College Basketball Players Not Living Up to Their Preseason Hype
Hype is one of those words that gets thrown around in sports to describe any extra attention a player or team might be getting before having the chance to prove worthy. It’s the fuel that keeps the firing going during the offseason, particularly so with college basketball since there’s more than seven months between the end of one season and the beginning of the next.
With all that idle time, hype helps fill the void and keep names relevant. But when the actual season begins, not everyone can actually meet those lofty expectations that were created during the down time.
With a little more than a month’s worth of the 2016-17 college basketball season in the books, here are the players who earned quite a bit of praise yet haven’t really shown they were deserving. This list doesn’t include players who have been hurt for a good portion of the season or have yet to make their debut since they haven’t had enough of an opportunity to warrant their hype.
When is 17.7 points per game while making 36.5 percent of three-point shots considered a bad performance? When you were nearly a consensus pick for preseason National Player of the Year honors, as Grayson Allen was.
Allen was coming off a breakout 2015-16 campaign in which he scored 21.6 per game and made 41.7 percent of his threes after being hardly used for most of his freshman year. The 6’4″ guard opted to come back to school without testing the NBA draft waters, and with the talent influx Duke was expected to have this year, he was pegged as the top piece of that strong national-title contender.
Bleacher Report and many other national media outlets picked him for player of the year and those that didn’t at least had him on the All-America team.
But Allen has been up and down so far this year, partly because of a toe injury that caused him to miss one game and affected him in others. He had a career-high 34 points in the Blue Devils’ last game, against UNLV, but before that he had six (on 2-of-9 shooting) against Florida and already has four games this season entertainment news in nigeria with 12 or fewer points.
Last season: two.
Among the most coveted graduate transfers on the market last spring, Canyon Barrypicked Florida over schools like Miami (Florida) and Northwestern after playing three seasons at College of Charleston. The last of those was cut short after suffering a shoulder injury in January, but before getting hurt he was averaging 19.7 points per game.
The Gators weren’t needing the 6’6″ guardson of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barryto be that prolific, but they probably also thought he could be capable of leading the team in scoring. Instead, he’s played all season off the bench and is playing less than 23 minutes per game.
Barry has averaged 10.9 points per game on 38.7 percent shooting while making just 24.2 percent of his threes. He had a hot stretch in mid-November when he had a combined 53 points in consecutive wins over St. Bonaventure, Belmont and Seton Hall, but in his last five games, he’s 13-of-45 from the field and averaging 7.2 points, including a scoreless effort against Miami on Nov. 27.
With high recruiting rankings come high expectations. And when you’re No. 1 the hype is even greater.
Josh Jackson was Scout’s No. 1 player for the 2016 class, and as is usually the case with such top-rated prospects they’re also high on NBA draft boards. Draft Express has the 6’7″ wing as the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft, right behind two other freshmen who were highly ranked (and much-hyped) heading into this season.
If compared to the average player, Jackson’s 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 53.3 percent overall are some pretty good numbers. But are they what one would expect from the No. 1 player, one who was going to a team in Kansas that had lost its top two scorers? No, not really.
It’s not that Jackson has been bad, he just hasn’t been anywhere near as explosive and impactful as projected. Some of that is due to senior point guard Frank Mason emerging as the top weapon with 20.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, but Jackson himself is also to blame. He’s made only five of 21 three-point attempts and has been a liability at the foul line, making just 54.7 percent.
Kentucky is the overwhelming choice to win the SEC, but partly due to so many good options on that team it paved the way for Moses Kingsley to get tabbed as the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year. It was a deserving choice, as Kingsley was coming off a junior season in which he averaged 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
Presumably, to live up to that Player of the Year choice, the 6’10” forward would need to at least match those numbers, if not improve on them. That hasn’t been the case so far, despite Arkansas sitting at 8-1 entering Saturday’s game against Texas.
Kingsley is third on the Razorbacks in scoring at 11.1 points per game, which translates to 16.9 over 40 minutes (compared to 21.5 per 40 last season). His rebounding (8.2 per game, 12.5 per 40) is comparable to 2015-16, but his offensive rebounding rate is down a bit. And after being a 54.8 percent shooter last season, he’s down to 51.5 percent, and that includes going 3-of-8 in Arkansas’ loss at Minnesota.
Among the many factors that contributed to Syracuse’s surprise run to the Final Four last season was how Tyler Lydon went from just being another lengthy guy who could hit an outside shot to one who was able to use that size to his advantage on offense and defense. As a freshman the 6’8″ forward averaged 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, swatting 20 shots in five NCAA tournament games.
He had seven blocks in the Orange’s first three games this season but just two since, and it wasn’t like he was making up for it with three-point shooting. Lydon has shot 34.3 percent from three, which is good, but far below the 40.9 percent clip he had in 2015-16.
Lydon has also struggled on non-threes, shooting 43.6 percent on two-pointers (down from 54.2 as a freshman) and 39.2 percent overall. That’s translated into 9.9 points per game when he was hyped in the offseason like someone who’d be averaging at least 15.
The Austin Nichols era in Memphis didn’t end well, with the 6’8″ forward asking for his release in July 2015 rather than right after his sophomore year ended as is commonly the case. Memphis initially tried to block his transfer to various schools but eventually let up, and he ended up at Virginiaa school that was close to landing him out of high school.
After sitting out the 2015-16 season, per NCAA transfer rules, Nichols was primed to be a key piece of the Cavaliers’ frontcourt as a capable scorer and someone who could fit well in their defensive game plan. Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller ranked him as the No. 1 transfer in college basketball for 2016-17.
“He’s about to become the centerpiece of a pack-line defense that has been shutting down opponents for the past five years,” Miller wrote. “If he does it well, this transfer just might be helping cut down a net in April.”
That was the hope. Instead, Nichols played all of one game with Virginia before getting dismissed from the program for team rules violations. That came after he was also suspended for the Cavs’ preseason games and regular-season opener, then he had 11 points in 16 minutes in his lone action before getting the boot.
All statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.