Big East Basketball Tournament - Syracuse v UCONN

Early Entry: Who made the right decision?


Read through the rest of our Early Entry breakdowns here.

Trey Burke, Michigan: Once Michigan was knocked out of the NCAA tournament, rumors started flying that Burke would be putting his name into the NBA Draft. The combination of a great freshman campaign and a relatively weak point guard class could have been enough to push the Columbus, OH, native into the first round. Burke, eventually, made the decision to comeback, which will probably be for the best. He has a chance to be an all-american and make a Final Four. That’s a lot to give up with a chance of falling into the second round.

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: Canaan had an all-american campaign for the Racers as a junior, but the sharp-shooter made the correct decision to return to school for his senior season. He’s 6-foot-1 on a good day and a scoring guard through and through.

Andre Drummond, UConn: A lot of people are going to question Drummond’s decision to enter the draft after a freshman season that was equal parts tantalizing and disappointing. Drummond has all the talent in the world and enough potential to legitimately end up being an All-Star at the next level, but nothing he did at the collegiate level would lead you to believe that he will fulfill that potential. So why is it a good decision to leave? A) He can develop his skills in the NBA just as well as he could in college. B) He’s projected as a top three pick. He’s not making himself more money by returning to school. C) The only thing another year in college could do is hurt his stock, and he would be taking that risk without the potential to play in the tournament. This was a no-brainer.

John Henson, North Carolina: Henson has his flaws as a prospect — he’s too slender, he needs to add bulk and he needs to refine his post game — but his strengths are as evident as any prospect in this draft — he’s a terrific defender and rebounder with a better-than-you-think mid-range jump shot and baby hook. I just don’t see what he can gain by returning to North Carolina to be a defensive sidekick, once again, to sophomore James Michael McAdoo.

Damian Lillard, Weber State: Lillard’s stock is as high as it is going to get right now, and he’s leaving school in a year where the point guard class is fairly weak. Don’t be fooled by the name of the school he went to, Lillard is the complete package at the point — athletic, efficient and the rare combination of an elite scorer that can be too unselfish at times.

Fab Melo, Syracuse: Did he really have a choice? The guy is a projected first-round pick that was twice ruled academically ineligible as a sophomore.

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: I may be in the minority, but I think Sullinger is going to be a very good NBA player. While much was made about his decision to return to school and the bad year that he had, people tend to forget that Sullinger’s production barely dropped while playing with a supporting cast that was no where near as dangerous as the group that surrounded him as a freshman. Oh, and he still managed to lead his team to the Final Four and a share of the Big Ten regular season title despite playing with a bad back and plantar fasciitis.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas had a sensational NCAA tournament that came on the heels of a terrific finish to the season, but there are still plenty of question marks about him as a prospect. Can he be more consistent? What position does he play? Can he actually shoot the ball? An extra year will help him a great deal.

Royce White, Iowa State: The most interesting thing about White as an NBA prospect is that he is a player without a position because he simply does too many things well. He’ll be well worth the risk of a mid-to-late first round pick if he can get over his fear of flying.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.