The deadline for early-entry prospects to withdraw from the NBA draft passed Wednesday at midnight.
Here’s a look at which programs were hardest hit by draft declarations and which will begin next season in better-than-expected shape:
1. Michigan State: Only a handful of times in Tom Izzo’s decorated career has he had a championship-caliber roster. Next season should be one of those years. The unexpected return of potential lottery pick Miles Bridges gives Michigan State a star around which to build. Bridges, who averaged 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds as a freshman, is an early candidate for preseason player of the year. Surrounding Bridges will be all but two rotation players from last year’s 20-win NCAA tournament team, a supporting cast highlighted by forward Nick Ward and point guard Cassius Winston. The Spartans will also add talented freshman power forward Jaren Jackson and veteran big men Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter, both of whom missed all of last season due to injury.
2. Arizona: Either of Arizona’s starting wings were likely to be selected this year had they entered the draft. Instead both Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are coming back to Tucson to try to improve their stock and chase Sean Miller’s first Final Four. Trier’s surprise return gives Arizona a star to build around. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists last season despite missing the first 19 games due to a PED-related suspension. Alkins is a powerfully built, ultra-athletic wing with the strength to finish through contact, the toughness to play through a fractured finger and the skill to knock down 37 percent of his threes. With him and Trier back, seniors Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright also returning and a top-five recruiting class set to arrive, Arizona is a leading contender to be next year’s preseason No. 1.
3. USC: With UCLA, Oregon and Cal each hemorrhaging talent, USC could be the program poised to take advantage. The Trojans may be the top challenger to Arizona in the Pac-12 next season after stretch forward Bennie Boatwright withdrew from the NBA draft and standout center Chimezie Metu opted not to even go through the early-entry process at all. Their return ensures USC will bring back virtually every key player from last year’s 26-win team that won two NCAA tournament games. The Trojans’ only departure is seldom-used forward Charles Buggs. In addition to returning its starting five intact, USC will also add former Duke point guard Derryck Thornton and top 50 incoming freshman Charles O’Bannon Jr. Andy Enfield’s biggest problem with a roster so deep may be managing playing time issues.
4. Texas A&M: Had Robert Williams entered the NBA draft after his impressive freshman season, he would have almost certainly been a top 20 pick with a chance to crack the lottery. The athletic, high-upside 6-foot-9 forward instead chose to come back to Texas A&M for his sophomore season, gambling that he can improve his stock next season if his skill set takes a leap forward. The return of Williams gives Texas A&M an excellent chance to bounce back from last year’s disappointing 16-15 season. The Aggies welcome back their top five scorers including standouts Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder. If J.J. Caldwell or graduate transfer Duane Wilson can solidify the point guard position and allow Gilder to move off ball, Texas A&M should be a top 25 team next season.
5. Villanova: Even though All-American Josh Hart, title game hero Kris Jenkins and key role player Darryl Reynolds are all graduating this spring, Villanova has a good chance to extend its run of Big East dominance next season. The Wildcats bring back a strong nucleus highlighted by unanimous first-team all-Big East selection Jalen Brunson and wing Mikal Bridges, both of whom decided to stay in school without even testing the NBA draft process. Brunson averaged 14.7 points and 4.1 assists last season and should be a preseason All-American candidate next fall. He’ll be surrounded by an excellent supporting cast that includes Bridges and fellow wing Donte DiVincenzo, versatile forward Eric Paschall, promising big man Omari Spellman and presumably healthy guard Phil Booth.
6. Kansas: Kansas lost national player of the year Frank Mason, elite freshman Josh Jackson and top big man Landen Lucas, but the Jayhawks have to feel fortunate more players aren’t leaving. Standout guard Devonte Graham didn’t even test the NBA draft process even though he might have been selected in the late-first or early-second round and key reserve Svi Mykhailiuk withdrew from the draft hours before Wednesday night’s deadline. Those two will be part of a strong nucleus that includes heralded Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, returning big man Udoka Azubuike and top freshman Billy Preston. Throw in a solid bench, and Kansas is once again a clear favorite to capture the Big 12 title for the 14th year in a row.
Other winners: Texas (Andrew Jones withdrew from the draft); Xavier (Trevon Bluiett withdrew from the draft); Maryland (Justin Jackson withdrew from the draft); Miami (Bruce Brown returned to school); Notre Dame (Bonzie Colson returned to school); Georgia (Yante Maten withdrew from the draft); UCF (Tacko Fall withdrew from the draft); West Virginia (Jevon Carter withdrew from the draft).
1. Oregon: The price of reaching the Final Four for the first time in 78 years turned out to be high for the Ducks. They’re losing the three pillars of that team as Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell have all entered the NBA draft even though none are certain to go in the first round. Throw in the graduation of Dylan Ennis and Chris Boucher and the transfer of point guard Casey Benson, and Oregon will be without six of last year’s top seven scorers next season. Oregon coach Dana Altman has pledged not to lower expectations, but whether that’s possible will depend on the newcomers he lands. Altman has added New Mexico graduate transfer Elijah Brown and he is still hoping to add heralded wing Brian Bowen to a strong recruiting class that already includes high-scoring wing Troy Brown.
2. Kentucky: John Calipari’s remarkable ability to reload on the fly will be tested like it seldom has before next season. Kentucky is losing eight of its top nine scorers with Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries all declaring for the draft and Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder graduating. Freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel, who averaged a modest 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds last season, is the only rotation player returning. The silver lining for Kentucky is that its star-studded freshman class remains intact. Hamidou Diallo, a five-star guard who enrolled at Kentucky in January, announced minutes before Wednesday’s midnight deadline that he is withdrawing from the draft and returning to the Wildcats.
3. Purdue: While the return of Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards ensures that Purdue remains nationally relevant, the departure of first-team All-American Caleb Swanigan derails the Boilermakers’ hopes of a truly special season. Swanigan waited until just hours before Wednesday’s midnight deadline before announcing his intent to stay in this year’s NBA draft. Swanigan blossomed into the most productive big man in the country last year, averaging 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds while showcasing a much improved perimeter game. He’d have been the national player of the year favorite had he returned to school. Without him, Purdue goes from a Final Four contender to a fringe top 25 team.
4. BYU: The lone silver lining to BYU’s disappointing 2016-17 season was supposed to be that much of the rotation would return intact. The Cougars instead will have to try to gain ground on Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s without their best player. Eric Mika, an all-conference big man who averaged 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds last season, chose to stay in the NBA draft even though he’s unlikely to be taken before the second round if he’s selected at all. Now 22 years old and married, Mika was simply ready to pursue professional basketball. For BYU, replacing Mika’s interior production will be difficult. The Cougars will have to hope that a backcourt highlighted by the remaining members of the famed Lone Peak Three can help next year’s team break a two-year NCAA tournament drought.
5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ chances of building off the momentum of their unlikely Final Four run took a hit last month when sophomore P.J. Dozier entered the NBA draft and hired an agent. Dozier would have been the centerpiece of next year’s team after averaging 13.9 points and 2.8 assists, but he opted to leave school despite a real possibility that he could go unselected in this June’s draft. The departure of Dozier, coupled with the graduation of star Sindarius Thornwell and key role players Duane Notice and Justin McKie, leaves South Carolina’s backcourt in tatters. The trio of returning combo guard Rakym Felder, transfer Kory Holden and incoming freshman David Beatty will be responsible for making up for much of what the Gamecocks lost.
6. Indiana: Archie Miller did an impeccable job of gaining the trust of Tom Crean’s final recruiting class, but he was not as successful retaining the early-entry candidates from last year’s team. Three of the four chose to remain in the draft even though only OG Anunoby is likely to be taken in the first round. Softening the blow from the departure of Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon was Robert Johnson’s decision to withdraw from the draft. The 6-foot-3 combo guard has long been one of the Hoosiers’ most reliable perimeter defenders and blossomed offensively last season in the wake of Yogi Ferrell’s departure. Johnson is likely to start alongside incumbent point guard Josh Newkirk in the backcourt with Collin Hartman, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis anchoring the Hoosiers’ frontcourt. That nucleus won’t contend for the Big Ten title or anything, but it should at least keep Indiana from falling too far.
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