The NCAA’s meaningless deadline to enter the NBA Draft has come and gone, but there are still 12 days until the NBA’s April 28th deadline to declare passes.
That means there are still 12 days for current underclassmen to leave school and put their names up for draft consideration. The smart players have waited, and there are a number of them that are still weighing their options.
These next 12 days could shape how college basketball looks in 2013-2014. If Kelly Olynyk returns to Gonzaga, Mark Few should have another Final Four contender on his hands. Marcus Smart coming back for another season would make Oklahoma State a Big 12 title favorite. Baylor will be waiting patiently to hear back from Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Syracuse (CJ Fair), Miami (Shane Larkin), Creighton (Doug McDermott) and UConn (Shabazz Napier) all have potential all-americans considering whether it’s worth it to make to jump to the league.
(CLICK HERE to follow along with who is turning pro and who is returning to school.)
Hell, even Andrew Wiggins, the best high school player in the country and a near-lock to be the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has yet to pick a school.
But nowhere will the next 12 days have more of an impact than in the state of Michigan.
The Wolverines already know that they are losing Trey Burke, which really isn’t a surprise. Burke wanted to leave for the NBA last season, but he decided to stay and became the National Player of the Year. Beilein knew he was gone before this season even began. Luckily, Beilein has a couple of point guards in the fold, as top 50 recruit Derrick Walton enters the program and Spike Albrecht — he of ’17 points in the first half of the national time game’ fame — returns for his sophomore season.
That probably would be enough to make Michigan a Big Ten contender once again, if they get everyone else back.
And that’s a big ‘if’.
Mitch McGary has the makings of a superstar at the college level, but since he finally showed that off during the NCAA tournament, the NBA has taken notice as well. McGary would likely get snatched up somewhere in the first round if he left school this year, and has a shot at sneaking his way into the back end of the lottery. Draft Express currently ranks McGary as the 17th best NBA prospect. Is that enough to get him to leave?
What about Glenn Robinson III? Many think that he actually wants to leave school this year, and there’s a decent chance that he could get snatched up in the first round of the draft if he did. Draft Express ranks him as the 21st best prospect in this draft and projects him to go 6th in their 2014 mock draft. He’s a 6-foot-6 athlete with three-point range and tremendous athleticism. His skills can be developed. You can’t teach potential.
That leave Tim Hardaway Jr., who would become the face of the program next season. But does he want to be the face of a program that looks nothing like the one that he played in this past season? If the rest of his team leaves, what else is there left for Hardaway to do at the college level?
And if those three end up going to the NBA, where does that leave Michigan? With Albrecht, Nik Stauskas, Caris LaVert and a bunch of freshman? There’s a chance that team could end up missing the NCAA tournament?
Michigan State doesn’t have the same kind of doomsday scenario as Michigan does. Keith Appling will be back in school, as will Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson. Travis Trice also returns, and they’ll be joined by a trio of big men capable of playing in a Big Ten rotation. That group should be enough to get Michigan State into the top 25 in the preseason.
But that doesn’t include Adreian Payne and Gary Harris in the conversation.
Payne was a top 20 recruit coming out of high school that finally found a way to put his ridiculous skill set to good use this season, coming on strong in Big Ten play and shooting his way up NBA Draft boards. He’s a borderline first round pick if he leaves. His teammate, shooting guard Gary Harris, may actually be worthy of a higher pick but, as Gary Parrish reported today, may actually be more likely to return to school. He’s dealt with a bad shoulder all season long, and he could be a top ten pick with a full season of playing at full strength.
Michigan State, with Payne and Harris in the fold, is a top five team and a national title contender.
Michigan, with McGary, Hardaway and Robinson back, is likely a top ten team and a Big Ten contender.
But if all five end up leaving, you may see a top 25 poll with neither Michigan school ranked.
That’s a lot on the line over the next 12 days.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.