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What Would Central Florida Look Like Without Keith Clanton?

Keith Clanton was supposed to lead Central Florida past Memphis this season. Will the NCAA sanctions change that?
Keith Clanton was supposed to lead Central Florida past Memphis this season. Will the NCAA sanctions change that?

Along with the news that Central Florida was being hit with a postseason ban in both basketball and football came the rumors that leading scoring from last season Keith Clanton might transfer.

Because Clanton has only one year of eligibility remaining, he would be able to play immediately for his new team.

Central Florida was expected to challenge Memphis for the Conference USA crown this season, and not that it matters anymore, but the loss of Clanton could seriously hamper the Knights' ability to live up to those lofty aspirations.

We looked at the numbers from last season to take a guess at what this team looks like this coming season, both with and without Clanton.

Clanton averaged 14.5 points per game last season and was a fixture on the court for Central Florida, at almost 33 minutes per game. He was backed up in both categories by Marcus Jordan, who turned in 13.7 points in 36 minutes per game (minus the two games he missed during the Knights' internal investigation into this recruiting mess).

Together the two form a formidable pair. Clanton's HOOPWAR for last season was 7.96, making him easily the most valuable player on the floor for Central Florida. Jordan's 1.38 was fourth on the team, primarily due to a less impressive defensive effort from the junior.

Add in rising junior Isaiah Sykes' numbers that graded out to a 3.29 HOOPWAR, and you have a trio that is much better than what Memphis has returning this year.

Top 5 Returnees (Min. 100 minutes)
Memphis Central Florida
Joe Jackson 11.0 2.77 Keith Clanton 14.5 7.96
Chris Crawford 9.1 2.28 Isaiah Sykes 12.3 3.29
Tarik Black 10.7 0.53 Marcus Jordan 13.7 1.38
DJ Stephens 2.4 0.05 Tristan Spurlock 7.2 1.35
Adonis Thomas 8.8 -0.14 Kasey Wilson 3.1 0.99

The Tigers have Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Tarik Black returning, but together, they don't match the value of just Clanton. They would likely divide the amount of value lost by Will Barton, and Adonis Thomas could add more to the mix in his sophomore year, but the Tigers on paper look one step behind where Central Florida stands.

But what if Clanton leaves? It would be akin to the loss of Barton by Memphis. Most of the value from last season would be gone. Plus with the number of minutes that Clanton played, someone who saw the floor significantly less in 2011-12 will be thrust into a major role without a lot of preparation.

The smartest move coach Donnie Jones could make would be to give Kasey Wilson those minutes at forward, but an increase of almost 800 minutes would be difficult for the sophomore and who knows how much he has actually improved over the off-season.

In the report on the sanctions, there were hints that Jordan could look around for a friendly landing spot also (plus there is the matter of him being arrested in early July that is yet to be resolved). Jordan isn't nearly the value of Clanton, but he did fill significant time on the floor. You are looking at replacing two starters who ate over 2,000 minutes for the Knights.

That is a big hole to fill.

If both players leave, Central Florida is going to be a far cry from the 22 wins of last year. They would lose a big chunk of the scoring and most of the value from last year. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that they would end up with just 13 wins.

Memphis has a similar struggle, replacing its core this season. But Memphis arguably has the better tools to fill in the blanks that Barton and Wesley Witherspoon left. In addition, Memphis has two freshman from the top 100 entering the program. The Knights have none.

As a whole, Central Florida on paper had the pieces to make a serious run for the conference title. Value-wise, the Knights would not be in any position to do that with the loss of Clanton, and certainly not without him and Jordan.

If they do leave, consider this season a preview of maybe the next five years for Central Florida as they move to the Big East starting in 2013. It won't be pretty.