College basketball rosters are constantly in flux. One and dones have changed the dynamic of the game, and with players able to leave after every season, there is always some degree of uncertainty. Returning players with experience are key to making deep runs in March, shown time and time again when looking at the list of recent champions. So what returning players should you watch out for? Part one included players in the AAC, Big East, and Big 10. Here I will outline players from the Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, and ACC.
*All information regarding draft status is as of April 15th*
Big 12: Udoka Azubuike, Center, Kansas
The pick would have been Malik Newman had he not recently signed with an agent and declared for the NBA draft, but instead we have another Jayhawk as the selection. Udoka Azubuike is a throwback center, standing sturdy at 7 feet even and 280 pounds. He can’t shoot from deep or handle the ball, but Azubuike can win nearly any matchup in the post, shoots a blistering 77% from the field. Azubuike also leads the Jayhawks in rebounds (7 PG) and defends the paint, averaging nearly two blocks a game. Injuries and foul trouble have limited the big man’s effectiveness at times, but Kansas needs Azubuike on the floor with virtually no depth behind him on the roster. Kansas has a commitment from 4 star center David McCormack, hopefully bringing some much needed depth for the Jayhawks. If Azubuike can clean up his defensive mechanics and cut down on foul trouble, he could be a very hard man to stop for 30 minutes a game.
ACC: Kyle Guy, Guard, Virginia
For a team that doesn’t score very much, Kyle Guy is the best scorer on Tony Bennett‘s squad. The offense runs through Guy, pacing the team at 14.1 PPG. Virginia was the best team in the country during the regular season, smothering opposing offenses and hitting just enough shots to keep themselves in front, but was stunned in March, becoming the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in tournament history. The game was emblematic of the problem with UVA: the defense wasn’t shutting down UMBC, and the offense simply wasn’t good enough to overcome a bad defensive performance. If the Hoos want to repeat in the ACC and continue to be a high seed, they must develop some sort of offensive game. Enter Kyle Guy. With potentially two years remaining in his college career, Guy can provide the necessary scoring punch for Virginia.
SEC: Grant Williams, Forward, Tennessee
The reigning SEC player of the year, Williams led the Volunteers to their best season since 2013. A do it all type of players for the Vols, Williams averaged 15.2 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.3 blocks over the course of last season. With other top teams in the SEC facing a big reload, the Vols will be bringing back a lot of the team that was tops in the SEC last year. If Williams can make a leap similar to the one he made between his freshman and sophomore years, the Vols could be poised for even loftier goals in the upcoming season.
Pac 12: Bennie Boatwright, Forward, USC
In a surprising move, Bennie Boatwright has decided to come back and play another year for the Trojans. If the 6’10 big man can stay healthy, USC could make some noise in the Pac-12 once again. With Arizona’s four best players leaving and the dark cloud of the NCAA over Sean Miller and the Wildcats, the Trojans have a real chance to leap from second to first in the Pac-12. Boatwright had perhaps his best overall season in college last season, going up in rebounds, assists, and blocks. However, Boatwright’s scoring dropped by 2 points per game from his sophomore season, when he averaged over 15 per game. Injuries will always be the biggest question with Boatwright, but with him returning and a top 20 recruiting class, there is real reason to believe USC could win the Pac-12 next year.