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Kentucky, Wisconsin headline 2014 NBA Draft Early Entry Winners

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The NBA Draft’s early entry deadline came and went at midnight on Sunday. Who were this year’s five biggest winners?

MORE: The full list of players who have declared | Early Entry losers

1. Kentucky: It sounds weird to say this, I know, but the Kentucky lost two lottery picks, including a guy that will go top five in the NBA Draft, and they were clearly the biggest winner during the entire early entry circus. It started with Willie Cauley-Stein, who announced that he would be returning to school after undergoing surgery on his ankle. He was a potential lottery pick. Then Marcus Lee returned. Then Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson came back. And, lastly, both of the Harrison twins returned to school.

Five were expected to declare off of Kentucky. Only two did. The key? The Harrisons, who will provide the Wildcats with perimeter depth and justify yet another preseason No. 1 ranking.

2. Wisconsin: The Badgers made a bit of a surprising run to the Final Four in 2014, and they did it as Frank ‘The Tank’ Kaminsky turned into an unstoppable force. His size and ability to score from anywhere on the court made him one of the breakout stars of the NCAA tournament, and while he flirted with the idea of putting his name into the draft, he will return. So will Sam Dekker, who is a potential first round pick at the small forward spot. As a result, the Badgers are going to be the Big Ten favorites and a top five team in 2014-2015.

3. Louisville: Outside of the Harrison twins announcing that they would be returning to school, the single most important early entry decision was Montrezl Harrell’s announcement that he would be back for his junior season. A potential lottery pick, Harrell is going to be the only veteran — and only physical presence — on a big and athletic-albeit-extremely young front line. He makes the Cardinals a Final Four contender. Without him, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

4. Arizona: Aaron Gordon was never spending more than one season on campus. Nick Johnson left and that void will hurt although it wasn’t all that much of a surprise that he went pro. The good news? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski all will be back on campus next season, and as a result Sean Miller will once again have a top five team and the Pac-12 favorite at his disposal.

5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost James Michael McAdoo to the NBA, but they also kept him for two years longer than just about anyone expected. They came out ahead there. The bigger news is that not only did Marcus Paige return for his junior season, but Brice Johnson did as well. With the recruiting class that Roy Williams brings in this season, don’t be surprised to see the Tar Heels give Louisville and Duke a run for their money at the top of the ACC next season.

Three more winners

  • Utah: Delon Wright’s decision to return to Utah for his senior season will give him a shot at being an all-american in 2014-2015 and will allow the Utes to be a top four team in the Pac-12.
  • Oregon: Joseph Young flirted with leaving for the NBA, but ultimately he returned. He may end up leading the Pac-12 is scoring this season.
  • West Virginia: Juwan Staten was a hidden gem at the point guard spot this past season thanks to the play of Marcus Smart and DeAndre Kane. He’ll be an all-Big 12 first team player entering next season.


POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
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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
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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.