College basketball: Who must step in and replace departed veteran stars?
The conclusion to the 2015-16 college basketball season also meant the end of many veteran stars’ college careers.
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In some cases, a clear insertion into the starting lineup is expected to ease the transition. In others, multiple players — both established and unestablished — will be called on to step up.
Here are how some top programs will look toward replacing past years’ stars this season:
Replacing Buddy Hield – Oklahoma
Hield closed out his Oklahoma career by leading the Sooners to a Final Four appearance and taking home Naismith College Player of the Year honors. Now Oklahoma must find a way to replace Hield’s 25 points per game that powered the Sooners offense.
Hield’s backcourt mate Jordan Woodard had a good 2015 season himself, averaging 11 points, three rebounds and three assists per game. But sans Hield, Oklahoma will rely on Woodard more heavily to lead the way offensively.
Woodard is the elder statesman of a guard unit that brings in four true freshmen in Kameron McGusty, Grant Quinn, Jordan Shepherd and Darrion Strong. These additions have the talent to produce right away, but the Sooners hope Woodard’s consistency and proven offensive capability will ease the first-years’ development and give Oklahoma a dangerous ball-handling scoring threat.
Replacing Denzel Valentine – Michigan State
The Spartans already got a taste of playing without Valentine last year when the do-it-all forward missed four games with an injury. The results were not pretty.
Considered one of the most versatile players in past years, Valentine finished his senior campaign averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
In Valentine’s absence last year, Michigan State managed to go 3-1 but looked subpar in wins over Oakland and Minnesota. Four different Spartans started in place of Valentine during this stretch and combined to average 5.5 points per game.
So how does Michigan State plan on replacing Valentine for a whole season? It will call on a few different players to attempt to do so.
Redshirt senior guard Eron Harris will be the Spartans’ leading returning scorer (9.3 points per game) and brings defensive tenacity and an outside scoring ability that can stretch the floor without Valentine in the post.
The Spartans may have the toughest task in replacing their departed star, but coach Tom Izzo seems to have some defensive options with scoring potential to fill the void.
Replacing Kris Dunn – Providence
Providence actually has two key pieces to replace in Dunn and Ben Bentil in its quest for a fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
Dunn is the two-time reigning Big East Player of the Year after serving as the point guard for the Friars. In a tough act to follow, junior Kyron Cartwright appears lined up to succeed Dunn in the backcourt.
Cartwright saw plenty of time off the bench the past two years and even started 10 games last season beside Dunn, averaging 5.5 points per game.
Cartwright should fill in serviceably with his ability to create plays for others. The big question is how much of an offensive jump he can make, especially without the luxury of having Bentil working down low.
Replacing Marcus Paige – North Carolina
If it wasn’t for Villanova’s Kris Jenkins’ clutch buzzer beater to cap off last year’s thrilling championship finale, Paige would’ve held claim to the tournament’s defining shot.
Paige was the leader of a deep Tar Heels squad despite missing a few weeks with a fractured hand early in the season. During his missed time, UNC fans caught a glimpse of a Joel Berry-Nate Britt guard combination that will be in full effect this season.
Berry will likely step in as the Tar Heels’ offensive leader after averaging 12.8 points per game while Britt will replace Paige as a full-time starter with more than 100 games of experience already under his belt.
If Britt can take progressive steps forward in becoming a consistent scorer, the combo of Britt and Berry rank up there as one of the deadliest backcourts in the nation.
Replacing Ryan Arcidiacono – Villanova
Arcidiacono wasted no time in leaving his mark at Villanova. The four-year starter played more than 30 games each season and cemented his legacy by leading the Wildcats to a national championship last season.
While Villanova loses a model of consistency in Arcidiacono, the Wildcats enter 2016 pretty well-intact. Jenkins, Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson all return after solid seasons and look to continue to carry the offensive weight.
That helps ease Phil Booth into his transition replacing Arcidiacono at the 2-guard position.
Booth averaged seven points per game as a sophomore and played more than 21 minutes per game as the first guard off the bench. In Villanova’s championship win, he went off for 20 points against UNC by attacking the basket and showing a hot mid-range shot.
The Wildcats hope that’s a sign of things to come as Villanova primes for a shot at a repeat.