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April 26, 2009

Which team was hurt most by early departures?

Sunday was "Declaration Day" for underclassmen to decide if they were going to turn pro early. As you peruse the list, take a little quiz.

Instead of wondering how "Player A" and "Player B" fit in the NBA, ponder what might have been for the team they left behind.

We asked basketball writers Mike Huguenin and Jason King to pick the team they felt was hurt the most by early departures. Here are their answers.

MIKE HUGUENIN'S ANSWER: SYRACUSE

Syracuse made a nice NCAA tournament run this season, and the 2009-10 season was setting up to be a big one for Jim Boeheim and the Orange. Now, it's setting up as a long season instead. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris in the lineup, Syracuse looked to be perhaps the best team in the Big East and a lock to be in the preseason top five. With all three gone, the Orange will be happy to finish .500 in the Big East. Flynn's early departure is the easiest to understand; he's a top-flight point guard, and NBA teams like top-flight point guards. His decision to turn pro probably didn't surprise Syracuse coaches, but it did hurt. With Flynn at the controls, you could've been sure the Orange offense was going to run smoothly. Without him, there will be some problems. And the departures of Devendorf and Harris are puzzling, to say the least. Harris is an undersized forward who can't shoot, and Devendorf is an undersized (for the NBA, at least) shooting guard who can't do much more than score. Harris is a solid man-to-man defender (though he didn't get to show that trait much at Syracuse) and a tough rebounder, but he's also 6 feet 4, which means he's a man without a position in the NBA. Devendorf is no great shakes as a ballhandler and has some defensive skills, but he can't be a point guard because he's not quick enough and he will get eaten up on the perimeter when he tries to defend more athletic shooting guards. Syracuse looked to have all the pieces in place for a long run in the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Orange now look like a team that could make a long run in the NIT.

JASON KING'S ANSWER: ARIZONA

The gutting of Arizona's program won't create a situation as bad as the one Tom Crean inherited at {tm]Indiana[/tm] but it'll be close. With their top three players (Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Nic Wise) entering the NBA draft, no one would be surprised if the Wildcats finished last in the Pac-10. If that happens, it would hardly be a reflection on new coach Sean Miller, who takes over a program that has struggled on the recruiting trail in recent years because of the instability at the head-coaching position. Simply put, the Wildcats haven't signed anyone that will make the loss of Hill, Budinger and Wise easier to absorb. Zane Johnson, Kyle Fogg and Jamelle Horne return after earning quality minutes last season, but each averaged less than seven points. Hill, Budinger and Wise combined to average 52 of Arizona's 72.3 points per game this season. There's always the chance Wise could return, but Budinger and Hill are gone for sure.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.
Jason King is a college basketball writer for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



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