The 2015/16 basketball season drew to a close Sunday night with an all-time classic game between North Carolina and Villanova in the NCAA Tournament. A tournament that the Bulldogs were hoping to be a part of but were left on the outside looking in large part thanks to some bad losses against the putrid Auburn Tigers. If the Bulldogs want to get back to the tournament in 2016/17 they are going to have to avoid those bad losses and overcome the loss of seniors Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines. In honor of ESPN releasing their customary Way-Too-Early Top 25 the day after the NCAA Tournaments wraps up let’s take a quick look at the Dawgs next year.
The two best players from last year return in J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten and each of those young men will be expected to be the leaders of the team. Both earned 2nd Team All-SEC honors and Yante Maten is certainly capable of elevating his game to the 1st Team All-SEC level. Whether or not he is able to do that this offseason will go a long way in determining whether or not the Dawgs can make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Outside of the two known commodities the Bulldogs have a great deal of youth and some experienced role players. The development of Derek Ogbeide will be very interesting to watch as he has a physical style of play that should allow him to dominate the boards and he also showed some skill on the offensive side. Fellow true sophomores Turtle Jackson and Mike Edwards also showed flashes of being explosive players but their inconsistency limited Mark Fox’s ability to play them extended minutes.
Last but not least are the ability to make an instant impact by talented freshmen Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris. In Crump the Bulldogs will be getting an alpha dawg combo guard that can flat out score the basketball. He has no conscience when it comes to taking shots and is the type to demand the ball in the big moment. He plays the game in a manner very similar to Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder who was only a 3-Star recruit coming out of High School (not saying Crump is the next Westbrook). It would be huge for the Dawgs if Crump is able to create his own shot and knock it down with regularity. Crump’s running mate Jordan Harris is a lefty with a bit of an unorthodox offensive game but he finds ways to put the ball in the basket. However, the biggest upside he will bring is his ability to defend. He has the length and quickness to really frustrate opposing wings.
As I said, it is way-to-early and the schedule has not been released yet but this is a team that should win 20+ games for the fourth straight season and should make it back to the NCAA Tournament.