With July looming, the staff at CBBToday got together to discuss three of the hottest topics hovering around college basketball in June. The Memphis Tigers will start us off.
No need for a fancy lede. Let’s go.
The Memphis Tigers will enter the 2019-20 college basketball season with one of the most hyped group of freshmen in the country. What are your expectations for this team?
Ben Bornstein – @THE_BOOMSTEIN: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect this team to win the AAC either in the regular season or in the conference’s tournament. Thirty wins are possible, but I see them losing a few early games as the freshmen get acclimated to the game and they travel to play Power 5 competition.
They also play three SEC teams and were clearly not shy about scheduling tough schools at equally brutal venues. The Tigers will go to Knoxville to play Tennessee; to Portland to play Oregon in what should basically be a home game for the Ducks; and head to Brooklyn to play North Carolina State. They get to host Ole Miss and Georgia so they can take some solace in that I suppose.
Danny Thompson – @DannyTBBall: When you look at the 2019-2020 Memphis Tigers, you will see a top recruiting class coming in who will bring some energy back into the program. Bringing in ESPN top-100 recruits James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa and D.J. Jeffries will be the beginning of numerous stellar recruiting classes.
Along with AAC All-Freshman Tyler Harris, head coach Penny Hardaway will have some youthful exuberance that will help lead Memphis next season. Losing five seniors, including All-AAC honoree Jeremiah Martin, can be a blow to most programs, Memphis will still be in the running for the AAC next season.
Jonathon Warriner – @Bracketologist3: I expect the Memphis Tigers to start a little bit slow, as it is hard to bring around as many players at once to achieve the goal of winning at first. Once they get to conference play. and everyone settles into their role, is when you will see them at their best.
I think a good comparison for them might be last year’s LSU team that struggled and even lost to Oklahoma State but came around to go 16-2 in SEC play. As for NCAA Tournament expectations, I would say a second weekend trip is reasonable.
With the Connecticut Huskies reportedly leaving the AAC to join the Big East Conference, do you see the men’s program returning to a similar form from when Jim Calhoun was the head coach? If yes, how long? If no, why not?
BB: I’m not sure they could quite replicate that success, but they should be back to playing and recruiting at a high level. Moving to the Big East — a de facto Power 5 conference in basketball — will undoubtedly help with both of those issues.
The competition will force them to step up their recruiting to improve their play on the court. I think it takes three years, nearly a full recruit cycle. I do think Dan Hurley is the guy to get them where they need to go as he is an excellent coach and should be able to recruit even better with Big East ties to talk about to potential players.
DT: With UConn returning to the Big East conference by the end of the 2019-20 academic year, this means one of the original members is back. I do not see this team immediately returning to prominence soon. The men’s basketball team has not had successful stints in the AAC and now they will have to compete in a tougher conference than the AAC.
Now, in terms of the women’s program, this is a win for head coach Geno Auriemma. The Lady Huskies will now have more chances at marquee wins facing the likes of Marquette and DePaul.
JW: I think it is hard for them to return to their old form as they were very dominant back in that era, but still think they will be decent going forward. Dan Hurley is a good coach with the ability to build a good program that will be in the NCAA Tournament for years to come. I think moving back to the Big East is definitely going to help them get more recruits within the area as well.
Reasonably, I would look for the Huskies to be about where Xavier was in the Chris Mack era, which is an improvement from where they currently are at.
The one mid-major coach you expect to draw a lot of interest from power programs following the 2019-20 college basketball season?
BB: Wes Miller from UNCG. It took awhile for him to get his footing with the school, but he’s done a great job with that program the last three seasons. They have had 25, 27 and 29 wins with two out of those three years resulting in an NCAA Tournament berth.
Last year they didn’t get in — thanks selection committee — but did finish with a 15-3 conference record. Given the chance to upgrade to a Power 5 job, Miller could do some real damage and would be good on the recruiting trail. He’s always been a hard worker — he went from walk-on at UNC to starting by his junior year — and bringing that to whatever school ends up hiring him would be great to see.
DT: Going into next season, if Murray State can continue this run of success in the Ohio Valley, do not be surprised to hear head coach Matt McMahon’s name begin to circle the coaching wire. The Racers have seen numerous successes since McMahon took over in 2015. I think when the season is over, larger programs will start calling Murray State inquiring interviews with McMahon.
JW: Craig Smith and Mike Rhodes are the two names I think of as coaches programs will eye to hire this offseason. Smith in one season took Utah State to a Mountain West title and will likely take the Aggies to a spot AP poll this season.
Mike Rhodes had a pretty similar season in leading VCU to the Atlantic 10 title and is looking to do it again this season with the majority of their roster back. Both coaches will likely lead their programs to more success this season and will be given opportunities to get a high level job in this offseason.
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