Winners, losers from NBA Draft deadline
Wednesday was the deadline for college players who had entered the NBA Draft - without hiring agents - to withdraw and retain their college eligibility. In some cases, it would seem like a no-brainer decision to stay or withdraw from the draft, but you can never be sure what is on the mind of a college student.
National Basketball Analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans have identified four programs that escaped the potential disaster of unexpected departures and four that were hit the hardest by unexpected pro departures, given the state of their programs.
HIT THE HARDEST
The defending national champion will still be among the favorites in the Big East, and perhaps even nationally, if it can land Stanford transfer Reid Travis. But, there’s no question Jay Wright and the Wildcats were hit hardest by early entry.
They lost four integral pieces to a team that could have run it back again next year. Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson were all but gone, and Wright and his staff knew that. But the last-minute decisions of both Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman to remain in the NBA Draft is something for which they could not have been fully prepared.
A program that has become known for relying on upperclassmen play for heightened success, the Wildcats will now have to concoct a new formula to defend their title. Brandon Slater, Jahvon Quinerly and Cole Swider will be pressed into greater roles than previously thought, and the production of Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Albany transfer Joe Cremo will have to be precise for the roster losses to be erased.
2. WAKE FOREST
Losing Keyshawn Woods to the transfer market was one thing. But the questionable decisions of Doral Moore and Bryant Crawford - who are both projected to go undrafted by the NBA - was a cruel, but perhaps fitting, end to an 11-20 year.
Moore, one of the most efficient scorers in the game last season, and Crawford, the Deacons’ top scorer and playmaker, both decided that they would rather take their chances at the professional level than attempt to help reassert Wake Forest in the upper half of the ACC.
The Deacons do enroll a nationally ranked recruiting class that will be relied upon even more, as five-star forward Jaylen Hoard and four-star wing Isaiah Mucius will be given ample opportunity to contribute as freshmen. But when it comes to being hit hard by early pro departures, not many have been stung this spring more than Wake Forest.
3. TEXAS A&M
Thanks to a late rally, Billy Kennedy and the Aggies saved their season with an appearance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. After the season, it wasn’t a surprise to see sophomore forward Robert Williams hire an agent, considering he’s a potential lottery pick. Then, it wasn’t a surprise to see juniors Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder test the NBA waters. What did surprise, though, was Davis and Hogg both electing to remain in the draft pool, even though the odds that they get selected are dubious, at best. Having lost almost all of their size to graduation or the pros, the Aggies are going to have to scramble to find frontcourt help.
Given everything that happened at Louisville over the last year, it’s not a huge surprise there is big turnover as Chris Mack replaces Rick Pitino and the Cardinals try to put a few years of scandal behind them. However, it’s hard to believe that junior forward Deng Adel and big man Ray Spalding couldn’t have helped themselves - and their draft status - by coming back to play for Mack in his first year. But, they are out and Mack is left facing a pretty epic rebuild.
Tim Miles is entering his seventh year in Lincoln, with just one NCAA Tournament appearance next to his name. And after the Huskers had their bubble burst in March, the pressure to get Nebraska back to the big dance next season intensified.
It didn't look good when perhaps the Huskers' two most important players for next season, Isaac Copeland and James Palmer, entered the draft. But within a matter of 24 hours the glimmer of hope for future March glory was multiplied tenfold as each pulled their names out of the draft and decided to return to Lincoln.
Outside of the graduations of Anton Gill and Evan Taylor, two solid rotational pieces last year, everyone else of note returns. Nebraska finished a spot ahead of national title runner-up Michigan in the Big Ten standings last season. With a cupboard full of talent returning, a wide-open league and one of the best homecourt advantages in America, the Huskers have a great chance to return to the NCAA Tournament in what could be the most important year of the Miles era.
With a fan base that is demanding more success, much is on the line for Steve Alford as he looks forward to 2018-19 and hopes to guide the Bruins beyond the Sweet 16 for the first time during his tenure.
Those hopes would have been diminished greatly if Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and Cody Riley had decided to join star Aaron Holiday and kept their names in the NBA Draft. With the graduations of GG Goloman and Thomas Welsh, the Bruins could have been facing a major dilemma.
Fortunately for UCLA, the two former five-star prospects - Hands and Wilkes - are back, and Riley will be ready to go after serving a suspension in 2017-18. This all doesn’t guarantee success next season, but the Bruins' chances have improved greatly thanks to the return of Hands, Wilkes and Riley.
What a nine months it has been for Auburn. First, the Tigers got caught up in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, then assistant coach Chuck Person was fired, star big man Austin Wiley was suspended and they lost five-star recruit E.J. Montgomery.
Then they went out and tied for the SEC championship and made the NCAA Tournament. The offseason has already been filled with turbulence, thanks to some turnover on the coaching staff and transfers. So there had to have been some nervous people in Auburn when Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper all made themselves available for the draft. The recent decision of Mustapha Heron to transfer could still be a big blow, but the return of Wiley, Brown and Harper will help the Tigers avoid an implosion.
4. WEST VIRGINIA
Replacing a senior guard like Jevon Carter isn’t going to be easy. But, at least Bob Huggins can count on big man Sagaba Konate to provide the emotional fire the Mountaineers thrive off. Well, that was until Konate entered the draft and even scored an invite to the NBA Draft Combine. Forward Esa Ahmed also entered the draft, but there wasn’t as much concern that he would stay in until the deadline and he withdrew at the beginning of May. Konate, however, waited a bit longer and had a much tougher decision to make. But both of them are back, and West Virginia can rest easy that it didn’t lose an emotional leader or key scorer.