After Marvin Bagley: Five college hoops programs with the best 2017 offseasons

On the heels of Marvin Bagley III committing to Duke, it’s got us thinking about good fortune. And with August such a dry month for college hoops news — normally — let’s look at which programs have had a good run since last season ended and that can affect the 2017-18 season. Five teams that have separated themselves from the rest. 


Duke

How about this 48-hour span for Mike Krzyzewski: He undergoes a knee replacement Sunday morning, gets five-star 2018 point guard Tre Jones on Sunday night, then lands Bagley on Monday. Duke has gone from probable top 10 preseason team to Las Vegas national title favorite overnight. The Blue Devils — if and when they get Bagley on the floor this season — are now ranked No. 1 by many outlets, including the Top 25 (and one)

Duke also got an unexpected return from Grayson Allen, giving them a much-needed veteran presence. Allen’s been a lightning rod for criticism and bad PR, but in reality he is the most vital piece if the Blue Devils are to win a national title. He’s the only returning player who averaged more than 10 minutes per game last season. 

USC

The Trojans lost in the Bagley sweepstakes, but in getting everyone of note back from last season, Andy Enfield is rolling, with hope of reaching a Final Four. The Trojans have seldom seen an offseason this positive. Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu and Shaqquan Aaron flirted with turning pro but returned. Jordan McLaughlin is back and Duke transfer Derryck Thornton is eligible, giving the Trojans a two-point guard backcourt. 

Enfield also has done well in recruiting, with Trojans sitting at No. 2 in the 2018 rankings. They have three top-75 players — at least — coming to campus next year. There is a real rivalry percolating between USC and UCLA. That’s good for the west coast and the Pac-12. 

Michigan State

Spartans fans didn’t expect Miles Bridges to return. Even Tom Izzo said in June that he didn’t think Bridges would be back. But as we all found out in the spring, Bridges was always set on staying in college. He could been a top-10 pick, but after losing to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament — and averaging 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds on 49 percent shooting — Bridges wanted more from his college experience.

While the sport will have a lot of star power next season, Bridges — who is prone to power dunk a few times every game — is as must-watch as anyone. And he’s part of a fearsome sophomore foursome, flanked by point guard Cassius Winston, wing Josh Langford and center Nick Ward. As a result, the Spartans will be a consensus preseason top-five team and is a national title contender. 

Beyond that, Sparty was able to keep ace assistant Dane Fife, who turned down the Duquesne job. He’s one of the top assistants in the country. With a strong team and staff intact, Izzo could have his strongest squad in a decade.

LSU

The Tigers were the laughingstock of the SEC — perhaps the sport — in the final two years of Johnny Jones’ tenure. Talent, but no results. After Jones was fired, the program hired VCU’s Will Wade, who’s secured recruiting and transfer victories at an unusually swift pace. The Tigers already have five commitments and a top-15 class for 2018. The big get: Tremont Waters, who was courted most intensely by Georgetown, Connecticut and Indiana, but also flirted with Kentucky and Kansas. 

The Tigers have offseason momentum, though results figure to take closer to two seasons to bloom. Wade’s career record is 91-45. He took VCU to the NCAAs in his two seasons in Richmond. He’s already exceeded expectations in Baton Rouge, and with that strong 2018 class, he’ll have a long leash this season. 

Missouri

No fan base has experienced a more euphoric turnaround than Mizzou’s. This program was in desperate need of relevance, competitive spirit and NBA prospects. By hiring Cuonzo Martin, Missouri has the potential to go from an eight-win team last season to an NCAA Tournament run next March. Michael Porter Jr.’s decommitment from Washington (after the Huskies fired Lorenzo Romar) in favor of the Tigers was one of the biggest headlines of the spring. 

Martin continued to building the roster by bringing in Jeremiah Tilmon, a former Illinois commit, and got another boost with the reclassification of Jontay Porter, younger brother of Michael. Prognosticators have Missouri as a top-six team in the SEC this season. Martin left Cal to come closer to home and take a job he believes can be the final one of his career. 


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