Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore (Purdue)- This is pretty huge. If both Johnson and Moore return for another season with Robbie Hummel and a healthy Lewis Jackson, Purdue is a preseason top-five team and the debate can ensue whether the Spartans or Boilermakers are better equipped to take the title for the third straight summer. If both bolt for the show, Purdue drops well behind Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big 10 power rankings. Johnson’s stock shot up during the NCAA Tournament where the lanky forward scored 23 points against both Siena and Duke, finally harnessing some consistency in the absence of Hummel. Moore is an undersized combo guard with a pure stroke that defends well on the perimeter. Both are likely second round selections, so why not come back to school, vault the draft stock even higher and fight for a national title?

Samardo Samuels (Louisville)- The Louisville brass were stunned when Samuels entered his name into the draft fray, assuming the burly sophomore was set on returning to help open the Cardinals’ fancy new arena next season. While it’s extremely likely Samuels will be back for a junior season under Rick Pitino, the chance is always there he’ll make an ill-informed decision and opt for the NBA. Without Samuels, Louisville will have almost no offensive presence in the post. In fact, they have the makings of a team that’s far from a lock to make the NCAA Tournament having to rely on Preston Knowles, Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric to make perimeter jumpers. Incoming athletic swingman Justin Coleman, the continued development of Jared Swopshire and the shot-blocking ability of Terrence Jennings certainly help, as well. With Samuels, this team could compete at the top of the Big East. Without him, 2010-11 is going to be very similar to 2009-10 for Rick Pitino. He makes that much of a difference.

Ekpe Udoh (Baylor)-  The former Michigan transfer blossomed in his first year in Waco, impressing NBA scouts with an array of earth-shattering dunks and high-flying blocks. Many project Udoh to be picked somewhere near the end of the lottery, meaning it’s very likely his one year under Scott Drew will be his only year under Scott Drew. His tremendous rebounding ability and 7’4 wingspan will make it awfully difficult for his stock to drop from now until the decision deadline. Assuming he signs with an agent, Baylor should still compete next season with LaceDarius Dunn returning as the best pure scorer in the Big 12 and, Drew’s most notable recruit center Perry Jones, joining Dunn. The loss of point guard and top distributor Tweety Carter will sting, though. If Udoh shocks the world and returns, Baylor and Kansas State is all of a sudden a neck-and-neck race for preseason Big 12 favorite.

Jordan Crawford (Xavier)- There have been some conflicting reports regarding Crawford, but most believe he’s destined to stay in the draft in hopes of getting nabbed in the first round. The double-OT loss to Kansas State in the Sweet 16 may have been a double whammy for Xavier- they ended up losing the game AND Crawford’s stock shot up dramatically following his heroic performance in that game. The former Indiana transfer is an outstanding shooter with NBA range and is a tremendous playmaker with the basketball, but discipline, decision making and spurts of selfishness could cause NBA GM’s to have second thoughts about drafting Crawford. If he returns to Cincinnati, coach Chris Mack is looking at another tight race between Xavier, Temple and possibly Richmond at the top of the A-10. Only Jason Love departs from last year’s squad that will be led by Terrell Holloway, Kenny Frease, Dante Jackson, Mark Lyons and another stellar incoming class.

Devin Ebanks (West Virginia)- I may be biased as a college basketball fan first and foremost, but to me Ebanks seems like the prototype for a player that should return to school for another season: projected late first round/early second round, high ceiling and potential, has a chance to be the focus of a high profile team next year. There’s still a lot to smooth over in his game: extend his shooting range, increase his aggressiveness on the offensive end and show some ability to beat defenders off the dribble. Scouts love his wingspan, athleticism and rebounding prowess, though, and by all accounts it stands at about 75/25 that he remains in the draft. Ebanks has the opportunity to form quite a ferocious frontcourt with Kevin Jones, John Flowers and Deniz Kilicli next season in Morgantown. Should he bolt, the Mountaineers will be in transition with Ebanks and superstar/clutch performer Da’Sean Butler both gone.

Jimmer Fredette (BYU)- My favorite player in college basketball last season may have thrown his name into the early entry list, but I’d be shocked if he’s not back for his senior season in Provo. Fredette’s numbers speak for themselves: 22.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, 46% FG, 89% FT, 44% 3pt in a competitive Mountain West, along with a sterling performance in BYU’s first round win over Florida. Cougars coach Dave Rose will need Fredette back if he wants to compete in what should be an even more improved conference in 2010-11 as San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico (if Hobson returns) return nearly every key cog. Everyone knows the BYU offense revolves around Fredette’s magic.

Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech)- Like Fredette, I expect Delaney returns for his senior season in Blacksburg. There’s a golden opportunity to finish second in the ACC and avenge last year’s NCAA Tournament snub with Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson also back. Maryland loses Greivis Vasquez, North Carolina is still building their way back to glory, Wake Forest lost Al-Farouq Aminu and Ish Smith and Clemson will be getting acquainted with their new coach. The chance is there for Delaney to return and vault up a mediocre middle of the ACC next winter. He’s an outstanding scorer that can spring for 30+ on any night. Should he return, Delaney will battle Duke’s Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith for ACC Player of the Year.

Darington Hobson (New Mexico)- Much like Seth Greenberg is on edge regarding Delaney’s decision, New Mexico headman Steve Alford is nervous about Hobson’s choice. I suspect Hobson is back in a Lobo uniform to team with Dairese Gary next season, but there’s plenty to like about the lanky junior college transfer for NBA scouts. Hobson was one of the best all-around players in college basketball last season, averaging 16/9/5 and shooting 36% from three. Hobson is very long and has tremendous court vision and penetrating ability for a forward. The problem lie in the fact he was a 22-year old junior that is effective only with the ball in his hands. Should he return, the ball will be in Hobson’s hands plenty for Alford. With Roman Martinez the only senior on last year’s conference champions, Hobson’s return vaults the Lobos to top-15 status in the preseason.

Talor Battle (Penn State)- Battle entering his name in the draft could have more to do with his frustration playing for Penn State than anything. His lack of quickness, inconsistent shooting and undersized stature limits Battle from being more than a late second round pick. If he keeps his name in the pool, Battle risks going completely undrafted. He has a chance to return to school and lead the Big 10 in scoring next season, and all signs point to him opting for that route. With the Nittany Lions next top scorers David Jackson and Chris Babb returning, Penn State may be able to make some noise in what appears to be a loaded Big Ten.

Jeremy Hazell, Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson (Seton Hall)- Out of the three, only Pope has a real chance of being drafted in the second round, and that was put in jeopardy following his shocking collapse earlier this week. Whether new head coach Kevin Willard is trying to coax these three into returning for another season or if he’s just trying to return the page from the tumultuous Bobby Gonzalez era is anybody’s guess. There’s tons of talent here and the Hall could be competitive for a NCAA bid if they all return, but there’s definitely questions about their personalities, motivation and dedication to the program.

Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson (Mississippi State)- This is puzzling. Mississippi State could enter 2010-11 as the favorites in the SEC West with Bost and Johnson back, Renardo Sidney finally cleared to play and Rick Stansbury back in Starkville after spurning Clemson. The only Bulldog that’s going to be drafted this year is Jarvis Varnado. Bost is a slashing point guard with NBA shooting range while Johnson is a talented swingman that can score inside and outside. Look for both to gather their senses and return to make up for last year’s disappointing finish.

Other undecideds of great importance: Kevin Anderson (Richmond), Lavoy Allen (Temple), Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey (Illinois), Paul George (Fresno State), Elijah Millsap (UAB), Arnett Moultrie (UTEP), Tracy Smith (NC State), Alex Tyus (Florida), Terrico White (Mississippi).

zhayes9 (301 Posts)

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5 responses to “Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape”

  1. Corey says:

    Great and original analysis, as always. I am wondering if you guys have any plans to do a piece on the draft stock of departing seniors (such as DaSean Butler or Vasquez). It is always sad to me that every publication gives all the attention to the early entrants, and there is almost no love for graduating seniors. While it is acknowledged that if someone is a senior at a big program, there has been some concern about their NBA potential. Still, though, it might be cool to see some love given to guys who are being looked at as draft picks who stayed in school and got a degree in the process. Just a thought.

  2. jstevrtc says:

    Hey, Corey. Thanks for the kind words and for checking in. RTMSF can correct me on this if I’m wrong, but I’m almost 100% positive we’ve got a lot of stuff coming up about the draft stocks of departing seniors (and probably more on everyone else) as the draft draws nearer. It’s on the way, my friend.

    John Stevens

  3. Brian says:

    Nice job Zach. Just one mistake: I bet you probably wrote the article before Leslie decided but you do have him mentioned with the Kentucky players.

    I totally agree on Hayward, he’s the toughest call. I personally hope he stays but it may be a good choice for his career to go pro. Get in the NBA before the potential lockout when his stock is sky high.

    A lot of these players can really improve their stock next season if they stay. I think only Hayward and Crawford have solid cases to stay in the draft as opposed to returning.

    I would be surprised if Herb Pope plays basketball again from the rumors I’ve heard.

  4. Zach says:

    Ahhh, thanks Brian, good call on Leslie. I’ll correct that, thanks. I guess all those months just assuming he’d be a Wildcat caused that to creep into my mind.

  5. Greg says:

    Is Babb returning for Penn State? Last I heard he was transferring. Not a big deal though, this team is in trouble either way.

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