By Andrew Kahn
Recruit and reload. That is the mantra for many top college basketball teams in the one-and-done era. It’s easier said than done, and even a school like Kentucky, which has put together a monster recruiting class every year under John Calipari, has its down seasons (the Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament in 2013). Below are three teams that reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament last year but have struggled this season to replace the players that got them there.READ MORE: Wrong-Way Driver Suspected Of DUI In Crash That Killed Passenger On Hwy. 99
Michigan Wolverines (9-6)
Key departures: Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan
Bad losses: NJIT, Eastern Michigan
Last year, the Wolverines won the Big Ten regular season title outright and came within one basket of the Final Four despite losing league Player of the Year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to the NBA. Stauskas, a role player the previous season, was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, while several of his teammates also elevated their play. So when Stauskas, Robinson, McGary all declared early for the draft, many thought John Beilein would work his magic again and keep the Wolverines humming. Michigan was ranked No. 23/24 in the major preseason polls.
All seemed well when Michigan went to New York and beat Oregon before dropping a nail-biter to a highly-ranked Villanova squad. They returned to Ann Abor and used a strong second half to beat Syracuse to improve to 6-1. It was as if at that very moment the young Wolverines realized teams don’t just replace the talent they lost without skipping a beat. They lost 72-70 to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a team without a conference, and proved it was no fluke by losing three days later to Eastern Michigan, typically Michigan’s punching bag next door. Blowout losses at Arizona and against SMU followed. It wasn’t even Christmas yet, and Michigan had lost as many home games as it had in the previous two seasons combined.
Redemption opportunities: Wisconsin (1/24), Iowa (2/5)
Florida Gators (8-6)
Key departures: Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Will Yeguete
Bad losses: at Florida State, ConnecticutREAD MORE: Yolo County Launches Race-Blind Charging Program To Remove Biases From Criminal Justice System
Billy Donovan spoiled Gator Nation by advancing to at least the Elite Eight in four straight seasons (including last year’s Final Four appearance). Four of the five starters from last year’s team graduated, but Florida was ranked No. 7 to start the season.
The Gators have lost to in-state rivals Miami and Florida State, and have yet to earn a quality win, dropping games against North Carolina, Kansas, and Georgetown. Donovan, like Beilein, should be trusted, and Florida’s efficiency metrics suggest they are far better than their record would indicate.
Redemption opportunities: Kentucky (2/7 and 3/7)
UCLA Bruins (8-7)
Key departures: Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, Zach LaVine, Travis Wear, David Wear
Bad losses: at Alabama, at Colorado
UCLA lost three players early to the draft, but was still expected to compete in the Pac-12 this year. The Bruins just missed out on a preseason ranking, but have proven they didn’t even deserve consideration. They missed out on chances for a marquee win against North Carolina, Gonzaga, and Kentucky, getting beat in those three games by 22, 13, and 39. UCLA missed its first 17 shots against Kentucky, an extreme example of their offensive struggles this year. They scored just 39 in a blowout loss to Utah last time out. Bryce Alford, the coach’s son, went 0 for 10 in that game and is just 5 for 39 in his last three games.
Redemption opportunities: Utah (1/29, at Arizona (2/21)
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.
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