Throughout the area, ranging from Delaware to southern Virginia, numerous teams have to deal with the loss of a star player this season. Of course this happens every year in college basketball and fortunately for teams like Maryland, VCU, George Mason other players are ready to fill in the void.
Other squads like Mount St. Mary’s, Morgan State, and Georgetown have players that are already the face of the program and ready to will their team to the NCAA Tournament in their final respective seasons.
Here are some of the best that are primed for incedible seasons in 2017-18.
Justin Jackson – Maryland Terrapins
Already there has been a load of expectations put on the 6-7 forward. Earlier this week Justin Jackson was placed on the Naismith Trophy watch list along with being recognized on the Julius Erving Small Forward watch list and the Big Ten preseason watch list. However, last season Jackson did not even make the Big Ten All-Rookie Team although it was not because he did not deserve it.
Last season he had Melo Trimble out in the back court, able to both effectively distribute the ball and draw attention away from his teammates. There will still be star players to help ease the load, like Anthony Cowan Jr. and Kevin Huerter, but Jackson is clearly the best player on the Terps roster heading into the year.
A year ago he created his own shot, was able to move in and out of the post with ease. He returns as the Terrapins top scorer (10.5 ppg) and rebounder (6.0 rpg). Maryland is hoping that will continue and that without Trimble he is able to get even more touches on the ball and build on his game one step further.
Justin Tillman – VCU
Replacing on of the most iconic VCU Rams in the history of the program is never an easy task. Forward Justin Tillman is going to have to fill for the absence of Mo Allie-Cox in the paint and continue to be the dominant player he was a year ago. The Rams will be competitive this season but losing three of your starters will likely set them back in the opening half of the season.
Tillman at 6-7 will be one to steer the ship early on, but for VCU fans none of this is new. In certain aspects, Tillman was actually better in the post than Allie-Cox in the smaller, more guard-oriented Atlantic 10. His rebounding numbers were double of Allie-Cox’s last season and he was more effective shooting the ball with a wider range.
Already selected as a Preseason Atlantic 10 First Teamer, Tillman will be a favorite for player of the year in a position he will likely dominate all season long.
Otis Livingston II – George Mason
Like many of the other players on this list, they will have to figure out how to play without one of their program’s best ahead of them. For Otis Livingston II at George Mason, that is no different having to follow up what Marquise Moore did last year for the Patriots.
Being the focal point is nothing new though for Livingston. As a freshman two years ago he was the starting point guard, he led the team in points, shots, and assists. With Moore’s break-out season, it appeared that Livingston had to adjust his game differently and didn’t quite succeed as he did the year prior.
Now a junior there is going to be a ton of weight on the 5-11 guard. With a depleted bench (only eight scholarship players), Livingston likely will have to be in for 35 min a night. The Patriots will ride or die with Livingston’s leadership. Mason cannot succeed when Livingston has an off-night, but that never seems to happen.
Anthony Cowan Jr. – Maryland
There are big shoes to fill for Cowan heading into his second year with the squad. With the absence of Trimble, Cowan’s play may be affected the most. In the backcourt the 6-0 Cowan was a great accent guard alongside Trimble averaging 10.3 points on 42 percent shooting. Cowan never had to be the go-to play maker or scorer to get his team going offensively. This season though both of those roles will fall squarely on him with some help from Jackson. On top of that he will now be guarded by the opposing team’s best guard defender.
None of this is to say that he cannot do it. The local guard is familiar with this role after playing for St. John’s College High School in the WCAC. He does have the ability to take over games; just this has not been seen at the college level yet.
Yuta Watanabe – George Washington
One of the wackiest looking guards you will ever see, the Colonials now have Yuta Watanabe as the face of their team. Standing at 6-9 but a mere 205 pounds, there is not much muscle mass for George Washington’s top returning scorer, rebounder, and defender. Always with a height advantage over his smaller opponents, he lead the team in blocks and steals, enough to put him on the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive team last year.
While he lives in the midrange and outside the arc, inside the paint Watanabe is easily able to pick up contact. The lighter body gives him the benefit of the doubt whenever he is contested down low. Still he is able to finish and get the and-ones.
Without Tyler Cavanaugh who is now playing with the Atlanta Hawks, Watanabe is the tallest player for the Colonials.
Junior Robinson – Mount St. Mary’s
There is never enough to say about Junior Robinson. Last season Robinson led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament after a 1-11 start to the season. First, he is only 5-5 and it is near impossible not to love a player that can ball out under six-foot. Additionally no matter who teams match-up against him, he cannot be stopped. He is quick, he is agile, and better yet he can shoot.
In the three seasons leading up to his senior year, he was been recognized by the Northeast Conference every year. Two Second Team selections and a Rookie Team selection has made him one of the best players in the Mount’s program history.
Twelve freshmen on the Mountaineer’s roster means he will be the focal point yet again and it has already been noted that he cannot be stopped.
Jessie Govan – Georgetown
If there is one category that Georgetown would be good at in Patrick Ewing’s first year at the helm, one would assume it would be under the basket. Losing Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak will give Jessie Govan the thumbs up to command down low. A majority of the offense will likely go through him at 6-10 to just get points, especially against some of their non-conference opponents.
As a big-man, he is not a stranger to sending the ball back outside when he is doubled. For the Hoyas, that will likely be how they will move the ball. The team is definitely going to need more rebounds from him (only 4.9 per game last year) and for him to stay out of foul trouble. If he can do both, Georgetown’s season may not be a dud after all.
Phillip Carr – Morgan State
A year ago, Phillip Carr was a rebound away from averaging a double-double. He was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and made the First Team All-MEAC. Now he has another season under his belt and if he improved this off-season like he did last year, there is no question who the best player in the MEAC will be.
Traditionally the 6-9 Carr likes to play down low, but he does not limit his game. Last season he was 45 percent from behind the arc and led the regulars in every shooting category. For the Bears there should be one task for them this season, give Carr the ball. They play a decent non-conference schedule that will hopefully get him more regional attention. Even if he wasn’t playing in the MEAC, he would still be putting up these numbers.
Mike Morsell – Towson
The Towson Tigers believe that they can contend for the CAA Championship this year. If they do, they are going to rely on senior guard Mike Morsell to lead the charge. Throughout his time with the Tigers, Morsell has been a pass-first type of guard or take a pull-up three. As a coach that is typically what you want but in Morsell’s case sometimes he just needs to take over.
As a back-to-back All-CAA third-team selection, this should be the year that Morsell breaks out. A majority of his supporting cast from last year graduated and he accounts for over a fourth of the team’s returning offense. With the development of Deshaun Morman, he will be key if Morsell is able to take control this season. Morman has no issue playing in a secondary role and if he does it could be a big year for Towson.
Jarius Lyles – UMBC
Another local player from DeMatha is suiting up for his graduate season with the Golden Retrievers. Guard Jarius Lyles scored just under 19 points a game last season. This earned him America East Second-Team honors for the first time in his career. He accounts for over 14 shots a game and loves to play with or without the ball in his hand.
His quickness makes him nearly un-guardable and he is not afraid to crash the boards. Last season his shooting numbers ticked down slightly but with three fellow starters returning he should be in good shape.
This could be a banner year, not only for UMBC but for their conference as well. NCAA Tournament is not out of reach for his squad.