Programs That Could Take Their Next Step in College Basketball

Next Step College Basketball

There are some programs in college basketball that are excellent every year. Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, and others are all excellent programs not only because of their best seasons, but also because of their consistency.

Every program within the sport wants to reach the same level of consistent success those programs have. Here is a look at some of the programs with exciting futures that could take a step forward in the next few years.

Miami

Miami reached their first Elite Eight in program history last season. They followed that with a very good recruiting class that includes multiple key players who the program recruited in the transfer portal.

Next year, the Hurricanes could be a Top 25 team and will hope to make the NCAA Tournament yet again, which they will be favored to do. Overall, Miami has significantly improved as a program in the last several years.

Head Coach Jim Larranaga has already built Miami into a consistent ACC program earlier in his tenure at Miami. The Hurricanes made the Sweet Sixteen and won the ACC regular season and tournament in his second year at Miami.

After appearing in the Sweet Sixteen Miami went 17-16 and 25-13 in the following two years, missing the NCAA Tournament both times, but from 2016-2018 the program made the NCAA Tournament three consecutive times and reached the Sweet Sixteen yet again.

During that stretch, Larranaga completed some of the school’s best-ever recruiting classes. However, the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball, specifically Miami’s apparel partner Adidas, stopped the program’s momentum.

Miami was one of the original schools involved in the investigation. The Hurricanes were eventually cleared of all wrongdoing, but media coverage surrounding the investigation resulted in a significant negative impact on the future of the program.

Larranaga and his staff faced challenges in recruiting during the time when Miami was investigated before the program was officially cleared. Without the transfer portal, the Hurricanes struggled to add depth to the roster.

The result was three consecutive losing seasons for Miami, including a 10-17 record in 2020-21 when the Hurricanes only won four conference games. The program, which had seemingly been on its way to consistent ACC title contention, finished 13th in the conference that season.

However, last season saw the program return to its best, in part due to the impact of the transfer portal. The Hurricanes were a contender to win the ACC all season, defeated Duke on the road, and had one of the most memorable moments of the NCAA Tournament when they upset Auburn 79-61.

Now, the program is again heading in the right direction. Larranaga has agreed to a contract extension, the program has done an excellent job of recruiting in the transfer portal, and Miami had a Top 25 recruiting class last year.

Miami might not make the Elite Eight again this season, but the program should compete to win the ACC Championship and make the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. After a three-year stretch of disappointing seasons, due to factors that were sometimes out of the program’s control, the Hurricanes have an exciting future.

Florida

Florida was one of the best programs in college basketball for most of the last two decades, but the last few seasons haven’t gone as expected for the program. UF has not won 20 games in a season since 2019.

However, the program has the resources and capability to become one of college basketball’s best programs once again. Florida won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. In addition, the program reached the Elite Eight or Final Four in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

There has been recent success for the program as well. Florida reached the Elite Eight yet again in 2017, and participated in the NCAA Tournament in four out of five years from 2017 until 2021 (2020’s tournament was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic).

Florida will go through a coaching change as the program hopes to return to national title contention. Todd Golden is now the head coach after Mike White departed the program to become the head coach of Georgia.

Golden has already started to improve a team that went 20-14 last season and reached the NIT. The program was active in the transfer portal as they improved their roster during this offseason.

Last year, Golden helped San Francisco return to the NCAA Tournament. In three years with the program, San Francisco won more than 20 games twice and finished 4th, 8th, and 5th in the conference each season.

In the future, Florida has the potential to return to consistent SEC Championship and even National Championship contention. Golden’s first season in charge could show that there is a bright future for the program.

Wake Forest

Wake Forest entered last season without many expectations. The Demon Deacons were expected to finish 13th in the ACC in the conference’s preseason poll; ahead of only Pitt and Boston College.

Steve Forbes was in his second year as the head coach at Wake Forest last season. He was previously the head coach at East Tennessee State, where he won two conference titles in five years and never won less than 20 games, before being hired by Wake Forest.

After a 6-16 record in his first year in the ACC, Forbes and Wake Forest entered last season not expecting to be one of the ACC’s best teams, but they were. The Demon Deacons finished the season 25-10 and 13-7 in the ACC, finished 5th in the conference, and nearly reached the NCAA Tournament. Forbes was the conference’s Coach of the Year.

Overall, last season was one of the best in recent memory for Wake Forest, a program that has only made the NCAA Tournament once since 2010. While this season may not be as successful as last year, the program still has an opportunity to improve under Forbes.

Wake Forest might not become a program that competes for the ACC title every year, but last season showed how the program could develop in the future, especially with the use of the transfer portal.

Over the next few seasons, Wake Forest will hope to become a program that frequently reaches the NCAA Tournament. The program established a strong foundation for the future last year.

 


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