It has been just over three weeks since college basketball's season ended. The biggest news in the sport, for the most part over the past 20 days, has been the litany of NBA Draft decisions. Whereas the NCAA and NBA used to have hasty, strict deadlines for players to definitively declare and/or remove themselves from the draft pool, prospects are (rightfully) afforded much more time to determine if they will stay or go.
The NBA's deadline to withdraw from the draft, officially, is June 12 -- 10 days before selections will be made at Barclays Center, in Brooklyn. But that's really only for international prospects. The NCAA's deadline, which hits earlier, was voted into effect last year. American college players have until 10 days after the conclusion of the annual skills combine to settle on a decision, meaning college fellas this year have until May 24 (the combine ends May 14) to decide if they're going to return to school.
It's an ideal window ... for everyone except college basketball coaches. But them's the breaks, and if you have players good enough to test the waters, you've done your job right. This is a necessary evil, and evil's not even the right word here. A necessary balance, if you will. With that in mind, and with a month to go before we have full knowledge on who's gone for good and who opts to return to college hoops, let's look at the decisions that are already final. We have teams on either side: Who has fallen behind and who has been boosted by draft decisions in the past month.
One note before we get going, because you're not going to see every team listed here. Some schools were so bad or irregular (Washington, NC State, Syracuse, Cal) that losing players they expected to lose doesn't mean they're necessarily "hurt" by those decisions. On other side, teams like Maryland (Melo Trimble) and Nevada (Cameron Oliver) were set up to be pretty good next season despite the expected losses, so they weren't completely "hurt" by those choices either.
For the complete, official list of who has put their names into the draft pool,.
Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries, on top of Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and potentially Hamidou Diallo? It means John Calipari will have more turnover than even he expected as of a month ago. Kentucky isn't always hurt by draft decisions, but I think next season's team won't be as good as this season's team because eight of UK's top nine players won't be back., no doubt, but losing sophomores
The Bulldogs will be top-25 caliber again next season, but two players have left the program -- and it's two players who were not necessarily thought to be gone for sure as recently as early February: Zach Collins and Nigel Williams-Goss. NWG could have been the most important player in college basketball next season, and Collins could have turned into a top-15 guy. Plus, Johnathan Williams is going through the process, but should return. Gonzaga will be a notch below what it was in 2016-17.
The Ducks without question will take a significant step back next season due to losing Jordan Bell, Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks. Bell was the least valuable of those three, and he still would've been a top-40 player next season. Brooks could have been Pac-12 Player of the Year again. Oregon will still have enough talent to be a top-five Pac-12 team, but had all of these players opted to return, Oregon would have had a solid shot at three straight Elite Eight runs. Now Dana Altman starts anew.
You lose Lonzo Ball ball, you're hurt by his departure in a big way. No getting around it. Even if he was the only one going, UCLA would be in this category. He's not the only one leaving, though. Fellow freshmen TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu (I know, you barely remember seeing him play, but he's going to get picked) are also gone. Elsewhere, Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday are in the evaluation process as well. The Bruins will go from having a top-three offense to being something of a mystery in 2017-18.
P.J. Dozier is opting to leave, and when you pair that draft decision with the departure of senior Sindarius Thornwell, it means South Carolina could have trouble making the NCAA Tournament next season. I'm not trying to explicitly doubt Frank Martin, because we all know that can turn on you, but it's obvious that South Carolina is going to be very different next season. Dozier would have had a shot at being a top-three player in the SEC had he returned.
Devin Robinson is gone and John Egbunu is testing the waters. Florida, in my estimation, would be a borderline top-20 team without both of these guys. You get Egbunu back (should happen, I think), then you're in the mix for the top 15. UF isn't hurt big-time by this, but losing Robinson does have impact.
I was ready to proclaim Jarrett Allen a top-15 player next season, but we hardly knew him after all. With UT having a bad season and Allen playing in anonymity, his college career is gone in a whoosh. The Longhorns also sit and wait on point guard Andrew Jones, who is exploring his options but absolutely should head on back to Shaka Smart.
The Seminoles will take a massive step back next season because they're losing their three best players, all underclassmen who have signed with agents: Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The Noles earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAAs but couldn't reach the Sweet 16. Was that Leonard Hamilton's last realistic chance at a Final Four? Not if he can land five-star 2017 forward Kevin Knox, who is forecast to land at Duke or North Carolina.
The Demon Deacons got all they could out of John Collins, a low-ranked prospect who turned into a first-round talent in two seasons with Danny Manning. Wake Forest is something of a mystery team next season. Had Collins returned, most would have had the Deacs in the NCAAs. Instead, Wake Forest will try to recreate its success without the player who was the engine and the oil.
You lose a point guard with the talent of Jawun Evans, you're by nature hurt by that decision. The Cowboys do get Jeffery Carroll back, but with new coach Mike Boynton taking over for Brad Underwood, this situation is going to be an interesting one to watch play out. Evans was a two-and-through type of prospect, so his decision isn't a shocker.
Miles Bridges making his decision to return amounted to the most important on-court call for any program in college basketball. The Spartans go from a top-15 team to a top-three team with his choice to stay for his sophomore season, and now Tom Izzo will enter next season with the strongest sophomore class in the sport. Bridges will have Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and Nick Ward back. There will be Final Four expectations, perhaps expectations as high as they've been in East Lansing in more than a decade.
Allonzo Trier's decision to come back, combined with a top-five incoming recruiting class, overrides any confirmed or potential losses from the senior class and other underclassmen opting to go pro. Trier is the second-biggest decision to Bridges. Sean Miller's team will have Final Four expectations as well. If Arizona can get Chance Comanche and Rawle Alkins back (both currently testing waters, both better suited for another season in college), then the argument can be made that Arizona has the deepest roster of talent-plus-experience heading into 2017-18.
Frank Jackson is in the process of figuring out if he'll leave Duke after one season (I think he comes back), but it's Grayson Allen's choice to return that helps Duke out in a big way. The Blue Devils will look very different next season, but Allen's return gives this team a former All-American on the roster. Any time you can get that, as opposed to losing that player to the NBA, you are by definition helped. Even if it's Allen . If Allen wasn't coming back, I wouldn't slot Duke in my preseason top 10.
Devonte' Graham could have gone to the NBA if he really wanted, but I think he's sensing a chance at having a Frank Mason-type of a monster season as a senior. If that happens, and if Kansas wins 30-plus games again, he'll have a good shot at being drafted between 25-35 a year from now. Kansas is tangibly boosted and steadied by Graham's call to come back. A win for Bill Self, .
Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson will both be drafted whenever they opt to leave. For Jay Wright, he'll have the best team in the Big East again because both these guys will be back for their junior seasons. Brunson is a sleeper choice for National Player of the Year, while Bridges should break out and become one of the 10 best players of statistical impact in the Big East. Villanova has a good chance at chasing a No. 1 seed again.
Bruce Brown's choice to return to Miami not only makes the Hurricanes a sexy Final Four pick, it also gives Jim Larranaga his scariest roster ever. Miami is now fully loaded and will compete with North Carolina, Louisville and Duke for the ACC title. This will be the non-traditional chic top-10 team by the time we get to November. Brown is among the best candidates for a breakout season.
Bonzie Colson was a player I thought would certainly come back, and so he did. He's a likely choice for first-team All-America status come November. Notre Dame has hopes of making a Final Four in 2018 because Colson -- who is Draymond Green-like at the college level in his all-around ability and value -- will play his senior season for Mike Brey. Get old and stay old. That's what Notre Dame does.
Robert Williams, who had a shot at being a top-15 pick, is back. Tyler Davis, too. These decisions mean the Aggies will be ranked in the preseason polls and should be a top-three team in the SEC next season. You might not know Williams' game well, but that will change by Christmas, I think.
Yes, the Bluejays lose freshman sensation Justin Patton, but getting Marcus Foster back is the bigger deal. Creighton has a realistic chance at getting to the 2018 NCAA Tournament thanks to Foster's decision. I think he'll average 23 or 24 points next season. My guess: Greg McDermott's team winds up as a No. 7 seed next March.
E.C. Matthews stays for his senior season, and with this and all that URI returns, the Rams might be able to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for only the third time in program history. Top-two team in the A-10 next season. One of the most important under-the-radar decisions here. Matthews could have a humongous senior season.
Jalen Adams will be back, and UConn will need him to play at his absolute best. The Huskies get Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier returning after season-ending injuries. Connecticut has to be better. Adams is a joy to watch. If the team can stay healthy, Adams will be a top-15 point guard and Kevin Ollie will be back in the Big Dance.
Twisting in the wind
There are two players still in the process of figuring things out: Theo Pinson and Tony Bradley. The Tar Heels definitely lost Justin Jackson. Joel Berry II announced Tuesday he would be back. UNC without Pinson and Bradley is not a top-five team. With both, the Tar Heels are capable of repeating. I think both return, but if Bradley opted to go it would not be a shock.
Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell are testing. Jaylen Johnson is definitely gone. Louisville has an argument for preseason No. 1 if Adel and Mitchell come back. Without them, the Cards are probably outside the top 15 for me. Rick Pitino hasn't had to deal with many freshmen and sophomores leaving early in recent years. Few teams are riding on more than Louisville with Adel and Mitchell (who could be a STAR next season).
Quite a list here for new coach Archie Miller. Thomas Bryant, Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. are all testing. OG Anunoby is definitely gone. The Hoosiers could be anywhere from 20th to 50th next season depending on which of those three guys come back. No matter who does come back (Blackmon and Johnson absolutely should), it's going to be so intriguing to watch IU next season. Perspective and patience is key for Indiana fans in Year 1 of the Archie regime.
Johnathan Motley is deciding, and if he comes back, Baylor has to be a top-10 team. If he does not, I can't argue if you want to keep the Bears outside of the top 20. Scott Drew's club had big-time victories last season, and Motley was a top-10 player of value, no doubt. He probably should go, if I'm being honest. But it would be so sweet to see him return. One of the toughest calls of any on the board.
The Trojans might be the best team most people aren't giving enough credence to. Bennie Boatwright and Shaqquan Aaron are the ones who will determine if USC is a top-two Pac-12 team next season. Two other players who were flirting with NBA Draft prep -- Chimezie Metu and Elijah Stewart -- will be back. That should be enough to put USC in the NCAAs for the third straight season.
Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson had breakout performances in March. The Wolverines can be a top-four Big Ten team if both opt to return, as I think both clearly should. But until those decisions are finalized, U of M is twisting in the wind a bit. In mid-February, the idea either, let alone both of these guys would be testing the waters wasn't based in reality.
The Hogs' two most important players who could come back are Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. If both return, Arkansas will have a good shot at getting back to the NCAAs because I think these two could combine to average better than 30 points. Pivotal decisions here. I think both play in college in 2017-18.
Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas are the wait-and-see guys here. Caleb Swanigan, I have to believe, has played his last game in college. He has yet to sign with an agent, but Swanigan's stock is quite high right now. Haas almost certainly should be back. Edwards might end up testing well. Purdue could really, really use Edwards next season. If Swanigan does opt to return, then he's the inarguable preseason National Player of the Year.
Trevon Bluiett is deciding while Edmond Sumner is definitely gone. Blueitt was so good in the NCAA Tournament he's parlaying those performances to getting real looks from NBA teams. Xavier absolutely needs him in order to be a top-30 team next season, though.
Semi Ojeleye is the key guy here. Shake Milton returning is only half the battle. The Ponies lose Ben Moore and Sterling Brown to graduation, so getting Ojeleye back means SMU could again qualify as a top-25 team and perhaps have the AAC Player of the Year come March.
Khadeen Carrington, who was thought to be testing the waters, is not. But Angel Delgado is, and no player in college basketball -- other than Swanigan -- was a bigger double-double force last season than Delgado. Seton Hall's entire dynamic is altered in a huge way if he doesn't return. The Pirates need their big guy in order to go dancing for a third straight season.
Now, we wait. Over the next three weeks, we'll have names confirmed almost daily. Guys gone for good, others returning. From there, the picture of the 2017-18 season starts to take shape.