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March 22, 2010
Exit Interviews
Thursday's Victims

by Bradford Doolittle


We're going to complete this series in four parts. We'll have a similar rundown for Friday's losers on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we'll follow with the 16 teams that lost over the weekend. Finally, we'll run down the last 16 teams on April 6, the day after the 2010 national champion is crowned in Indianapolis. - BBD NOTE: Notre Dame entry updated to correct Ben Hansbrough's status on 3/24.

This year, there were 35 teams in the NCAA Tournament that also earned berths in last season's bracket. That means that while we can count on plenty of new blood when March rolls around in 2011, roughly half of the teams we've been watching will be back next year. To help us get an idea of who will be back and who will be rebuilding, we offer a primer of how each eliminated team shapes up for next season. In the newspaper business, we called these obits, but for many of these teams, such a somber term need not apply.

East Tennessee State: Murry Bartow's team lost six games by five points or less this season, making its run in the Atlantic Sun Tournament and the resultant auto-NCAA bid a nice reward for a school that overcame a lot in the last year. One year after hanging tough with Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAAs, the Buccaneers gave Kentucky little trouble in a 100-71 loss in New Orleans. Last spring, ETSU's two leading scorers from last season, Kevin Tiggs and Courtney Pigram, graduated, then projected starting center Seth Coy was killed in a car accident over the summer. Then, early in the season, wing player Mike Smith--the Bucs' top returning scorer--went down for the season with a stress fracture in his foot. Smith will be back next season, as will the trio of juniors that paced ETSU in scoring this season--Micah Williams, Tommy Hubbard and Justin Tubbs. Williams was the MVP of the Atlantic Sun tourney and scored 18 points against Kentucky. The top returning interior player will be sophomore Isiah Brown, a physical player that posted the nation's 62nd-best foul-drawing rate. Bartow will have him practicing his free throws over the offseason as Brown shot .521 from the charity stripe. The lone senior on this year's roster was starting point guard Jocolby Davis, who took just 8.5 percent of ETSU's shots while he was on the floor. Given this year's finish and the number of experienced returning players, you'd have to think the Bucs will be among the favorites in the Atlantic Sun and a strong candidate to make their fifth NCAA Tournament in nine years.

Florida: One of the shakiest teams to squeeze into the bracket was Florida, which went 21-13 and 1-8 against teams in the top 25 of the RPI. The Gators lost their first tournament game since winning its second straight national title in 2007, but acquitted themselves well in a double-overtime loss to underrated BYU. Florida's only departure will be senior forward Dan Werner, the last player remaining from the '07 champs. He started about half of Florida's games; junior Chandler Parsons started the other half. Parsons will be back, as will 5'8" point gaurd Erving Walker, who had a poor game against BYU. He'll be joined in the backcourt by this year's fabulous freshman, Kenny Boynton, was was flashy but erratic is his first college season. Also returning will be big men Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus. The Gators ranked No. 96 in Defensive Rating this season and lacked physicality. Billy Donovan's recruiting class, ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com, should help shore up that area. Patrick Young is a banger and Casey Prather is another rangy athlete to add to what shapes up as a deep roster. One thing to keep an eye on: The consensus top recruit nationally is Ft. Lauderdale guard Brandon Knight, a potential one-and-done talent. Knight hasn't yet committed and most reports are that he's waiting to make sure that John Wall turns pro so he can follow Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and Wall as one-year wonders under John Calipari. However, if that's not the case, Knight is not only a Florida guy, but he's good friends with Boynton.

Georgetown: The Hoyas suffered one of the tournament's most disappointing losses when it fell handily to 14th-seeded Ohio. However, Georgetown was very young this season, ranking No. 292 nationally in Pomeroy's experience metric. If no one departs for the NBA, then John Thompson III will return his entire roster and add a couple of top-100 recruits. Being that the Hoyas went just 12-10 after Jan. 3 and that its best player may jump to the pros, the new blood may be needed. Star sophomore Greg Monroe said he's coming back, but let's face it--that's a guy talking in the immediate aftermath of a tough defeat. Monroe would obviously be a huge loss for Thompson. Georgetown's explosive trio of guards--Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark--should all be back, but 6'6" freshman Hollis Thompson may assume an even larger role in hopes of improving the Hoyas' uncharacteristically leaky defense. There is depth here to cover for Monroe's probable loss--sophomore center Henry Sims can step in and starting big man Julian Vaughn can take on a larger role on the offensive end. The Hoyas will be a power again in 2010-11. If Monroe returns, they could be a Final Four favorite.

Lehigh: The Patriot League champs were one of the nation's top three-point shooting teams, but Lehigh will lose a pair of its key shooters in seniors Marquis Hall and Dave Buchberger, while its biggest player, Zahir Carrington, also will graduate. That said, freshman C.J. McCollum, who was the Patriot League's player of the year, will be the centerpiece of the Mountain Hawks' attack for the next three years. McCollum averaged 19.1 points and posted a .600 True Shooting Percentage in his first college season. Head coach Brett Reed will have to find replacements for his departing seniors and may look to McCollum to shoulder even more of the load. However, with that one piece in place, Lehigh could be returning to the Big Dance again next March.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles entered the season with modest expectations and delivered modest results. Marquette rode an 11-3 finish into the tournament, then hooked up with Washington in a memorable first-round game in which the Golden Eagles fell two points short. Unfortunately, the talent drain may continue for Marquette which loses its top player in senior forward Lazar Hayward. Hayward took 34 percent of his team's shots while on the flor this season. Filling some of the scoring void will be 6'2" sophomore sharpshooter Darius Johnson-Odom, who will be joined on the wings by super-athletic Jimmy Butler, a high flyer that makes his living at the foul line. Buzz Williams will need a new point guard thanks to the departure of Maurice Acker as well as starting combo guard David Cubillan. The teeny, tiny Golden Eagles had only one player 6'7" or taller--Joseph Fulce--and he played just 29 percent of available minutes. Junior Cadougan, who made a token appearance against the Huskies, missed most of this season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and may be in the starting point guard mix next year. Williams' incoming recruiting class is ranked No. 13 by Rivals.com and is headlined by No. 22 prospect Vander Blue, who may also be in the running to start at lead guard. The Eagles will again be one of the country's smallest teams and will play outside-in. Despite some key losses, Marquette has much to look forward to next season.

Montana: The Grizzlies gave New Mexico a run for its money, but after seeing the way the Lobos were dominated in the second round by Washington, that doesn't look like as big of a surprise as it did on Thursday night. Montana was another smaller school that leaned heavily on three-point accuracy, though the Grizzlies were also efficient inside the arc. Montana loses its top player in guard Anthony Johnson, who put up a .649 True Shooting Percentage (13th in the nation) on 28 percent usage. Montana also loses sharpshooter Ryan Staudacher, who was strictly a spot-up shooter but hit 46.3 percent of his 147 three-point attempts. Headlining next year's team will be super-quick freshman Will Cherry, who posted the third-best steal rate in the country but needs to improve his non-existent shooting. Montana will also get 7'0" sophomore Derek Selvig back. If reserve wing shooters Raason Young and Michael Taylor can step into larger roles, the Grizzlies will again be in contention to be the Big Sky's NCAA entrant.

Notre Dame: The Irish were another questionable NCAA selectee, but their six-game winning streak came just in time to squeeze them into the bracket. Short on weapons with Luke Harangody's knee injury, coach Mike Brey put the brakes on Notre Dame's normally upbeat attack and the Irish became one of the most deliberate teams in the country. The results were effective given the late winning streak, but the style was unaesthetic and Notre Dame's season ended in an ugly game, a one-point loss to Old Dominion on Thursday. A still-hobbled Harangody played against ODU, but went 2-of-9 from the floor and scored four points in his final college game. Only two teams in the land were more experienced than Brey's roster, which loses Harangody and starting guards Tory Jackson, plus reserve Jonathan Peoples. Guard Ben Hansbrough will return as a fifth-year senior and may move to the point. Brey had no sophomores on his roster and of the four freshmen, Jack Cooley led the way with 111 minutes, so we don't really know much about the Irish's young players. Next year's team will rebuild around junior wing Tim Abromaitis, one of the nation's best shooters, and 6'8" junior Tyrone Nash. Rounding out the returning core is athletic junior forward Carleton Scott. On the recruiting front, Brey will try to replenish his backcourt with 6'1" point guard Eric Atkins, the No. 58 prospect in the nation according to Rivals.com, and shooting guard Jerian Grant, who clocks in at No. 92. It'll be an interesting mix of youth and experience next season in South Bend.

North Texas: The Mean Green set a school record with 24 wins, but dropped to 0-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament after getting hammered by Kansas State. North Texas had seven juniors getting 19 percent or more of available minutes, so it will be one experienced ballclub in 2010-11. Gone will be senior power forward Eric Tramiel. Tramiel led a contigent of attacking players that posted the nation's best foul-drawing rate, but the Mean Green will still have a bevy of cookie-cutter players in the 6'4" to 6'8" range. Juniors Tristan Thompson, Josh White and George Odufuwa were all second- or third-team All-Sun Belt honorees, so expect more of the same next year for North Texas. If this year's Mean Green bunch was the best in school history, next year's edition may be even better.

Richmond: The seventh-seeded Spiders entered the tournament as a favorite over No. 10 seed St. Mary's, the first time in school history that Richmond was favored in an NCAA game. Unfortunately, the only school to win in the tourney as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed was pounded on the boards and lost to the Gaels, who went on to advance to the Sweet 16. Richmond's smothering style of defense and deliberate tempo failed them, as St. Mary's put up 80 points and outrebounded the Spiders 40-19. (I know--Unicorn Stat. But 40-19 tells a story.) Richmond will lose starters David Gonzalez and Ryan Butler. Gonzalez finishes his career as the fifth-leading scorer in school history and won't be easy to replace. However, the Spiders return 5'11" point guard Kevin Anderson, the Atlantic 10 player of the year. Junior center Justin Harper, a 6'10" mix of solid scoring, rebounding and interior defense, will anchor the paint. Athletic sophomore Francis-Cedric Martel will step into a larger role and the Spiders have nice recruiting class coming in. This probably won't be the last time Richmond is favored in an NCAA Tournament game.

Robert Morris: Robert Morris barely missed turning in an early tournament shocker, leading Villanova for most of the way before succumbing 73-70 in overtime. The game was one of the tournament's more controversial matchups as an inordinate number of whistles seemed to go the Wildcats' way down the stretch. The Colonials lose their only real inside scoring threat in Rob Robinson, as well as multi-talented wing player Mezie Nwigwe and top offensive rebounder Dallas Green. Returning will be lightning-bug point guard Karon Abraham, who put up a .627 True Shooting Percentage that is almost ridiculous for a 5'9" player. Abraham lit up Villanova for 23 points. The athletic Colonials succeed by getting to the line and creating turnovers and other than Nwigwe, most of the instigators in that scheme will be back. While Robert Morris should again be a factor in the Northeast Conference, Mike Rice will need one or two of his young interior players to step up and a wing stopper to fill the void left by Nwigwe's graduation.

San Diego State: The Aztecs earned their way into the bracket for the third time in Steve Fisher's 11 seasons on the bench, but fell to 0-6 in the NCAAs with a tough loss in a winnable game against Tennessee. The balanced Aztecs were No. 47 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating as Fisher fashioned a scheme that relied upon an aggressive and athletic front line. Those players--Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White--will all be back. In fact, Fisher loses only reserve guard Kelvin Davis from this year's roster, so there is likely an above-average chance that San Diego State will get another shot at its first tourney win next March.

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats (half bear/half kats) are another school that was competitive but came up just short of their first-ever tournament win, dropping a nine-point decision to Baylor that was closer than the final margin indicated. The game was the last college game for SHSU team leader Ashton Mitchell, who had five points and six assists against the Bears. The Bearkats also lose their other starting guard, Corey Allmond. Those players were the heart and soul of a team that liked to push the ball down the floor, took high-percentage shots, and led the nation in assisted field-goal percentage. Top scorer Gilberto Clavell will be back and reserve point guard Drae Murray put up a sparkling assist rate, although it was accompanied by an alarming turnover percentage. Finding quality guard play will be the challenge for coach Bob Marlin.

UNLV: On one hand, the Rebels lost to a higher-seeded team. On the other hand, that team--Northern Iowa--turned into the darlings of the tournament after knocking off Kansas on Saturday. The loss ended a five-game first-round winning streak for Vegas coach Lon Kruger. His uptempo attack was thwarted by the fundamentally-solid Panthers in the 69-66 loss. UNLV was 3-7 this season when scoring 70 points or less, but went 22-2 when cracking that barrier. Kruger gets his entire starting lineup back next season, which is bad news for the rest of the Mountain West. Wing player Tre'Von Willis, who put up a .610 True Shooting Percentage on 28.7 percent usage, will be the senior leader on next year's squad. Forward Derrick Jasper, who missed the end of this season with a knee injury, will also be a senior and is one of Kruger's top rebounders. Added to the mix will be Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas, a 6'7" banger. UNLV could be ranked in the preseason polls and this should be the best group Kruger has had at UNLV. However, the program is still a far cry from the days of Jerry Tarkanian, at least in terms of top-shelf talent.

UTEP: When UTEP squeezed into the tournament, it seemed to be a just outcome for a team that went 15-1 in the Conference USA regular season. However, the bubble-bursters were cooing when the Miners logged a no-show 77-59 loss to Butler in San Jose. The upside is that coach Tony Barbee will have every significant contributor back next year, including an amazing eight juniors from this year's team. Talk about an experienced squad. Among those returning juniors are Conference USA player of the year Randy Culpepper and stud inside player Derrick Caracter, a couple of nominal pro prospects. Caracter hasn't declared that he will return, but needs another year to further quash the reputation for underachieving he gained before transferring from Louisville. While all those seniors-to-be will dominate Barbee's roster next season, his greatest hope for improvement may come from talented sophomore Arnett Moultrie, who has potential as a dominant interior defender, though his offense is a work in progress. If Caracter stays put, the Miners will be a formidable team once again.

Vanderbilt: Going into Vandy's first-round game against 13th-seeded Murray State, coach Kevin Stallings said that his team almost felt like an underdog because of all the experts picking against them. Turns out the Commodores played like underdogs in a 66-65 loss that came down to the last shot--a buzzer-beating jumper from the Racers' Danero Thomas. This was the second straight time Vandy has lost when entering the tournament as a No. 4 seed. This was a relatively young squad, however, and assuming star center A.J. Ogilvy doesn't get any ill-advised urges to turn pro, the primary pieces will be back. Forward Jeffery Taylor, a sophomore, may actually be the better pro prospect, but he needs to improve his range and consistency from the outside before making the jump. Stallings will bring in a couple of ranked recruits in forward Rod Odom and guard Kyle Fuller, as the Commodores may emerge as the primary threat a possible new Kentucky dynasty in the SEC.

Texas: A disappointing season ended in disappointing fashion, as Texas fell by one point to Wake Forest on an Ishmael Smith jumper with 1.3 seconds to play on Thursday. The Longhorns, once the top-ranked team in the nation, fell victim once again to free-throw shooting woes after Gary Johnson missed two crucial free throws in the final seconds. Texas loses a lot of talent in seniors Damion James and Dexter Pittman, but also return a super-talented trio of freshmen in J'Covan Brown, Jordan Hamilton and Avery Bradley. Johnson will return for his senior season to hold down the other forward position opposite Hamilton. Rick Barnes is one of the nation's top recruiters and while next year's class doesn't appear to be that deep, it does feature a Rivals.com five-star player in 6'9" Tristan Thompson, who will get plenty of chances to earn regular minutes given the lack of returning size in Austin.

You can follow Bradford on Twitter at twitter.com/@bbdoolittle.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Bradford by clicking here or click here to see Bradford's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
A New Era (03/21)
No Previous Column
Next Column >>
Exit Interviews (03/23)
Next Article >>
Through the Roof (03/22)

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