Early Entry Winners & LosersPosted by rtmsf on May 9th, 2011
Now that the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal has passed (Midnight ET on Sunday night), it’s time to take a look at who the winners and losers were from this year’s process. Of the nearly 70 players who declared as early entrants for this year’s NBA Draft, we count a dozen or so who will return and make their teams significantly better next year. The biggest impact will be felt at the following places…
- Kentucky. How do we figure that a team that ends up losing its best scorer and best perimeter defender is a winner? Because of who they didn’t lose. Terrence Jones will team with Kentucky’s fabulous duo of incoming forwards — Michael Gilchrist and Anthony Davis — to produce the most dynamic and talented front line college basketball has seen in some time. As good as Brandon Knight was in a Kentucky uniform, his loss to the draft also ensures that there’s no question as to who lead this team next year, as incoming superstar Marquis Teague will take over the reins from day one. The loss of DeAndre Liggins was surprising and will hurt, but on balance, the player UK most needed to return did.
- The Big East. With the notable exception of NPOY candidate and Final Four MOP Kemba Walker and the somewhat shocking departures of Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott and Louisville’s Terrence Jennings, the Big East avoided losing three of its better returning players for the 2011-12 season. Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones will all return to teams that could not afford to lose them; with so many talented seniors leaving the Big East, it was imperative for the league’s overall health that these talented upperclassmen come back.
- Missouri. A very early Christmas came for new Tigers head coach Frank Haith as two of his best returnees, Kim English and Laurence Bowers, made smart decisions to return to Columbia for their senior seasons. With leading scorer Marcus Denmon already back in the fold, Haith is walking into a situation where his top six players will be back next year. So long as he can enable his more methodical system with a group that loves to run and press, Mizzou fans should be excited for the possibility of something special in 2011-12.
- Xavier. It’s not often that an underclassman AP All-American will return to school, but this year there were three. Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor never so much as tested the waters, but XU’s Tu Holloway decided join them by withdrawing his name from the draft over the weekend. The Atlantic 10 POY was nothing short of outstanding last season, averaging 20/5/5 APG and leading Xavier back to the NCAA Tournament in what was supposed to be a transition year. He, along with Mark Lyons and Kenny Frease, will represent a core of Musketeers ready to make another deep run next year.
- Jim Larranaga. We have to believe that one reason former George Mason head coach Larranaga took the Miami (FL) job at this point in his career was because he knew he had a talented roster that had come together near the end of last season returning to Coral Gables. The cornerstone of the group, 6’10, 300-lb center Reggie Johnson, was the player that Larranaga needed to get back in order to build toward the NCAA Tournament as soon as next season — with Johnson’s decision to come back for his junior year, Larranaga has as much talent in his starting five as anybody not named Duke or Carolina in the ACC.
- Texas. Rick Barnes’ team was a “year away” last season, but with a trio of early entry losses in Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, it’s back to the drawing board in Austin next year. These losses were particularly stinging in that Thompson and Joseph said in March that they were returning to school, but unlike Jared Sullinger at Ohio State, their sentiments must have been lost in translation from Canadian English to the American version. With point guard Myck Kabongo set to arrive at Texas next season, the Longhorns were poised to be a top five team; without his talented targets to pass the ball to, however, UT will struggle to make it back to the NCAAs.
- Cu0nzo Martin. Facing a potential NCAA probation was already going to be tough enough for new Tennessee head coach Martin, but doing so without his two best returnees in Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson will certainly make things more interesting. Harris was not a huge surprise given that he is projected as a mid-late first rounder in most mock drafts, but Hopson’s inconsistency and unreliability should have led him to make the smart decision to return. Nevertheless, maybe what Martin needs in Knoxville is a completely new slate, and he’ll need with only one of the top six Vols coming back.
- Butler. The transition for Brad Stevens was already going to be tough with the losses of national runner-up starters Matt Howard and Shawn Vanzant, but the early entry departure of star Shelvin Mack ensures that Butler will necessarily drop back a couple of steps. Nothing would surprise us with the ability of Brad Stevens to get the most from his talent, but Mack’s decision means the most successful group in Bulldog history has now moved on. Next generation stars such as Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones have some gargantuan shoes to fill in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
- The Pac-10. For a league that had so much trouble putting a decent product on the floor last season, it’s a little surprising that so many of its players think they’re NBA-worthy. From the all-Pac-10 first team, there were nine underclassmen — only two, Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez and UCLA’s Reeves Nelson, will return. The other seven include the horrific weekend decision of Stanford’s Jeremy Green (who apparently couldn’t get his academic house in order) and previous questionable decisions from UCLA’s Malcolm Lee, USC’s Nikola Vucevic and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. If a conference can’t keep its marginal players, how can we expect it to ever keep its great ones?
- Maryland. If you buy into the broken camel’s back theory that suggests Gary Williams’ decision to retire was exacerbated by Jordan Williams’ surprising decision to leave College Park last week, then the Terps current trouble in finding a new head coach is partially to blame. They’ve already been turned down by A-listers Jamie Dixon, Jay Wright and Sean Miller, and the cachet of “the Maryland job” is dropping as each day passes. If the UM brass end up hiring some exceptional young coach who will capitalize on Maryland’s ample resources, we reserve the right to amend this placement.