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2014 NBA Draft: What early entry decisions are we still waiting for?

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source: AP
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Today is the day after the NCAA’s April 15th deadline for players to enter the NBA Draft.

It’s also the day after the most irrelevant deadline in American sporting culture.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said on Tuesday as two of his players, Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, declared for the NBA Draft. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matter.”

What that means is that while the NCAA’s official early entry deadline has passed, college coaches — including the self-serving ACC coaches that moved the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline up two months — still have to wait 11 days to hear about the potential pros on their roster.

Here are the 14 guys we’re still waiting to hear from:

Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, Duke: Most expect both Dukies to be headed to the NBA, but, ironically enough, it seems more likely that Parker, a top three pick, would return that Hood, a mid-first rounder. Duke is already looking like they will be one of the top three teams in the country heading into next season without either of these two. That’s what happens when Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen join the likes of Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson. The one thing that team would be missing, however, is a big wing that can score. If either player returns, Duke could end up being scary-good next year.

Kentucky’s guys: Julius Randle and James Young are both expected to leave. Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress are both expected to return. The two that are major question marks are Andrew and Aaron Harrison, neither of whom are projected as guaranteed first round picks. Kentucky is going to once again have an overwhelming front line next season, but where they are going to struggle is in their back court. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are both excellent recruits, but they’re not the kind of instant impact players that you typically find with Kentucky freshmen. They’re four-year guys. And they’re also the entirety of the Kentucky perimeter attack next season. If the Harrisons return, it would give those two a chance to develop while spending more time playing a role. Either way, Kentucky is going to be a top five team entering next season.

Mitch McGary, Michigan: The Wolverines are losing Jordan Morgan (graduation), Jon Horford (transfer), Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III (NBA). They will bring back Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin, a trio that will give them one of the best perimeters in the country, McGary would be the rock in the paint. With him back, Michigan is a top 15 team. Without him, they’re borderline top 25. He’s currently projected as the No. 31 pick, according to Draft Express.

DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright, UConn: With both Daniels and Boatright back for their senior years, UConn would likely enter the season as the favorite to win the American. But coming off of a national title and with their stock as high as it is going to be, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both leave.

Jordan Adams, UCLA: The Bruins had a promising recruiting class this season, but with Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine both going pro, losing Adams, who is projected as a late-first round pick this season, would leave them without a veteran scoring presence.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons has the talent to be a lottery pick and the attitude to spend his career in the NBDL. He’s projected as a second rounder, according to Draft Express. Purdue will be in major rebuilding mode without him.

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson: McDaniels turned out to be one of the ACC’s best athletes and most versatile defenders. I’m not sure the Tigers are a tournament team next year with him, but they certainly aren’t without him. He’s projected as the No. 20 pick in this year’s draft, according to Draft Express.

Six more names to keep an eye on:

  • Khem Birch, UNLV
  • Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Jordan Mickey and Jarrell Martin, LSU
  • Bobby Portis, Arkansas
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
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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
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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.