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June 18, 2009
Early draft departures: Winners and losers
The deadline for underclassmen to pull out of the draft has passed, so it's now time to look at schools that are celebrating their good fortune or bemoaning their bad luck.
We picked 11 in each category.
Actually, this is broken up into three categories, because there's one school that's probably doing a little of both.
California: The Golden Bears didn't have anyone declare for the draft. Guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle are staying in school, which is great news for Cal coach Mike Montgomery. Equally as great for Cal was that UCLA point guard Jrue Holiday is going pro and that USC lost seemingly every talented player on its team. That means Cal, in Montgomery's second season, will be favored to win the Pac-10.
Georgetown: The Hoyas had one guy declare for the draft – forward DuJuan Summers is turning pro – but the return of center Greg Monroe is far more important. Summers' production never matched his potential, and with him out of the way, Monroe – who often sublimated his game to older teammates last season – can be expected to be far more forceful next season. The Hoyas underachieved this past season. With Monroe back and Summers gone, that won't happen again.
Georgia Tech: Forward Gani Lawal didn't decide to stay in school until this past weekend, and his return means Tech should contend for the ACC title. Yep, a team that finished last in the league this past season has a shot at the conference title next season. Lawal and five-star freshman Derrick Favors should give Tech a big-time frontcourt, and there are some other freshmen who should, at the least, be role players in their first seasons. That puts the onus on point guard Iman Shumpert to improve and be the team leader.
Maryland: Guard Greivis Vasquez took his decision down to the wire, and his choice means the Terps will return their top four scorers and every key player except one. Maryland has scuffled some of late, but Vasquez's return means the Terps again should be a player in the ACC race.
Mississippi State: Center Jarvis Varnado decided to stay in school and work on his offense, and that's excellent news for the Bulldogs, who will be the favorite in the SEC West. If five-star freshman Renardo Sidney – whose planned enrollment at USC was nixed by that school – can enroll at Mississippi State, he and Varnado will be quite the frontcourt duo.
Notre Dame: Forward Luke Harangody is another who took his decision down to the wire, and his return means coach Mike Brey again will have one of the Big East's best players. The Irish underachieved this past season and finished up in the NIT. Harangody's return means the Irish have NCAA hopes next season; had he left, they would've been hard-pressed to make the NIT again.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks were one of the SEC's biggest surprises this past season, but they still didn't make the NCAA tourney. The league looks to have gotten much stronger in the offseason, and the decisions by guard Devan Downey and forward Dominique Archie to remain in school keep the Gamecocks in the hunt in the SEC East. Had Downey stayed in the draft, South Carolina would've had no shot at an NCAA bid.
Tennessee: Forward Tyler Smith didn't decide to stay in school until last week, and his return – much like Downey's at South Carolina – was great news for his coaching staff. With Smith, the Vols will be in the NCAA mix and at least in the hunt for the SEC East title. Without him, the Vols would've struggled to make the NCAA field.
Texas: Forward Damion James surprised a lot of folks by coming back, but his return should give the Longhorns one of the best frontcourts in the nation. He, Dexter Pittman, Gary Johnson and incoming freshmen Jordan Hamilton and Shawn Williams should make for an explosive group of big men. James and Pittman also will be expected to provide senior leadership.
Texas A&M: The returns of guard Donald Sloan and forward Bryan Davis are more important than the surprising departure of Chinemelu Elonu. While Elonu was a big body who was a good rebounder and shot blocker, he had limited offensive skills and had 10 assists and 62 turnovers (you read that right). A&M has three freshman forwards in its recruiting class, and it's a good bet that trio plus some holdover big men can make up for Elonu's points and rebounds totals. Davis and Sloan should be one of the best inside-outside duos in the Big 12 next season.
Villanova: Guard Scottie Reynolds wasn't seen as a first-round pick by most observers, so he decided to stay in school, which is great news for 'Nova. The Wildcats were a Final Four team this past season and easily could get there again. There is a great recruiting class coming in, and Reynolds' return means Villanova will have the best backcourt in the nation next season.
GOOD AND BAD
Kentucky: Guard Jodie Meeks' decision to remain in the draft was somewhat of a surprise, considering he's not a lock for the first round. The flipside is that forward Patrick Patterson decided to remain in school. Meeks' departure means UK has no proven backcourt scorers. The assumption is incoming freshman guards John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Jon Hood will provide a lot of points, and that's probably a safe assumption. Still, a backcourt of Meeks and Wall, along with a frontcourt that features Patterson and five-star freshman DeMarcus Cousins, would have made for a powerful offense.
Arizona: Guard Nic Wise decided to stay in school, but the departures of forward Chase Budinger and center Jordan Hill far outweigh Wise coming back. New coach Sean Miller better hope a solid freshman class can produce immediately on both ends of the court.
Arizona State: Guard James Harden's departure certainly wasn't a surprise, but it hurts the program. His decision, coupled with the loss of senior Jeff Pendergraph, likely sends the Sun Devils into the bottom half of the Pac-10 next season.
Davidson: Guard Stephen Curry surprised no one by leaving early. But no program is as affected by one player's decision as Davidson. The Wildcats didn't make the NCAA tourney this past season with Curry. Curry's departure means they went from being everybody's favorite mid-major to a team that is going to be in a tussle to win the Southern Conference.
Gonzaga: Forward Austin Daye's late decision to remain in the draft probably surprised some, considering Daye's lack of bulk and his – ahem – aversion to contact. His departure means Gonzaga loses three starters off a Sweet 16 team. While the Zags have owned the West Coast Conference of late and will be the favorite again next season, it's hard to see them making any noise in the NCAA tourney.
Memphis: No one was surprised Tyreke Evans declared. But forward Shawn Taggart's decision to stay in the draft was surprising. He's no first-round lock – and some mock drafts have him going undrafted. Taggart likely would have been the frontcourt centerpiece for new coach Josh Pastner, who now needs junior college transfer Will Coleman to produce in the paint.
Saint Mary's: Had guard Patrick Mills stayed in school, a case could've been made that Saint Mary's – and not Gonzaga – would've been the favorite in the West Coast Conference. Alas, he's gone, and the Gaels will fall back in the WCC pack.
Syracuse: After a great postseason run this past season, the Orange appeared primed to be a national-title contender next season. Instead, the departures of guard Eric Devendorf, guard Jonny Flynn and forward Paul Harris mean they almost certainly will be a middle-of-the-pack Big East team. Flynn's decision hurts the most; he would've been one of the nation's top point guards. Coach Jim Boeheim didn't seem nearly as bothered by the departures of Devendorf and Harris, but both were starters and provided offense (Devendorf) and toughness and rebounding (Harris).
UCLA: The Bruins lost three key seniors, plus freshman guard Jrue Holiday decided to turn pro. That means UCLA has no one of note returning to the roster. The Bruins still will be a solid, well-coached team, but there's no way they win the Pac-10. Now, just getting into the NCAA field will be a big deal. Holiday would've been the Bruins' star, but he is seen as a lottery pick by most.
USC: Talk about nightmare offseasons. DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson left early for the NBA; DeRozan's decision was somewhat expected, but that's not the case with the other two. Then, coach Tim Floyd resigned and the recruiting class fell apart. The upshot? A team that could've opened the season in the preseason top five now will be picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac-10.
Wake Forest: Forward Al-Farouq Aminu stayed in school, but guard Jeff Teague and forward James Johnson left. Johnson made his decision known early but Teague didn't finalize his decision until late, which meant Wake fans held out hope that he would return – and that Wake would be in the preseason top 20. Teague's departure hurts more than Johnson's, but both leaving means Wake will have to scramble to finish in the top half of the ACC standings.
Xavier: Forward Derrick Brown's decision to stay in the draft hurts the Musketeers, who now will be without their three double-digit scorers from this past season. New coach Chris Mack still has some talent to work with, but Brown's decision means Dayton – not Xavier – will go into the season as the favorite in the Atlantic 10.