Transfers and injuries are a fact of life in college basketball, and it’s perhaps no coincidence the newly crowned national champions from Villanova were relatively unaffected by both.
But across the field, many of the most talented players at this year’s NCAA Tournament sat on the bench and watched as their teams exited, whether it was in the first round or the Final Four.
Here’s a look at some of the players relegated to the sidelines who may be March Madness stars in 2019:
DEDRIC LAWSON, KANSAS
Consider this: The Jayhawks made it to the Final Four behind Big 12 Player of the Year and first-team All-American Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman caught fire in the postseason and Udoka Azubuike shot 77 percent from the field.
And still, the best Kansas player may have been on the scout team. Lawson averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks at Memphis before transferring to KU. He sat out this season along with his brother and fellow Memphis transfer K.J. and Cal transfer Charlie Moore. All three could be in the Jayhawks starting lineup next season, but Dedric is the one with potential to carry a team to a championship.
DE’ANDRE HUNTER, VIRGINIA
Hunter, the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year, sat helplessly and watched his Cavaliers become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16. Hunter, who broke his wrist in the ACC Tournament, was fantastic in league play and could be a popular preseason All-ACC pick.
With Hunter and redshirt Francesco Badocchi, Virginia’s front court will look a lot different than it did in the loss to UMBC and Virginia will have a player who can go to the rim and get buckets whenever Hunter is on the floor.
TEVIN MACK, ALABAMA
Surprisingly, Collin Sexton is considering coming back to Alabama for a sophomore season. If he does, he and Texas transfer Mack would become one of the country’s most dangerous 1-2 punches.
The 6-7 swingman averaged 15 points and five rebounds before leaving the Longhorns. Sexton was more or less a one-man band this season, but another legit scorer would make the Tide a potential Sweet 16 team or better.
DEAN WADE, KANSAS STATE
It sort of feels like most people don’t even realize the Wildcats’ run to the Elite Eight was done without Wade, their All-Big 12 stretch four, who was injured during the conference tournament. Wade averaged 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds this season, big leaps over his sophomore numbers.
If he and Barry Brown, who is testing the NBA Draft waters, both come back K-State should make it back to the NCAA Tournament, where we have seen the Wildcats have it in them to make a deep run.
C.J. BRYCE, N.C. STATE
Bryce helped Kevin Keatts win back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association titles at UNC Wilmington before the 6-5 guard followed his coach to Raleigh. Bryce, who averaged 17 points, five rebounds and three assists as a sophomore for UNCW, had to sit out 2017-18 while Keatts took the Wolfpack back to the NCAA Tournament, but he’ll be back on the floor next season.
He’ll see a step up in competition, but it’s worth nothing Bryce has averaged 14 points per game in his career against ACC teams.
JAZZ JOHNSON, NEVADA
If both Martin brothers come back to Reno, Eric Musselman could have the best team in Nevada history on his hands, in no small part because of the addition of Portland transfer Johnson.
Johnson, a lightning quick 5-10 scorer, would add a new dynamic to the Wolf Pack, a 40-percent 3-point shooter who can also drive and dish to the twins. Nevada has potential to be a serious Final Four threat if there are no major roster changes.
ZYLAN CHEATHAM, ARIZONA STATE
The Sun Devils squeaked into the NCAA Tournament after reaching a high peak in December and slowly sliding toward mediocrity the rest of the season. A big reason why might have been opponents figuring out how to attack Arizona State’s guard heavy lineup.
Cheatham, who sat out this season after averaging nearly 10 points a game at San Diego State, gives ASU a solid option in the post. The 6-8, 210-pound power forward won’t be a superstar in Tempe, but he fills a big need for a team that has potential to be so much better than it showed in February and March.
These programs are used to being in the NCAA Tournament, but missed the dance this season while some key additions sat out. Don’t be surprised if these guys get them back in 2019.
• VCU: Marcus Evans joins the Rams after averaging 20 points per game in two seasons at Rice.
• IOWA STATE: Marial Shayok averaged nine points per game at Virginia, but should be a perfect fit in the Cyclones system.
• OKLAHOMA STATE: Michael Weathers did a little bit of everything, including averaging 16 points per game at Miami, Ohio.
• SMU: The Mustangs add 6-8 sophomore Isaiha Mike from Duquesne, who could add enough pop in the front court to get SMU back in the postseason.