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Can Bryan Griffin make the transition to DI?

Not every player is Zach Hankins, not every player should be expected to be.

2019 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship
Things look a little different in DII
Photo by A.J. Mast/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows. We know and you know the caveats that Covid brings, so this will be the only mention of it.

Imagine being the second DII player to land at a storied DI program. Imagine if you are that second player and the first was beloved not just for his unique hair choices and mid 90s celebrations, but also because he could absolutely ball. Not only that, he played the same position you do, was wildly charismatic, and became one of those rare players that embedded himself in the consciousness of a fan base in just one year. Those are the Zach Hankins sized shoes that Bryan Griffin must fill.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
I know this isn’t helping.
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Let’s get one thing clear at this point. Bryan Griffin is not Zach Hankins. For starters, Griffin is three inches shorter and much more stoutly built. Also unlike Hankins, Griffin was not a highly sought after recruit coming out of high school. Hankins was hampered by injury and had to fight his way back to the DI level. Griffin is more of a story of someone rising up through the levels, improving steadily as he went. Hankins was a banger, Griffin is tough inside but can step out. Hankins rebounded well, Griffin eats glass.

In an interview with the Mercy College Impact before the 2019 season Griffin said, “I always said in high school I can play Divison I, but then when you play an ACC team and you know that’s not the case. It’s only for the best of the best... It set a bar for me though, like I’m here and I want to get to their level.” Those quotes came in regard to playing Notre Dame. Griffin now finds himself playing for a team that is better than Notre Dame has been recently. In order to succeed he will need to jump from a 5-21 DII program to the Big East. For that team Griffin was the unquestioned star, averaging 19.6/14.5/0.8 on .518/.294/.608 shooting. Still, it seems unlikely that any opponent Xavier faces this year will be as obliging as Nyack was in allowing in allowing Griffin to grab 26 rebounds.

26 boards is 26, though. There is no question that Griffin can get on the glass. After not being highly recruited he transformed his body, dropping almost 60 pounds in his first couple of years of college. After doing that, Griffin became almost insatiable in his pursuit of rebounds. Last season, Griffin averaged nearly four offensive rebounds per game to go with just over 10 on the other end. Xavier essentially lost their defensive rebounding from last season. Griffin could well replace that.

There is no way to tell if a player can make the jump from a national championship DII team, let alone a 5-21 one, to the Big East. There are no projections to look at that have a long history with this kind of player. (Bart Torvik’s projections have Griffin at 7.4/5.1/1.2). There is just no way of telling. Griffin has the body for it, he’s worked extremely hard to get himself here, and perhaps most importantly, he’s playing for a coach that has already turned one DII player into a bonafide Big East threat. Griffin will now be playing with the best of the best. He set the bar himself, it’s time to see if he can clear it.