Occasional news tidbits notwithstanding, this is the major lull of the college basketball offseason. We’re just across the halfway point, but there’s still over two months until practices begin and the real preseason starts.
Every college basketball team goes through at least some sort of change during the offseason, and some go through more than others. In most cases, the less drama your favorite team endures, the better!
Here are a few teams that went through significant changes that will have a major impact on the upcoming season, for better or for worse.
The Toppers are never short on intrigue, and this offseason has been par for the course. That major storyline that was always going to be the focal point of the offseason was whether standout freshman Charles Bassey would go pro. He entered the NBA Draft, but brought a bit of a shock to the news cycle when he announced that he’d be returning for his sophomore season. His presence on an already talented team makes Western Kentucky the preseason favorites in CUSA once again. The Hilltoppers also added a sharpshooter in IUPUI transfer Camron Justice, which should help bring a much needed perimeter threat to their offense.
Other than Nevada fans, nobody was sadder to see Eric Musselman go than us. He’d turned the Wolf Pack into a blooming powerhouse in the Mountain West, primarily through the transfer market, and leveraged that success into the head coaching gig at Arkansas. Cody and Caleb Martin graduated, as did Jordan Caroline, Trey Porter and Tre’Shawn Thurman. Jordan Brown transferred to Arizona, and it seemed as if Nevada was headed for a period of rebuilding.
In order to keep the program’s momentum going, Nevada brought in a coach that had already experienced success in the conference in Steve Alford. Facing a potentially depleted roster, Alford was able to keep key pieces like Jazz Johnson, Nisre Zouzoua, and Lindsey Drew, among others. Desmond Cambridge, a high scoring guard from Brown, also transferred to the Wolf Pack and will be eligible in 2020-21. Nevada won’t be the top team in the Mountain West, but it’s unlikely that it’ll bottom out like some might have expected following Muss’s departure.
When is a bad time to fire your coach? Uh, probably in the middle of July, which is what Cleveland State did a couple of weeks ago when it dumped Dennis Felton after just two seasons. As of July 24, his replacement has not been hired. Standout guard Tyree Appleby quickly transferred to Florida. Rashad Williams stayed in the conference, but will now be suiting up for Oakland. Jaalam Hill, Stefan Kenic and Seth Milner are currently on the transfer market. That’s the top five scorers from last year’s team! Bart Torvik’s T-Rank currently has the Vikings rated at No. 332 heading into next season. Oof.
After a decent showing in Dana Ford’s first year as head coach, Missouri State is being tabbed as a Missouri Valley title contender. Those hopes got a big boost when Tulio Da Silva withdrew from the NBA Draft to return for his senior year. He and Keandre Cook return as two of the top three leading scorers from last year’s team. The Bears also added a double-digit scorer from Colorado State in Anthony Masinton-Bonner and another from West Virginia in Lamont West. Nevada transfer Josh Hall will be eligible as well. On paper, this team should have as much talent as anybody in the MVC.
Nevada wasn’t the only Mountain West program in the state to go through a major overhaul in the offseason. The Marvin Menzies era was short lived in Las Vegas, spanning just three seasons, but the Runnin’ Rebels arguably upgraded with one of the best young coaches on the market. T.J. Otzelberger leveraged his short-but-successful stint at South Dakota State into a chance to help bring UNLV back to prominence. He’s hired a great coaching staff that’s full of Power 5 experience, and was able to convince David Jenkins Jr. to tag along with him. Otz also did a great job of bringing back some of the core pieces from last season’s UNLV team, despite the coaching change. Amauri Hardy, Bryce Hamilton, Nick Blair and Cheikh Mbacke Diong will all be back, giving the Runnin’ Rebels some pieces to work with as Otz tries to build UNLV back into a Mountain West power in his first year.
Kareem Richardson was never able to find the momentum at UMKC, and his six-year tenure came to an end this offseason. His replacement is Billy Donlon, who had a a decent track record at Wright State that included three 20-win seasons and a Horizon League Coach of the Year award. Not the worst hire you could make. However, the biggest news for the Roos is that this upcoming season will be their last in the WAC. Starting in 2020, UMKC will be back in the Summit League, which makes significantly more sense for the program. The geographic fit was never there with the WAC, which in turn made travel a bit of a burden. Going back to the Summit League is a great move for UMKC from that aspect alone.
The Cougars have had an offseason filled with unexpected twists and turns. The biggest and most surprising was Dave Rose’s decisions to retire after 14 seasons with the program. He didn’t give up coaching for good though! He’s coaching Team Fredette in this summer’s TBT. Go figure!
Mark Pope was brought in as his replacement, which was seen as a pretty good move by many given his recent success building up the Utah Valley program. Arguably the best news he received was when Yoeli Childs surprisingly decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return for his senior season. Pope also brought Jake Toolson with him from Utah Valley, the place that Toolson transferred to after actually playing his first two seasons at BYU.
And to top it all off, Nick Emery decided to hang up his shoes and call it a career just the other day. That’s quite the summer in Provo.