Mac Engel: With Mike Miles expected to turn pro, TCU turns attention to retaining its current roster

Tribune Content Agency

About three seconds after TCU’s season ended on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament the immediate focus turned to arguably the most talented player in program history.

Mike Miles, whatcha thinkin’?

Pro, or run it back.

The same can be asked to the rest of the roster; everybody on the team can potentially return for another run.

A good, not great, TCU season ended on Sunday in the round of 32 for the second consecutive year, which starts off the other March Madness: College basketball offseason.

The NCAA’s transfer portal is wide open, and the deadline for players to declare their eligibility for the 2023 NBA Draft is 11:59 p.m., April 23.

Barring something drastic, Miles will not return for his senior season. He’s expected to turn professional, and remain that way.

Days after TCU was eliminated in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, in the round of 32 by Arizona, Miles announced his intentions to turn pro while retaining his college eligibility. Less than two weeks later he announced he would return to TCU.

Don’t expect a repeat.

He was the preseason Big 12 player of the year, but he suffered a hyper extended knee on Jan. 28 at Mississippi State. That injury effectively ended his shot at that award.

Miles missed the next five games, and it took him a few games before he regained the form he established pre-knee injury.

In TCU’s two NCAA tourney games, Miles averaged 25 points and displayed NBA ability. He was either the best, or second-best, player on the floor in TCU’s tourney games against Arizona State and Gonzaga.

In TCU’s season-ending loss against Gonzaga on Sunday night in Denver, he scored 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting with four assists and one turnover in 39 minutes.

He is not on most NBA mock draft boards right now; the fear with Miles is height. He’s listed as 6-foot-2, but there may be some fuzzy math on that figure.

His performance against top teams late in the season showed now is as good as time as any to give the pros a shot. Mock drafts will change dramatically in the next few months.

The rest of TCU’s roster can return, which doesn’t mean it will remain intact.

The primary focus will be on Chuck O’ Bannon, Emanuel Miller and Damion Baugh. All three are listed as seniors.

They will need to decide if they want to remain in college for one more year.

“The reality is they could make over $100,000 playing overseas, most likely,” TCU director of athletics Jeremiah Donati said Monday morning in a phone interview. “They will just need to make a decision if they want to pack their bags, leave their families, and be done with college.

“Or, do you stay here, we pay every bill and we have NIL (money) to offer? For the guys who aren’t a sure thing for the NBA, the answer is we have something to offer them now. There are NIL dollars that make college a better option than turning pro.

“These days, with NIL, there is something that schools, through collectives and donors, can offer that is a better option than declaring for the pros. The odds of you wearing an NBA jersey for a game are about as good as you or I breaking 80 on a golf course this week.”

(For the record, I shot 81 last week … before the turn.)

If Miles returned, TCU would be a preseason favorite to contend for its first Big 12 title.

But since Miles is not be expected to return, the focus is on the remaining roster of what could potentially be another good team.

Even if Miller, Baugh and O’Bannon return, TCU head coach Jamie Dixon will still need to find replacements for his center and starting point guard, who also happened to be his team’s top scorer.

Gonzaga exposed TCU’s lack of height at the center position as forward Drew Timme had little problem scoring a 28 points in the win.

Finding immediate replacements for center Eddie Lampkin, who quit the night before the start of the Big 12 tournament, and Miles will most likely come through the transfer portal.

Unlike for so many years, TCU now has something to offer and will be attractive for quality high schoolers, and college transfers.

The first priority is convincing members of the current roster to stick around for one more year.