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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Telep's Top 10: Wooden replacements

By Dave Telep

Recruiting is a tricky deal to figure out sometimes.

There’s Duke, which knew it had to replace seniors Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly with a stud frontcourt player in this recruiting class. But conversely, did the thought of potentially having to replace sophomore Shane Larkin even enter Jim Larranaga’s mind at the beginning of the season? I know Larkin is not likely going anywhere, but still, the point is that it can be hard to know exactly what you’re going to need to replace in recruiting.

To that point, Tom Crean knew Victor Oladipo was good, but no one saw this type of year coming from the now projected lottery pick.

Once the afterglow of this season wears off, many Wooden Award finalists will need replacing -- and that’s not an easy task. So while not every player on this list will turn pro, the point of this top 10 is to rate how well each team prepared for the contingency going forward in recruiting.

Top 10 Recruiting Replacements for Wooden Award Finalists

1. Duke
Losing: Mason Plumlee, PF/C
Replacement: Jabari Parker, SF

Parker isn’t the big man that Plumlee is, but his size, skill and versatility in the frontcourt will no doubt be much-needed with the Blue Devils losing Plumlee and Kelly to graduation. Parker enters Duke with more polish and production than Plumlee did as a freshman. However, Duke isn’t replacing a freshman with a freshman; it’s trying to replace a senior with a freshman. Of all the Wooden finalists on this list, Duke has the best star power replacement, if not a perfect position replacement.

Derrick Walton
Michigan signee Derrick Walton, No. 30 in the final ESPN 100, could be the next great point guard for the Wolverines.
2. Michigan
Likely to Lose: Trey Burke, PG
Replacement: Derrick Walton, PG

John Beilein has stared down this dilemma before. When Darius Morris left Michigan, Burke was supposed to ease into the job. Turns out Burke didn’t need easing. Now, Walton is not Burke, but he’s an excellent replacement with a winner’s edge, a Big Ten body and the disposition to start as a freshman.

3. Kansas
Losing: Jeff Withey, C
Replacement: Joel Embiid, C

If Kansas fans are willing to wait on Embiid like they did Withey, then KU has its replacement. Actually, this is not an awful trade. You’re giving up size but could be getting Withey’s equal as a shot blocker and potentially an even better scorer.

4. Indiana
Likely to Lose: Cody Zeller, PF/C
Replacement: Luke Fischer, C

Power forward Noah Vonleh, the No. 8 recruit in the ESPN 100, is the likely candidate to replace Zeller from a star power standpoint, but they are two very different styles of big men. Meanwhile, although Vonleh is the highest-rated recruit among the Hoosiers' future freshmen, it's actually Fischer's game that more closely resembles Zeller's. Fischer enters IU having won Mr. Basketball honors in Wisconsin and back-to-back state titles. Like Zeller, he leaves high school on an upswing. Fischer's size and style will draw immediate images of Zeller.

5. Kansas
Likely to Lose: Ben McLemore, SG
Replacements: Wayne Selden, SF/Brannen Greene, SG

McLemore is so good that it would be unfair to ask one man to replace him. Kansas sure didn’t. No incoming freshman signed by KU can possibly have the same impact McLemore did on this team. However, if you mix in Greene’s perimeter game with Selden’s strength and overall feel, you have two young guys who can bridge the gap but not fully replicate the season McLemore had. Remember, McLemore also had a year to study up and brace for this explosion.

6. Georgetown
Likely to Lose: Otto Porter, F
Replacement: Reggie Cameron, PF

The Hoyas won’t be able to reproduce the same rebounding touch that Porter brought to the lineup, but the best-case scenario for John Thompson III would be Cameron’s perimeter game. Cameron can shoot the 3 better as an incoming freshman than Porter, but as an overall prospect there’s a sizeable gap.

Troy Williams
Indiana-bound Troy Williams may have to step in immediately if Victor Oladipo goes pro.
7. Indiana
Likely to Lose: Victor Oladipo, G
Replacement: Troy Williams, SF

When Oladipo was in high school, Tom Crean charted him defensively. Credit Crean for knowing exactly what he was bringing in. Turns out, Oladipo turned himself into a way better offensive player than ever expected. Williams has defensive potential, could be Oladipo’s equal in transition and, like Oladipo, lacks a refined offensive game. The big question is whether Williams will do the little things and play a supporting role, which is how Oladipo laid the foundation for his career.

8. Miami
Likely to Return: Shane Larkin, PG
Backup plan: Deandre Burnett, SG

I don’t think Jim Larranaga is going to lose his point guard. Regardless, we’ll play along. There is no one on the roster or coming in who can handle Larkin’s duties. What Burnett would give Miami is a tough-minded wing who dreams about scoring and settling scores with teams that never recruited him out of high school.

9. Ohio State
Could Lose: Deshaun Thomas, F
Potential Replacement: Marc Loving, SF

These two guys are both scorers, but they could not be any more different in their style. Thomas uses power and his deft lefty touch; Loving is thinner and even more reliant on his perimeter game. Can Loving’s game and body work in the Big Ten? We’re about to find out. OSU needs buckets, and if Thomas goes pro they’ll need even more. This isn’t so much about replacing Thomas’ position, it’s more the “Moneyball” approach to filling in the numbers gap.

10. Oklahoma State
Could Lose: Marcus Smart, PG
Replacement: Not possible

We cheated on this one to make a point: In my opinion, no one in college basketball brings a more complete package to the table than Smart. Defensively, he’s dominant and neither Detrick Mostella nor Stevie Clark are. Offensively, he’s a bull who can take over a game as needed while maintaining a team-centric focus; neither of Oklahoma State’s two backcourt signees can do that. Individually, Clark can stroke 3s but OSU would be small if he and Phil Forte were on the floor together. That’s why Mostella (think Arkansas’ B.J. Young) might be the answer in terms of point production. The problem the Cowboys face is that there’s no one to run the show and keep everyone else happy.