By Kevin Sweeney
Questioning whether a sub-.500 power conference team deserves an NCAA Tournament bid.
Wondering if Gonzaga is a mid-major.
Envisioning what some teams would look like if not for a key transfer or two.
These are all talking points that inevitably come up for every college basketball fan throughout the season. With the season coming into its final weeks, its a great time to look back and wonder “what if?”
So, Imagine if….
John Gillon Stayed at Colorado State
It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for Colorado State, facing everything from Gillon transferring to Syracuse, star guard Gian Clavell being arrested and suspended, 3 players being ruled academically ineligible mid-season, and Larry Eustachy facing player abuse allegations. Despite all this, the Rams are sitting atop the Mountain West late in February, with a real chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. The one issue has been depth, as the Rams are down to just 7 scholarship players due to the mid-season ineligibilities. Any Division 1-level player would benefit CSU greatly, but a player of Gillon’s caliber would have made a HUGE impact. The presence of Gillon would give the Rams a true point guard who can really shoot it from downtown, and would form a backcourt trio with Clavell and sophomore Prentiss Nixon that would be as good as any in mid-major basketball. Without Gillon, Syracuse would likely have at least one more loss on their resume, as he single-handedly led the Orange to a victory over NC State by scoring 43 points and draining a late three to send the game to overtime. That extra loss might be enough to knock the Orange off the bubble for good.
Reggie Lynch Stayed at Illinois State
Lynch departed Normal after a successful 2-year stint with the Redbirds, and is now making quite the impact at Minnesota. The redshirt junior is averaging 8.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game and ranks second nationally in block percentage at 13.9%. Even without Lynch, Illinois State is one of the top mid-majors in the country. With a rim protector and interior force like Lynch still in tow, the Redbirds might have a slight edge on Wichita State for tops in the Missouri Valley. Meanwhile, the Golden Gophers, who are on the bubble themselves, might sit on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday.
Andrew Rowsey, Dylan Smith, & Dwayne Sutton Stayed at UNC-Asheville
With the amount of key transfers from the UNC-Asheville program in the last 2 years, you would anticipate that the Bulldogs would be in the midst of a rebuild. It’s a credit to head coach Nick McDevitt that UNCA is still sitting atop the Big South with a 22-7 record. However, you can’t help but wonder just how good this team would be if Rowsey (Marquette), Smith (Arizona), and Sutton (Louisville) were all still around. Rowsey, who averaged 20 points per game in his two seasons in Asheville, is posting 11.1 points per game in just 19.3 minutes per game at bubble team Marquette. Meanwhile, Smith and Sutton are sitting out at high-major schools after outstanding freshman seasons at UNC-Asheville. An undefeated Big South run wouldn’t be out of the question, nor would an at-large bid, if that trio was still around to be paired with current stars Ahmad Thomas, MaCio Teague, and Kevin Vannatta.
Marcus Keene Stayed at Youngstown State
By now, we are all pretty familiar with Marcus Keene, the 5-9 Central Michigan guard who has went from a virtually unknown commodity to a candidate for every major award in college basketball in the span of 4 months. While I don’t anticipate the addition of Keene to Youngstown State would make the Penguins a Horizon League favorite, it would pair two of the top 7 scorers in college basketball. Cameron Morse, a junior guard averaging 23 points per game. The pairing would certainly be fun to watch, but I’m not sure their would be enough of the ball to go around.
Indiana Kept Everyone
- Luke Fischer (Marquette)
- Max Hoetzel (San Diego State)
- Jeremy Hollowell (Georgia State)
- Emmitt Holt (Providence)
- Hanner Mosquera-Perea (ETSU)
- Stanford Robinson (Rhode Island)
These are among the players that once donned Indiana uniforms and are now playing for other teams. With the Hoosiers’ depth depleted by injuries this season, having just a couple of these guys back in fold would certainly boost their NCAA Tournament hopes. Holt and Fischer are double-digit scorers in power conferences, while the others are all key cogs on strong mid-major sides that could make runs in March. With the lack of big men behind Thomas Bryant, Fischer or Mosquera-Perea would certainly be playing big minutes.
Andrew White Stayed at Nebraska
The saga of Andrew White’s departure from Nebraska was one of the big stories of the college basketball offseason. After beginning his career at Kansas, White transferred to Nebraska, where he scored over 16 points per game in his junior season. Before his senior year, White announced that he was transferring from the Cornhuskers. However, the timing of White’s departure left Nebraska head coach Tim Miles in a very difficult situation, and White took until the week fall classes began to announce his new destination. White has been a solid addition for Syracuse, helping fill the void left by the departures of Malachi Richardson, Trevor Cooney, and Michael Gbinije, but he could have made the Cornhuskers into an NCAA Tournament contender. Combining White, Tai Webster, and Glynn Watson Jr. would have formed the Big Ten’s top backcourt.
If you have any other “imagine if” scenarios, comment below or tweet them to @CBB_Central.