Mitch McGary, Adreian Payne

NBA Draft Early Entry winners: There are a lot of them

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With the deadline to enter the NBA Draft having come and gone at midnight on Sunday night — and with the last-minute decisions made by Adreian Payne, Andre Roberson and Isaiah Austin — we now have a full list of all the meaningful college hoopers that made the decision to jump to the league early. 

Here are the early entry’s biggest winners

(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.):

Michigan State: Not only did the Spartans get Adreian Payne back for his senior campaign in a semi-surprising decision on Sunday afternoon, the Spartans had already received word that Gary Harris would be returning for his (hopefully healthy) sophomore season. With everyone else except for Derrick Nix returning, Michigan State not only looks like the favorite to win the Big Ten, they have the pieces to make a run at Kentucky and Louisville for the No. 1 spot in the preseason rankings.

Oklahoma State: The Pokes are going to enter the season as the favorite to win the Big 12 thanks to the return of the nation’s best freshman in 2012-2013, Marcus Smart. Smart would have been a top five pick had he headed off to the NBA. Instead, he’s once again team up with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash to give Travis Ford one of the biggest and most athletic perimeter attacks in the country.

Louisville: The Cardinals lost Gorgui Dieng to the NBA, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Pitino had said that Dieng would be heading off to the pros a number of times during the season. But Louisville did return Chane Behanan, who some thought might be off to the NBA, as well as Russ Smith, who said that he would be heading to the NBA after the Cards won the title. With Smith back in the fold, Louisville now has a real chance to repeat as champs.

Point guards in this draft: The biggest name to pull out of the draft was Marcus Smart, meaning that guys like Trey Burke, CJ McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams will slide higher up the list of available point guards. That’s good news for them. But with borderline first rounders like Shabazz Napier, Jahii Carson and Russ Smith also returning to school, guys like Shane Larkin and Ray McCallum find themselves in a better position to sneak into the first round.

Creighton: Doug McDermott is the best player to ever don a Creighton uniform, and he’s back for his senior season. He’ll be the preseason Player of the Year in the new Big East, Creighton’s first time playing in a league above the Missouri Valley. They’ll contend for the league title with Dougie McBuckets back. The Bluejays might not have finished in the top half of the league without him.

Baylor: The Bears got great news on Sunday, as Isaiah Austin officially announced that he would be returning alongside Cory Jefferson to anchor Baylor’s front line for another year. I hesitate to say Baylor is a Big 12 contender, since they’ve been unable to truly contend with an overabundance of talent recently, but they certainly have the pieces to do so.

Syracuse: Getting CJ Fair back was huge for the Orange. He’s the only player that they have for next season that can a) play on the win in their zone and b) do more than run, jump and be active. He’s got a really nice mid-range game and can step out and knock-down a three.

Michigan: Losing Trey Burke hurts, but it’s not a surprise. Seeing Tim Hardaway Jr. head off to the NBA isn’t a shock, either. But with Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III both returning to school, the Wolverines will have a shot at winning the Big Ten.

College Basketball: It’s going to be awesome next season. Seemingly every single fence-sitter made the choice to return to school, and it’s going to make for some truly compelling hoops throughout the season. Kentucky-Louisville will be unbelievable, with Duke-UNC and Michigan-Michigan State not too far behind. Oklahoma State will look to upset Kansas in the Big 12, as will Baylor. McDermott will make a run at 3,000 points while Syracuse will make a run at ACC supremacy. There are as many as five teams that could legitimately be voted No. 1 in the preseason. Is it November yet?

Six more early entry winners:

  • North Carolina: James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston return, which offset the loss of Reggie Bullock enough to keep the Heels at the top of the ACC.
  • Arizona State: We all win with another year of Jahii Carson in college.
  • Tennessee: Both Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae announced they’ll be back in college next season, meaning that a healthy Jeronne Maymon will make the Vols dangerous.
  • Florida: The Gators return Patric Young and, suddenly, have arguably the best front line in the SEC.
  • Kentucky: Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein both announced that they will be passing up the NBA and returning to Lexington for another year.
  • UConn: Shabazz Napier remaining in Storrs makes the Huskies a real threat in the AAC.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.