5 NCAA Tournament teams likely to take a step back next season


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With graduation, players leaving early for the NBA Draft, and transfers galore; college basketball teams are experiencing more year-by-year turnover than ever before.  Here are five teams who made the 2012 NCAA Tournament this season but will likely take a step back next year and have their work cut out for them if they want to return to the Big Dance.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES
The SEC Tournament champs started four seniors this past season and their fifth starter, shooting guard John Jenkins, will likely head to the NBA Draft since he figures to be a first round pick.  Add in the loss of their top reserve and Kevin Stallings will be in re-loading mode next season.  Young guys like Dai-Jon Parker, Kedren Johnson, and Rod Odom will be asked to make the transition from role players to the Commodores go-to guys which is a major step to take.  If Jenkins does return, Vanderbilt figures to be a middle of the pack SEC team next season.  Without him, they will be extremely fortunate to finish five-hundred in conference play.

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
Matt Painter only loses three seniors off this year’s team that nearly knocked off Kansas in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.  However, replacing Robbie Hummel will be an impossible task since he meant so much to the Boilermakers both on and off the court.  Sophomore guard Terone Johnson saw his role expand when Kelsey Barlow was kicked off the team and played terrific basketball down the stretch.  He and D.J. Byrd will be asked to step into larger roles next season.  Purdue does bring a solid recruiting class and Painter always seems to get the most out of his guys, but it will take one heck of a coaching job to get the Boilers back to the dance in 2013.

UCONN HUSKIES
No program has more uncertainty surrounding it this off-season than UConn.  Due to poor academic standing, the Huskies have been banned from competing in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.  Because of that, power forward Alex Oriakhi has already announced he will transfer and several other Huskies could follow suit since they would not have to sit out per the regular NCAA transfer rules, and would be eligible to play for another team next season.  Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond will both likely enter the NBA Draft and with only one recruit in the 2012 class, UConn will face some massive turnover.  The situation could get even worse if Jim Calhoun’s health issues force him to retire.

IONA GAELS
The Gaels were lucky to even get an at-large bid into the tournament and then suffered an epic collapse in their play-in game versus BYU.  Iona loses their leading scorer and rebounder in Mike Glover as well as the maestro of their up-tempo offense, point guard Scott Machado who led the NCAA in assists this past season.  Two other rotation players will also graduate.  Tim Cluess does bring back MoMo Jones who figures to take over the full-time ball-handling responsibilities.  Three-point assassin Sean Armand who averaged 9.5 points in just 19 minutes per game also returns.  The Gaels should still be competitive in the MAAC, but winning the conference tournament title will probably be their only chance of dancing next March.

LONG BEACH STATE 49ERS
For the most part, the 49ers used a seven-man rotation this past season.  Five of those seven players are seniors including their leading scorer in Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson who averaged a double-double, and second leading scorer and do-it-all defender Larry Anderson.  Point guard Mike Caffey and wing James Ennis have the ability to step into the lead roles and West Virginia transfer Dan Jennings should add some needed size inside.  Outside of those three, Don Monson has a lot of holes to fill for next season.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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