I’m not going to lie — I couldn’t care less about what is going on with the NBA Lockout. It simply doesn’t interest me. And given the fact that I focus all of my basketball-watching between October and the beginning of April on the collegiate ranks, seeing the NBA lose two weeks worth of its regular season does nothing but make me happy that college hoops will be the focus of the hoops-watching world for however long the lockout lasts.
There is one part of the lockout that upsets me, and that’s seeing the kids that made the decision to ignore all the warning signs enter the NBA Draft sitting at home as we bear down on Midnight Madness. Let’s pretend, for a second, that all of those players that left school early … didn’t.
What would the college basketball landscape look like right now?
The Pac-12 would be the best conference in America: Seriously. It may have been. Arizona would return everyone from a conference championship team that made a run to the Elite 8, including their all-american Derrick Williams. Well, they wouldn’t return everyone; Sean Miller would still trade in Momo Jones for Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner. UCLA’s talent drain on the perimeter wouldn’t have happened, meaning that Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt would be joining Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson and Laz Jones in the starting lineup again. Isaiah Thomas would give Tony Wroten Jr a helluva role model. Washington State would still have their big three of Klay Thompson, DeAngelo Casto and Reggie Moore. Even USC would head into the season with the formidable front line of Nikola Vucevic and Dewayne Dedmon.
Texas would be a national championship contender: Imagine a back court featuring Cory Joseph and Myck Kabongo with Jordan Hamilton at the three and Tristan Thompson anchoring the front line. Terrifying isn’t it? I don’t think we’d have the same issues determining a Big 12 favorite, especially if …
Some kids are better off gone: Was Josh Selby really a good thing for the Kansas team? He was suspended for the first semester, injured for the second semester and clearly had no desire to actually attend a class. Was he really a positive presence in that locker room? The same thing can be said for Jereme Richmond at Illinois, although if he didn’t declare for the draft, I think its a safe bet he would have been kicked off the team already.
Kansas still would have been good though: The Morrii would have one last go ’round. And we’d get to say “The Morrii” for another year.
New head coaches would have an easier inaugural season: Gary Williams left Mark Turgeon some talented back court pieces to work with in Terrell Stoglin, Pe’Shon Howard and Nick Faust. What Williams didn’t do, however, was leave Turgeon with a front court. You think Maryland’s outlook would be brighter with Jordan Williams on the block? Cuonzo Martin can feel Turgeon’s pain. He lost Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson. I don’t think its a stretch to say that taking over a new team would be easier with two former top 10 recruits on the roster.
Would Kentucky have too much talent?: It sounds weird to say, but it could have happened if Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins hadn’t kept their names in the draft. Liggins would have become that team’s 9th or 10th man. That’s crazy. Their path through the SEC would have gotten tougher, however, as Georgia would not be losing Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins.
John Beilein’s best team ever: If Darius Morris doesn’t enter the draft, Michigan heads into the season in the top 15 in every poll in the country. Beilein never has teams that are ranked in the preseason. With a potential all-american running the show, a potential all-Big Ten first-teamer in Tim Hardaway Jr. and enough smart role players that buy into his system, Beilein may have been able to put together a team that would challenge for the Big East
Would Butler be planning a third straight title game trip?: Its possible, because they would be getting their lead guard and all-american Shelvin Mack back. The idea of Mack playing with the sophomore version of Khyle Marshall is appetizing for me, but terrifying for the Horizon League
Duke’s back court would be scary: Austin Rivers and Kyrie Irving? With Seth Curry and Andre Dawkin coming off the bench? But that’s not quite as scary as …
UConn!: Take last year’s national champion, give all of them a full summer to develop their game and then throw Deandre Daniels, Andre Drummond and Ryan Boatright into the mix. Think about that. That includes Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, Alex Oriahki and Jeremy Lamb.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.