The transfer culture of college basketball is something that will always be up for debate. With every passing year, coaches, players, media and administrators argue over what the future of players leaving and entering new programs should be. Very rarely are two transfer stories exactly the same because players leave for all sorts of reasons. But regardless of the why, a few players have storylines to be aware of and watch as they begin play with new teams this year.
When looking at sleeper transfers, one of the first names to keep in mind is Arizona’s T.J. McConnell. “Sleeper” means that he’s not a big name outside of serious hoops circles. After two seasons where he was far and away the best player at Duquesne, McConnell was looking for a program that was not only playing on the highest level of the college game, but one that was consistently successful. He found the Wildcats, who are looking for an answer at point guard following the graduation of Mark Lyons. The 6’1″ redshirt junior averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 assists in 2011-12 with the Dukes and should get the ball to start the season. A good year for him should get him a good amount of publicity.
Mike Moser would know about publicity, after a 2011-12 season in which he averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds for UNLV. With all the hype entering last season, Moser suffered through injuries and the subsequent sloppy play to the tune of 7.1 points, 6.1 boards and shooting a 36.9 percent clip from the field. He took advantage of the graduate transfer rule and will spend his final season at Oregon, the third major program in Moser’s career. With Arsalan Kazemi gone, the 6-8 Moser can replace Kazemi with his well-rounded game. Moser has essentially been three different players in his three collegiate seasons (minus his redshirt year). An underutilized swingman at UCLA, then with the Rebels, a one-year wonder as a redshirt sophomore and finally an injury-prone disappointment last season. With one season left in college, which player will Moser end his career as?
That’s the same question you could ask Josh Smith at Georgetown, although he was only one type of player throughout his career at UCLA, an underachiever. He has a chance to erase some of that reputation under coach John Thompson III, if he gets his mind right. In two-and-a-half seasons at UCLA, the 6-10 Smith averaged 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 56.5 percent from the floor, although he proved he couldn’t stay on it, which was his biggest problem with the Bruins. He clocked just 19 minutes per game in Westwood, bottoming out at 13.7 minutes per in six games last season before deciding to transfer. Smith made the best decision he could’ve for himself, choosing to play for a program that historically cultivates some of the game’s best big men — Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Roy Hibbert, to name a few – under a coach who has both developed and learned how to develop players from his legendary father. Smith is in a great spot for a second chance.
There might not be a player more deserving of a second chance than Maurice Creek. When healthy early in his career at Indiana, Creek was dominate, averaging 16.4 points in the 12 games he played as a freshman before a dislocated kneecap ended his season. He was never quite the same after that, playing in 42 games over the next three years (including redshirting the 2011-12 season with a ruptured Achilles), mainly due to injuries and not being able to get back into the lineup as the program began bringing in more talent while he recovered. The 6-5 Creek gets that second chance with the Colonials, getting back to being healthy and playing alongside a solid corps of talent. It probably won’t make up for an injury-riddled first four years, but a good senior season could help ease the pain, so to speak.
With the departure of Creek, Indiana had a guard spot to fill. What better way to do so than to bring in a graduate transfer of their own, with the added bonus that this one already had family ties to the Hoosiers. Everyone remembers a certain Gordon, Eric, who left an indelible mark on Bloomington in his one season with the program before going on to NBA success. Now, enter his younger brother Evan Gordon, who has had a bit of a nomadic college career, spending two seasons at Liberty averaging 12, then 14.4 points per before heading to Arizona State for one season on the court, where he averaged 10 points in 32.2 minutes per game with the Sun Devils. The rest of his stats at ASU weren’t eye-popping – 2.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, a solid 1.3 steals per game and a 74.4 percent clip from the free throw line – but he can score, which, with the loss of Victor Oladipo, Tyler Zeller and Christian Watford, three of the team’s top four scorers last season, is valuable.
As are all the transfers on this list.
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Thanks to Louisville advancing to the Final Four last season the Big East has had a presence during the final weekend six of the last seven seasons, you can probably go on and pencil them in for seven out of eight, Louisville fans and the media seem to think that the Cardinals will be there.
Realignment will begin to take its toll on the Big East as West Virginia is gone and Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame to follow in the years to come. Jim Calhoun has retired from his post at UConn leading the way for Kevin Ollie to take over. Steve Lavin is set to return to the sidelines after taking last season off due to prostate cancer.
Big East Preseason Rankings
1. Louisville – hard not to buy into the national hype. 3 starters return for Coach Pitino, as Peyton Siva guides the offense in his Senior season with help from Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng, and don’t forget about Russ Smith (11.5 ppg, 2.2 steals in 21 mpg). The problem could be injuries, it seems every year the Cardinals have more players in the training room than the bench early in the year, and have already lost Mike Marra who torn his ACL for the 2nd time in as many years.
2. Notre Dame – for the past two years the Irish have exceeded expectationsso maybe I am a little too high on the Irish. However with all of the starters back for Coach Brey it’s hard not to like the Irish especially when in the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion where they went 16-1 last season.
3. Cincinnati – Mick Cronin seems to have the Bearcats back on the national radar. Yancy Gates is gone but Cronin has Sean Kilpatrick who led the Big East with 92 3-pointers. Cashmere Wright also returns after averaging 10.9 ppg.
4. Pittsburgh – Sure Pitt missed the NCAA Tournament last year, they ended the year poorly but capped it off with a CBI Championship (a win is a win).Tray Woodall will lead the Panther’s who return five of their top seven scorers from last season.
5. Syrcasue – Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters and Fab Melo have all departed but Syracuse has been so deep that they have players that return with experience. Brandon Triche will be ready to lead the Orange to what fans hope is a trip to Atlanta.
9. St. John’s
14. Seton Hall
All Conference Team
Shabazz Napier – taking control for the new reign of the Huskies.
Sean Kilpatrick – if teams don’t shut him down behind the arc the Bearcats may do better than expected.
Gorgui Diend – let’s see a guy that can rebound, score and block shots, yeah I will give him a All Conference nod.
Tray Woodall – a healthy Woodall should do better than last seasons 11.7 ppg
Jack Cooley – after voted Most Improved last season, the Irish have high hopes for Cooley who average 12.3 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Most Underrated Team – Cincinnati, Cronin has his team bonding.
Most Overrated Team – Notre Dame, could the Irish just be riding a wave of recent success?
Player of the Year – Peyton Siva, last years MOP at the Big East Championship should win if the Cardinals run the conference.
Coach of the Year – Heart wants to say Steve Lavin, but my mind says Rick Pitino with Cronin in 2nd.
Sleeper Impact Player – 1a Cleveland Melvin, was the leading scorer in the league last season. I am going to say D’Andelo Harrison is 1b especially if Lavin has the Red Storm on upset mode.