Gottfried coach up the talent he brings in?
Alabama: In 2013, 23 wins wasn’t good enough to get Alabama into the Big Dance. This offseason wasn’t too good for Anthony Grant, either, as Trevor Lacey transferred to N.C. State and Devonta Pollard had a major run-in with the law, leading to him being no longer enrolled at the university. Trevor Releford is back, but it will be tough for the Crimson Tide to make a push for the NCAA tournament. Grant was a hot name when he was hired away from VCU, but he’s yet to get the Alabama program off and running.
Temple: The Owls were one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10 last season, making the NCAA tournament and nearly getting to the Sweet 16 by knocking off No. 1 seed Indiana. But Khalif Wyatt’s 20.5 points won’t be there this season, and Scootie Randall graduated with him. Will Cummings and Anthony Lee will have much bigger roles leading a young team as Temple enters the brand-new AAC. With two games against Louisville, Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati each, it could be a long season for Fran Dunphy.
Others: Colorado State, Kansas State, Minnesota, Oklahoma, St. Mary’s