SARNIA, Ont. — Once again, the SEC is loaded with talent in 2018-19.
Fans in the SEC will be all too familiar with the talent in the league, but several of the team’s top contributors have flown under the radar on a national scale throughout their careers. With the player turnover in the league following the 2017-18 season, there will be new faces of the conference this year.
The Kentucky Wildcats loaded up with several high-profile freshmen, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Teams like the Tennessee Volunteers and Mississippi State Bulldogs will rely on experience and talent to get them back to the NCAA Tournament. There is a healthy mix of experience and youth in the conference, which in turn will lead to excitement and an unpredictable race for the SEC title.
Looking ahead to the season, here are 10 names who have flown under the radar so far in their careers on the national scene that you will want to watch over the course of the 2018-19 campaign.
SARNIA, Ont. — Experience goes a long way in today’s college basketball.
A team can have all the talent in the world, but if they don’t have those veteran players that the younger ones can lean on during tough times, that could lead to an early exit from the NCAA Tournament or a rough stretch during the regular season. It could mean the difference between making the field of 68 or missing out on the Big Dance altogether.
As the off-season continues to move along, players on the transfer market are committing to their new programs for next season and beyond. With each passing day, it seems as though names are being added to the transfer list, while others are taking their names off the list with their school announcements.
With the high turnover, it’s become somewhat confusing to keep track of who is still on the market and who has committed. There are still a ton of talented players on the market, taking visits and determining the best course of action for the next chapter of their basketball careers.
In terms of the seniors who transferred following the 2017-18 season, the big names like Ehab Amin, Tre Campbell, Christen Cunningman, Ar’Mond Davis, and Zaynah Robinson are all of the market. However, there are still some intriguing options left that could be key role players for several teams across the country.
MAUI, HI – After opening their 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament with a win over Division II’s Chaminade, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the LSU Tigers, demolishing them 92-53 in the semi-finals.
The winner of this game would go on to play the sixth-ranked Wichita State Shockers in the finals, who punched their ticket earlier Tuesday with a win over the Marquette Golden Eagles, 80-66.
This was only the second-ever meeting between the Fighting Irish and the Tigers, with LSU claiming a victory back in 1990 in front of a then-record breaking crowd of over 68,000, led by NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal.
Notre Dame made sure this game had a different result, and boy did it ever.
COLUMBIA, SC. — After missing out on another graduate transfer guard, who committed to a fellow SEC school, head coach Frank Martin and the South Carolina Gamecocks completed their 2017-18 roster on Wednesday by adding another talented piece to the back court.
The Gamecocks were recruiting Randy Onwuasor, who transferred from the Southern Utah Thunderbirds after averaging 23.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. After Onwuasor committed to Will Wade and the LSU Tigers, Martin turned his attention to another graduate transfer guard.
Enter Wesley Myers, who led the Maine Black Bears in scoring in his first season with the program. After some off-court issues which resulted in Myers being kicked off the team at Maine, he was searching for a new home for his final year of eligibility.
The transfer market has dominated the 2017 College Basketball offseason thus far. Big name talents like Marcus Evans and theLawson brothers have headlined a strong class of players changing teams.
But while the likes of Evans and the Lawson’s are the center of attention right now, their transfers will soon be forgotten until they step foot on the basketball court. They’ll have a quiet year to acclimate to school, while familiarizing themselves with the new coach, teammates, court, and any of its warps or tricky dead spots. The NCAA requires non-graduate transfers to sit out a season before they play for their new team. So we will have to wait until November 2018 before we see KJ, Marcus, and all the other transfers play for their new schools.
1. The NOT SO Wild West
The complete West Regional was in action on Thursday.
Let’s just someone left the chalk out.
In eight games, just one featured a lower seed prevailing victoriously; #11 Xavier defeated #6 Maryland, 76-65.
Though, is an Edmond Sumner-less Musketeers beating an overrated Terrapins team an upset?
Bracket brainiacs know Xavier OWNS City Beautiful, aka Orlando, Florida. Since November 2015, Chris Mack’s squad is 7-0 with two early season tournament championships (2015 Advocare Invitational and 2016 Tire Pros Tip-Off) in Orange County (Florida). Equally impressive is the individual play of the junior sensation Bluiett, underneath the Florida sun, is averaging 17 points per game in Orlando during his collegiate career.
Despite defeat, mid-major scoring guards lived up to their expectations. #13 Bucknell sophomore Kimbal Mackenzie netted 23 points (7-of-15 shooting), #14 Florida Gulf Coast junior Brandon Goodwin finished with 28 points (12-of-27 shooting) and 7 rebounds and #15 North Dakota senior Quinton Hooker had 25 points (10-of-21 shooting). Though, a common denominator, outside of defeat, is all three had shooting percentages under 50 percent.
Efficient performances are imperative for star mid-major guards if one wants to advance to the next round.
2. #5 Virginia and #4 Florida kill upset fun
When the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced, the Virginia Cavaliers and Florida Gators were immediately put on upset alert. Both lost the first game of their respective conference tournaments and appeared to be sitting ducks (No pun intended, Oregon) for #12 UNC Wilmington and #13 East Tennessee State.
It’s always sunny in Orlando.
The two higher seeds held off competitive showings from their opponents to force a Saturday night showdown for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
For a second straight game, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers struggled to string stops together on the defensive end. Against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, Virginia gave up 71 points, which is the same amount the Seahawks posted.
Upperclassmen London Perrantes and Marial Shayok outshined the heralded UNC Wilmington duo of C.J. Bryce and Chris Flemmings, combining for 47 points on 17-of-28 shooting as opposed to the latter’s 9-of-27, 26-point total.
One positive Virginia can take away on defense is the blanket they threw on Bryce. The Seahawks leading scorer, normally responsible for about 18 points per game, was limited to 8 points.
While Cavalier Nation had to sweat out 40 minutes, the heartbeat of the Florida faithful raised very little. The Gators exploited East Tennessee State’s lack of athleticism and frontcourt size in route to an 80-65 victory.
Devin Robinson did it all. The junior stuffed the stat sheet via a 27-point, 7-rebound, 2-block performance. Senior Kasey Hill neutralized the impact of Buccaneers guard T.J. Cromer (19 points) with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
3. #12 Nevada caged by poor shooting
Two years ago, Marcus Marshall and Jordan Caroline both wore maroon.
Marshall, who was the star on Missouri State, and Caroline, a freshman at Southern Illinois, started their collegiate careers within the Missouri Valley Conference.
Then, the mass transfer exodus of 2015 occurred. Marshall and Caroline, along with other big names, like Illinois State’s Reggie Lynch and SIU’s Deion Lavender, grabbed their sneakers and headed elsewhere.
On a day when Lynch’s NCAA Tournament title aspirations evaporated with Minnesota, Marshall and Caroline had a chance to seize a win over #5 Iowa State.
11-of-32 shooting will NEVER get the job done.
Although the tandem scored 36 points, missed field goals turned into wasted possessions for Nevada, resulting in an 84-73 defeat.
The Wolfpack did a very good job causing turnovers — they forced the Cyclones to spin into 14. However, they failed to rebound against Iowa State’s Big 12 bodies, losing the rebounding battle, 38-28, and was taxed to exhaustion due to a lack of depth.
Nevada only went six deep. In comparison, Iowa State played eight with FIVE chipping in at least 12 points. Cyclones senior Monte Morris pushed the envelope for a triple-double, yet was two rebounds and two assists shy (19 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists).
Iowa State will face arguably the nation’s best frontcourt, #4 Purdue’s Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan, on Saturday.
4. The blossom of a perineal mid-major
If there was one school every bracket brainiac despised last season, it was none other than #12 Middle Tennessee. As a 15-seed, the Blue Raiders burned a multitude of brackets by defeating Michigan State in the opening round.
This year, Middle Tennessee had a chance to be its haters’ best friend with a win over #5 Minnesota.
A villain was turned hero.
Led by scary seniors JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw, not to mention junior Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee stayed one step ahead of Minnesota to defeat its second Big Ten NCAA Tournament opponent in 12 months.
All three members of the trio posted double-digits. Upshaw seized the spotlight with 19 points and 9 rebounds against the Golden Gophers, who are known for their rebounding ability (via Reggie Lynch).
Thursday’s win for Middle Tennessee has solidified their reputation as a bona fide bracket buster. With Belmont and Monmouth falling to the NIT, Middle Tennessee, outside of Wichita State and Gonzaga, may be the most dominant mid-major of the 2016-17 season.
New will meet old on Saturday; past mid-major and current Big East team #4 Butler will face the new kids on the block for a berth to the Sweet 16 on the line.
1. Trevon Bluiett (#11 Xavier)
21 points (7-15), 4 rebounds, 4 assists.
Averaging 17 PPG in games played within Orange County (Fla.).
2. Bryant McIntosh (#8 Northwestern)
25 points (10-16), 4 rebounds, 3 assists.
Made pair of free throws to give Wildcats 1-point lead with 15 seconds left.
3. Reggie Upshaw (#12 Middle Tennessee)
19 points (7-13), 9 rebounds.
Averaging 18.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG since start of Conference USA Tournament.
4. Donte DiVincenzo (#1 Villanova)
21 points (9-15), 13 rebounds.
1st double-double of collegiate career.
5. Dwayne Bacon (#3 Florida State)
25 points (11-17), 9 rebounds.
Has posted double-figures points in 33-of-34 games this season.
Stay tuned for more Wesner 4-point plays as the NCAA Tournament continues to supply madness in March.
— P. Wesner
The Canadian-based NCAA college basketball website!