With the NBA Draft combine coming up next week and plenty of big names still available in the Transfer Portal, there are still plenty of big decisions to be made. Today we’ll be going over the 10 decisions that will have the biggest impact on College Basketball next season, as we get closer and closer to filling out final rosters and knowing who will be back next season.
Jaylin Williams (Arkansas)
Arkansas Head Coach Eric Mussleman, has made a consistent habit of bringing in impact transfer after impact transfer, and letting roles play out throughout the season. That is no different in 2022, as Arkansas will be losing 6 out of their top 10 scorers from last year’s Elite 8 team, not including Williams. Looking at Williams numbers one paper doesn’t do the proper justice, in explaining just how impactful of a player this guy was. Williams averaged 10.9 points per game, but also finished second in the SEC in rebounding behind Oscar Tschiebwe with 9.6 per game. There isn’t a better defender in the Southeastern Conference than Williams, who led all of College Basketball with 54 charges taken. Any player that is willing to give up their body that often for the betterment of the team needs to be applauded. In addition, the return of Williams, would set up Arkansas for a Top 5 preseason ranking, as they are set to bring in the #2 recruiting classes in all of College Basketball along with a handful of impact transfers. There is a chance to see the most excitement entering a College Basketball season in Fayetteville since the Nolan Richardson days and a lot of that will depend on Williams decision.
Caleb Houstan (Michigan)
Part of what makes the College Basketball season so intriguing, is that a player can enter a situation with a lot of hype or high expectations, and they don’t always live up to it. Caleb was ranked as the #8 overall player in ESPN’s Top 100 High School Players in the Class of 2021 and came into the season as a possible First Round NBA Draft Pick. It wasn’t an easy Freshman season for Houstan or the rest of the Wolverines entirely, as they barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament, after being labeled as a Top 10 team in the preseason. The encouraging sign however, was that Houstan averaged double digit points in Conference play, and one he started to hit a stride, that is when Michigan made their mark. The Canada Native scored 15+ points in three of Michigan’s final four games of the regular season, including a season high five three pointers against Rutgers on February 23rd. Houtan’s three and D ability fits the modern game of basketball perfectly, and with one more season in school under his belt, Caleb can make a direct impact in the NBA. In addition, Michigan did lose Freshman Frankie Collins to the transfer portal and all signs are pointing that Moussa Diabate could be heading to the NBA Draft. The Wolverines back court is currently pretty thin, even after the pickup of dynamic Point Guard and Princeton Transfer Jaelin Llewellyn. With a core of Hunter Dickinson, Houston, Llewellyn and more really good Freshman coming into the program, Michigan could enter next season as the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Malaki Branham (Ohio State)
Despite being a top 40 recruit out of High School, Malaki Branham lived up to expectations in a big-time way for the Buckeyes in 2022. The 6’5” bucket-getter from Columbus, averaged 13.7 points and 3.6 rebounds as a Freshman and could be one of the best players in College Basketball next season, if he decides to return to school. Branham is currently projected to be a first-round pick, while possibly going in the lottery. Throughout last season, there were a handful of times watching the Buckeyes, where the thought of “That dude is a pro” entered my head. The Freshman scored in double digits, in each of Ohio State’s last 11 games, including dropping 31 points to lead Ohio State to a road victory over Illinois in late February. Whatever “It” is, Branham has and will be a very good player in the NBA whether it is this year or next year. The Buckeyes have already lost Forward EJ Liddell who has been their other major contributor dating back even before last season, which could be troubling for Chris Holtmann, who hasn’t had postseason success, despite consistently winning games in the regular season. To be quite frank, Branham is no doubt an NBA player and can see his name rise up in the ranks as we get closer and closer to the draft. It would be surprising to see him come back to school, but there is also a reason why he hasn’t announced anything for certain yet, and this decision is right up there with the most impactful of the bunch.
Trevor Keels (Duke)
Keel’s Freshman season started off and ended with a bang. Keels led Duke to an Opening Night Champions Classic Victory over Kentucky in his first ever college game. Keels scored 25 points, in the process of hitting tough shot after tough shot and ended the season with 19 points in Duke’s Final 4 loss to North Carolina. Despite showing some flashes here and there and being a very good defender, we didn’t see that Champions Classic version of Keels for the remainder of the season. With Duke already losing guys like Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Mark Williams from last year’s Final 4 team, there could be a real opportunity for a guy like Keels to really raise his draft stock. Keel’s backcourt running mate, Jeremy Roach opted to return and will thrive playing with the #1 ranked recruiting class in the country in 2022. Adding another guy with a year under his belt, would be massive for Jon Sheyer, in his first year in charge. Keels is currently projected as a very late second round pick, and with his talents’ can definitely play himself into the first, especially looking at the other talent that will be at Duke next season.
Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest)
Very few transfers coming up from the Mid Major ranks have had as much success as LaRavia did at Wake Forest last season. The 6’8” Indianapolis native went from double digit scorer at Indiana State, to a legitimate NBA Draft Prospect in just one season. LaRavia thrived, stretching the floor, playing inside and out, on the way to leading Wake Forest to their first postseason appearance of any kind since 2017. This is another decision that falls into the category of the player being a no doubt NBA player right now, but can also see a significant jump with one greater season of College Basketball. Even if LaRavia did decide to return to school, Wake has a ton of unknowns, losing their other star and defending ACC Player of the Year, Alondes Williams. Head Coach Steve Forbes, has done the best he can trying to fill in holes, adding guys like Tyree Applebee from Florida, Andrew Carr from Delaware and Jao Ituka from Marist. However, it would be the return of a guy like LaRavia, who would be the clear star and lead option to really put this team over the top. With that being said, LaRavia looked like an NBA player late last season, and will make an impact wherever he is playing basketball next season.
Josh Minnott (Memphis)
Many casual College Basketball fans were left a little confused when Minnott declared for the NBA Draft, after only averaging 6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, in only 14.6 minutes per game. However, anyone who followed Memphis for the majority of last season, knows just how special of a player Minnott is. Despite being a Top 100 recruit, Minnott couldn’t find consistent playing time on the floor with a team containing Jalen Duren, DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley, Lester Quinones and other really talented players. With that being said, every time Minnott took the floor he impressed, whether it was going after loose balls, his passing ability or providing some offense when Memphis needed it. Many people, including myself believe, that he was widely underutilized at Memphis, especially earlier in the season when they were struggling to beat anyone. If Minnott does come back to school, it is already known that it wouldn’t be a return to Memphis and if that is the case, any time capable of getting their hands on Minnott needs too. Minnott is another example of someone who falls into the category that he could be drafted and good in the NBA, but staying an extra year could make this kid a lottery pick. His talent, hustle and attitude is rare and has all the tools of a high draft pick.
Drew Timme (Gonzaga)
Early this offseason when the 2022 National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe announced that he would be returning to Kentucky, a light switch went off. No matter what your opinion on NIL is, one thing for certain is that it will allow some of the country’s best players to return to school and make a little bit of money. This is great for the sport, as fans have recently struggled to make connections with players, because most of the good ones would be going pro whenever they have the chance. Timme is someone who falls into a similar class as Tshiebwe. Timme’s inside low post game is not suited for the modern-day NBA, which is no fault of his own. A return to Gonzaga would give Timme the chance to cement himself with some of the all-time great players in the history of College Basketball, and lead the Bulldogs to the place where they have never been. A National Championship. Plus, Timme has become one of the faces of the sport over the past few years and would continue growing his mustache and making big time money through NIL. Assuredly more than he would make in the G League or on a two-way contract. With Gonzaga set to return guys like Nolan Hickman, Hunter Sallis, Anton Watson and possibly Julian Strawther, Timme would be the piece to put them over the top as a possible Top 5 team once again.
Terquavion Smith and Dereon Seabron (NC State)
There aren’t many Head Coaches in the country, with as much hanging in the air when it comes to these draft decisions then Kevin Keatts and NC State. The same coach that led the Wolfpack to a surprise NCAA Tournament appearance in his first season at the helm, has also lost many fans’ confidence, especially after a disastrous 11-21 season in 2022. Despite it being such a disappointing season for NC State, there were two bright spots that stood out from a mile away. Primarily, Forward Dereon Seabron would have had a legitimate argument to win ACC Player of the Year, if the Wolfpack were better. Seabron’s scoring jumped from 5.2 points per game in 2021, to 17.5 points per game in 2022. In addition, Freshman Guard Terquavion Smith showed flashes of stardom. Smith will continue to get stronger as his career goes on, but it was very impressive seeing this guy get to the rim with insane athleticism, at only 160 pounds. NC State did add some decent transfers this offseason including D.J Burns (Radford), Jarkel Joiner (Ole Miss) and Dusan Mohrocic (Utah). These would be decent complementary pieces, but if NC State wants to have any realistic expectations for 2023 they need at least one of, if not both Smith and Seabron back in the worst way. Keatts has worked under unfair circumstances since arriving in Raleigh, and has had some unlucky breaks including the 2020 NCAA Tournament being called off right after the Wolfpack were starting to play their best basketball. However, after a 2022 that was that bad, he needs a bounce back year and it would be very difficult to do that without the services of Smith and Seabron.
Dalen Terry (Arizona)
Just last season, the Arizona program saw a player in Benedict Mathurin, make a great decision for his professional basketball future by returning to school. Mathurin raised his scoring average from 10.8 points per game as a Freshman to 17.7 points per game as a Sophomore, in the process of going from a fascinating, possible, NBA Draft prospect to a Lottery Pick. Dalen Terry has a chance to be next in line for Arizona, as he had much success during his first two seasons in Tucson. Terry has gone from a helpful bench contributor, to a big time starter and with one more year, could be a first round pick in the NBA Draft. Terry averaged 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this past season, but anyone who followed Arizona knows his impact was greater than that. With Arizona set to lose Mathurin and star big man Christian Koloko to the NBA Draft, the door is wide open for Terry to become the next guy which would hopefully catapult his NBA Draft stock in a similar way to Mathurin. Terry is currently ranked 43rd on ESPN’s NBA Draft Big Board and in a similar way to many others on this list, that would improve even more so with another big year in school.
David Roddy (Colorado State)
From the affair the 2022 season was a massive success in Fort Collins for their Rams. Niko Medved was able to lead Colorado State to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013 and the finishing touches were put on a special group that had been working to get there since they all arrived together in 2018. With that being said, the Rams struggled on the defensive side of the floor throughout the season, and suffered a disappointing loss in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against Michigan. Colorado State has always lost some key contributors to the Transfer Portal including Deshuan Thomas and Adam Thistlewood. The one guy they need back however, is David Roddy. The 6’5” Forward led the Rams in scoring (19.2 PPG) and rebounding (7.5 RPG) and would enter next season as one of the 10 best players in College Basketball, if he decides to return. Right now, the Rams are somewhat thin around Roddy, only bringing back two guys that scored consistently last year in Isiah Stevens and John Tonje. With Roddy back along those two guys, Colorado State would be a Top 25 team once again, and right up there with San Diego State and Wyoming as Mountain West favorites.
Zac Krull has covered College Basketball for the last 2 years while working with Aaron Torres of Aaron Torres Media and recording his own Zac Krull Sports Podcast. Currently, Zac is writing as a contributor for Aaron Torres online with weekly articles and working as a producer for the BETQL Network. Zac graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2021 with a degree in Sports Studies.