NBA draft declaration deadline winners and losers
In what proved to be an intriguing and ultimately happy NBA draft decision season for many college programs, there are some definitive winners and losers. Now that the final underclassman list has been compiled after Sunday’s declaration deadline, let’s delve into who will gain and who will feel unexpected pain in the 2013-14 season.
Louisville: With Russ Smith electing to return for his senior season, the Cardinals are absurdly loaded in the backcourt for next season. With incoming guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier to go with Smith, Luke Hancock and a healthy Kevin Ware, repeat national title talk is not at all premature. The Cards will miss Gorgui Dieng’s rim protection, but more minutes for Montrezl Harrell won’t be a bad thing at all.
Creighton: The Bluejays got star Doug McDermott back for his final season as they enter the new Big East, and there’s a chance they could get point guard Grant Gibbs back, as well. McDermott probably will be the preseason POY in the Big East and the Bluejays will compete for the league title.
North Carolina: Two out of three isn’t bad, and the Tar Heels should be ready to roll this season with P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo both returning (with Reggie Bullock departing for the pros). If the Heels can sort through their frontcourt options and come up with one or two consistent contributors, they should be very competitive in a very tough expanded ACC.
Michigan: Getting Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson for (at least) one more season is a huge boon to Michigan’s staying power after losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the pros. The Wolverines will be in another tussle with in-state rival Michigan State next season, and they’ll be looking down at a lot of the rest of the Big Ten.
Michigan State: The decision of Adreian Payne to skip the draft and return is the final piece in what should be a Final Four-quality returning Spartans roster. Combine that with holding on to Gary Harris and it should be a fun five months in East Lansing next season. The Spartans look to be the clear Big Ten favorite.
Oklahoma State: The beneficiary of the biggest shock decision — Marcus Smart’s election to return to Stillwater — the Cowboys will be considered by many to be the on-paper favorite in the Big 12 next season. You still have to play and win the games, but the Pokes won a lot in the league this season, and the two other co-champs are losing a ton of starters. You can also add former Miami guard Shane Larkin to this winner category, thanks in part to Smart’s decision.
Baylor: The Bears managed to hold on to both Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, perhaps in part due to a shoulder injury Austin suffered. That’s a big win for Scott Drew, who will have a seasoned and productive frontcourt to help ease the transition to Pierre Jackson’s replacement at the point.
Connecticut: Getting Shabazz Napier to stay for his senior season gives the Huskies a very potent backcourt for next season. They’ll be back on the national map after a one-year APR-related postseason ban and should be one of the best teams (after Louisville) in the newly-created American Athletic next season.
Florida: The Gators held onto Patric Young and should have one of the best frontcourts in the nation next season. If they land Rutgers transfer Eli Carter (and he’s given a waiver to play next season), all the better for the Gainesville gang.
Miami: The Hurricanes already were losing a ton of talent from last season’s ACC regular-season champs, but the rebuild will be in full force now that Shane Larkin is departing for the NBA, too.
New Mexico: Tony Snell wasn’t the most consistent wing, but he was the most explosive perimeter scorer the Lobos had. They certainly will be good without Snell next season as everyone else is back and reinforcements have arrived to improve the team’s depth, but a limited offensive team just got a bit more limited, which narrows margin of error even more than it was last season.
Marquette: The unexpected loss of Vander Blue to the NBA draft puts a dent in the Golden Eagles’ planning. He was their primary source of perimeter offense last season for a good-but-not-great attack. They also lost rotation guy Juan Anderson to a transfer.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks were jarred by the losses of Marshawn Powell and B.J. Young, even though neither are expected to be anywhere close to first-round picks in the draft. The Hogs could have been a second-level contender in the SEC next season. Now, it’s all up in the air.
Indiana: Not that it was unexpected, but losing Cody Zeller along with Victor Oladipo makes next season one of reloading in Bloomington rather than competing again for top-of-the-conference honors.
Gonzaga: Also not a surprise decision, but the Zags will take a hit with the departure of Kelly Olynyk in addition to losing senior Elias Harris. If Gonzaga can land UNLV transfer Mike Moser, that would help re-solidify a frontcourt that still has some talent in it, but won’t be delivering (at least early on) to the level the Olynyk-Harris tandem did this season.
Colorado: The Buffaloes lost rebounding force Andre Roberson at the last minute. They have a ready frontcourt replacement in rising sophomore Xavier Johnson, but losing Roberson definitely is a dent in what looked like a Top 25 team for the preseason that was returning all of its top talent.