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.