Every year, college basketball teams lose players off the roster. Most of the time, those are guys who have graduated. Sometimes, those are guys who are elected to forego their eligibility and pursue a pro career. Here, we’re looking at the second group, and specifically, we’re looking at a subset of that group: Guys who submitted their names to the NBA Draft process, but did not initially hire an agent.
Some of them are staying in the draft, some of them are coming back to school for another go-round. The deadline to withdraw has now passed, so we can officially give you the rundown of which guys on Marquette‘s 2018-19 schedule are going to be back or not.
Here we go!
Jessie Govan, Georgetown
The Hoya big man had a breakout season in 2017-18, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game after going for 10 and 5 as a sophomore. He was top 40 in defensive rebounding rate per KenPom.com, and when you mix in his 40% career shooting from behind the three-point line, you’ve got quite the dangerous player at 6’10” tall. He wasn’t included in the all-Big East honors at the end of last season, but with only two of those 13 dudes (Markus Howard and Shamorie Ponds) back this year, Govan should be a preseason all-league player for sure and you can easily make a case for him as preseason Player of the Year. Georgetown seemed to be making forward strides in their first season under head coach Patrick Ewing, and getting Govan back for his senior year should only help that cause.
Barry Brown, Kansas State
2017-18 Kansas State is a bit of a weird case. They were clearly an NCAA tournament team, landing a #9 after going 22-11 heading into it with a 10-8 record in the Big 12. However, they caught the break of all breaks with Virginia losing to UMBC, which gave them a chance to play a #16 seed for a spot in the Sweet 16.
And then they nearly blew it, holding off the Retrievers late, 50-43. However, they followed that up with a “lost the lead, wait no, got it back” victory over Kentucky before getting clacked by Loyola-Chicago in the Elite Eight.
So, yeah, they were an Elite Eight team, but you could argue that they didn’t deserve to be there, but then again, they did beat Kentucky. The point of all of this is that they didn’t have any seniors playing important roles on that team, and by bringing back Barry Brown, they have a chance to be pretty good in 2018-19. The 6’3” Brown was a “do a little bit of everything” guy for the Wildcats last season, averaging 15.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and a team high 1.8 steals. He’s not a terrific shooter, splashing less than 33% of his three-point attempts at K-State. Brown makes up for that with his passing (top 500 in assist rate), his defense (#100 in steal rate, top 500 in lowest fouls/40) and his ability to get to the line (top 300 in fouls drawn/40). Kansas State was going to be a quality foe for the Golden Eagles with or without Brown, but they’ll be a top three Big 12 team with him.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
This one might be the return that has the biggest impact on the team for 2018-19. Ponds averaged 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.3 steals in his sophomore campaign for the Red Storm. The roster was already undergoing an overhaul with Amar Alibegovic and Bashir Ahmed wrapping up their eligibility and Tariq Owens and Kassoum Yakwe departing for their final year of eligibility, not to mention Marcus LoVett officially disappearing after only playing in six games last season.
Instead of it becoming the Justin Simon and Marvin Clark show, head coach Chris Mullin gets Ponds back to drive the progress of the program forward. That can’t be seen as anything but a positive for the Johnnies in 2018-19, but there are questions to be asked. For example: Are we going to get the St. John’s that lost 11 straight games to open Big East play, or are we going to get the St. John’s that beat Duke and Villanova just four days apart in February? That answer may lay completely with Ponds, as he averaged 30 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals in those two games, and then followed that up with a 44-4-2 against Marquette. If Ponds can go God Mode for a full season, then maybe St. John’s can be a factor in the Big East. If he can’t? Could be another long year in Queens.
Juwan Morgan, Indiana
Any time your leading scorer and rebounder is coming back to school for another go-round, it can’t be a bad thing. That’s the case with Indiana and Juwan Morgan, who topped the stat sheet with 16.5 points per game last season. The 6’7” Morgan also proved himself as an incredibly capable rebounder, grabbing up a team high 7.4 caroms per contest. He was especially helpful on the offensive end, ranking in the top 175 in the country in OR Rate according to KenPom.com.
KenPom’s algorithm says that Morgan was playing as an undersized center for the Hoosiers at the end of the season, but that most likely won’t be the case when MU comes to Assembly Hall in early November. De’Ron Davis missed the second half of the season with a torn Achilles tendon, but with a nine month recovery time, the 6’10” Davis should be back on the court for IU in November. That would, in theory, allow Morgan to shift down in the lineup, and ultimately bolster the Hoosiers on both ends of the court. Add top recruit Romeo Langford to the mix to handle some of the scoring load, and this Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup should be a very interesting early season test for Marquette.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
Well, well, well, look what we have here.
The Milan, Illinois native dragged his feet and waited until the final 10 hours or so before the deadline to officially announce that he was withdrawing from the draft. This is undoubtedly good news for the Badgers, who needed a 5-3 kick at the end of the season to finish 15-18. Happ finished the year as #8 in the KenPom.com Player of the Year standings, the same spot he was in the year before. He’s been a starter for the Badgers ever since finishing his redshirt year on campus, and you can count on him for somewhere between 12 and 18 points and eight rebounds a game. Those are pretty good numbers given UW’s tragically slow pace.
Badger fans would like to tell you that Happ’s return to campus will mean that they’re going to be demonstrably better in 2018-19. I remain unenthused. Sure, a large part of Wisconsin’s problems last year have to do with the season ending injures to Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice, and they’ll both (presumably) be healthy and back next season. The problems for the Badgers, though, lie in the fact that they are getting essentially nothing in terms of impact recruits, and if we’re being honest, Wisconsin was not good before the King and Trice injuries. They were 1-5 against high major competition before losing those two guys for the year, and that is not a good sign. Sure, 2017-18 was always going to be a “let the freshmen get their feet wet” kind of a season in Madison, so maybe taking them to task for that start is unfair. Maybe the full season of experience ended up being very good for Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, and Nate Reuvers, and Happ ends up bolstering a roster with guys ready to make a jump. I’m not holding my breath, though.
Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
I left this one for last here, because this is going to have the smallest impact on Marquette’s season. There’s two reasons for this. First, MU might not actually play Kansas. KU and MU are two of the four teams in the Preseason NIT along with Tennessee and Louisville. To end up playing the Jayhawks, Marquette would either need to draw them in the semifinals or luck into playing them on the second day. I would imagine that they’re going to aim at a Kansas/Tennessee title game, which means MU could easily end up with the Vols and and the Cardinals in their two games.
The other reason is that Azubuike’s return to Kansas has almost zero impact on Kansas’ trajectory for 2018-19. Sure, they lost Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick, and Malik Newman. DOESN’T MATTER. Bill Self returns three rotation guys in Marcus Garrett, Silvio De Sousa, and Mitch Lightfoot, and I’d wager that Sam Cunliffe is going to get more playing time after becoming eligible mid-season last year. The Lawson boys have just been hanging out on the bench after transferring from Memphis, and the same goes for former Cal guard Charlie Moore. Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson add five-star talent to the backcourt, and David McCormack is a top 40 center in the recruiting class, too. The Jayhawks were probably going to be the preseason #1 team in the country, or at least damn close, with or without Azubuike.
Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova Wildcats
I’ve paired these two guys up together, because you can’t really talk about one departure without mentioning the other. On top of that, a lot of what goes into a discussion of each one will just be repeated for the other.
From probably December onwards, it was a seemingly foregone conclusion that Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson were going to be leaving Villanova at the end of the season. The Wildcats’ second national championship in three seasons just sealed that fate. It also wasn’t surprising to see DiVincenzo and Spellman elect to enter the draft process without hiring an agent. Both men had outstanding seasons capped by outstanding NCAA tournament performances, with DiVincenzo’s 31-5-3 in the national championship just providing icing on the cake.
They’ve both elected to stay in the draft, although it seems that the NBA minds like DiVincenzo much more than Spellman. I’m not sure why NBA minds don’t like 6’8” rim protectors that shoot 43% from beyond the arc, but y’know, whatever. We’re here to talk about the impact their departure is going to have on Marquette, and well, it’s going to be significant. Without them, Villanova can not be considered the obvious favorite in the Big East heading into the season for the first time in five years. After Xavier won the regular season title last season, the door is officially open for someone to take Villanova’s spot as the standard bearer in the conference going forward.
Villanova’s also not going away. It might be a step back for them from three years of national championship contention, but the returning core of Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Collin Gillespie, and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree will pretty much guarantee that they’re an NCAA tournament team again. Jermaine Samuels, a former top 50 recruit, will probably play a big role in 18-19 after missing a lot of time due to a broken hand last year, and don’t write off the impact of VU’s recruiting class. Jay Wright is bringing in three of 247 Sports’ top 50 recruits, led by Jahvon Quinerly, who will be projected as taking Jalen Brunson’s job immediately. The Wildcats are almost assuredly going to be very good again next season. Are they Big East title contending good? Most likely. Are they national championship contending good? Well, jury’s still out on that one.