The coming college basketball season will force specific teams to make the kinds of adjustments they haven’t had to make for a few years. It is always one of the particularly important tests of coaches to get new players to sufficiently compensate for the departure of noticeable stars. Teams leaned on certain people not just for production, but for leadership and other intangibles. How will those teams replace cornerstone stars? Here are a few of the foremost examples:
Jalen Brunson for Josh Hart at Villanova
The Wildcats were so totally able to trust Josh Hart. The agile and versatile wing played tenacious perimeter defense. On offense, he hit clutch shots, but if he struggled as a shooter, he was more than willing to take the ball to the basket and draw fouls. He also grabbed big rebounds and scored important putback baskets for Villanova. His energy and commitment ensured that Villanova’s effort level never wavered. He kept the Wildcats on an even keel and steadied them when games flowed in the wrong direction. He didn’t get Villanova to the Final Four, but Hart made Villanova a No. 1 seed in a season when the Wildcats lacked a big man after the departure of Daniel Ochefu following the 2016 national championship season.
Now Jalen Brunson will try to step into Hart’s shoes. Brunson might be a better slasher than Hart. Being able to rebound and defend on Hart’s level will represent the big challenges for Brunson with Villanova.
Anthony Cowan for Melo Trimble at Maryland
There have been few more reliable and ball-dominant point guards in college basketball over the past few seasons than Melo Trimble. Maryland put the ball in his hands, and it was wise to do so. Trimble owned an incredibly slick handle of the ball. Being able to dribble past defenders enabled Trimble to dominate games on offense and relieve teammates of ball-handling pressure. So much of the Maryland offense was routed through Trimble, so now, as the 2017-2018 season approaches, the Terrapins have to be able to find someone new to dribble and distribute the ball. It will mark a profound change for the program and coach Mark Turgeon. Anthony Cowan, who dipped his toes into the waters last season as a freshman, is the man who will be given the keys to the car. The workload will be dramatically bigger than it was a season ago.
Marcus Lee for Ivan Rabb at California
When Kentucky made a run to the 2014 national championship game, Lee’s defense and rebounding became important parts of the formula for the Wildcats. Lee, however, wasn’t able to replicate that journey in subsequent seasons, and as a result of not finding a comfort zone, he transferred to California, where he will now replace Ivan Rabb. The new head coach of the Golden Bears, Wyking Jones, will have a chance to mold Lee into an important low-post force for Cal this coming college basketball season.
California is fresh off a pedestrian season. They were 21-13 overall, which is pretty good when all things are considered. However, they were merely 10-8 in Pac-12 play and that landed them with the sixth-best conference record. They have a long ways to go if they want to catch up to the likes of Oregon and Arizona in the Pac-12 standings.
Josh Perkins for Nigel Williams-Goss at Gonzaga
When the Zags take the court next season, Zach Collins will be gone. Przemek Karnowski will be gone. So will Nigel Williams-Goss. Gonzaga needed Williams-Goss, a transfer from the University of Washington, to take care of most of the ball-handling duties while being a leading scoring threat from various spots on the court. The loss of Williams-Goss would hurt in any circumstance, but since Gonzaga’s two best big men are also gone, the burden on the perimeter players to pick up the slack is now even more profound. Josh Perkins is a veteran of the program with a diverse skill set. He’ll need to call upon every resource in order to make Gonzaga a college basketball threat in March of 2018.
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