Commentary

Evaluating early-entry decisions

Originally Published: April 15, 2011
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft is nine days away and the early-entry withdrawal date isn't until May 8, but it's not too late to evaluate many of the decisions made so far.

Winners

Ohio State

Jared Sullinger was the best big man in the country this season, and he'll be the top low-post scorer next season, too. Throughout the season, the Ohio State freshman told the Buckeyes coaching staff he would return for his sophomore season. So far, he has honored his word. The Buckeyes are a top-five team next season because Sullinger will be the anchor inside.

Baylor

Perry Jones III seemed like a lock for the lottery -- even before his six-game NCAA suspension for accepting benefits before his arrival at Baylor. But Jones III stunned many when he announced he was returning to the Bears for his sophomore season. Jones III will be one of the top forwards next season. He'll sit the first five games of the season to complete his suspension, then try to lead Baylor to the postseason after the Bears missed it this season.

Memphis

Josh Pastner had one of the top freshman classes in the country and the Tigers won the Conference USA tournament, but they avoided any early departures. Will Barton and Wesley Witherspoon decided to return to the Tigers for what should be a regular-season C-USA title and a regular spot in the top 25.

North Carolina

As of Friday morning, the Tar Heels were still waiting on the decision of Harrison Barnes. If Barnes returns, the Tar Heels will be no lower than No. 2 in the preseason poll. Why? Tyler Zeller and John Henson decided to return to school. The Tar Heels could have easily lost either to the first round of the draft.

Alabama

The Tide rolled to the SEC West title but didn't make the NCAA tournament, losing instead to Wichita State in the NIT final. The momentum built by coach Anthony Grant could have been slowed had JaMychal Green and/or Tony Mitchell decided to bolt. Neither did.

Syracuse

The Orange have had the type of program where losing early entrants is a regular occurrence. This season, there was a chance Kris Joseph might have been tempted to leave. He wasn't.

Gonzaga

The Zags could have lost Elias Harris after his freshman season, but he returned to school. Although he didn't have a star sophomore season, the Zags still made the NCAAs. He apparently is going to come back for a third year, and if that's the case, the Zags shouldn't miss a beat.

Losers

Kansas

The Jayhawks aren't on this list solely because of Josh Selby, who declared for the draft Thursday after showing hardly any loyalty to KU. He didn't even finish the semester, bolting to work out in Las Vegas. Kansas invested plenty in Selby. He didn't seem to care too much. The real loss for Kansas is Marcus and Markieff Morris. Marcus was a likely departure, but Markieff could have really shined as the focal point had he returned to Lawrence. Instead, the Jayhawks will have a hole up front. There is hope that the return of Thomas Robinson and a strong recruiting class, led by Ben McLemore, will fill the void, but the Jayhawks will be an early work in progress.

UCLA

The Bruins finally had some momentum with an NCAA berth this season after missing the postseason a year ago. There is optimism with Josh Smith developing and depth coming with Travis and David Wear becoming eligible after transferring from North Carolina. But to lose both Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee to the draft might stunt the forward progress.

USC

The Trojans squeaked into the NCAA tournament, landing in the First Four and losing to VCU. Losing Nikola Vucevic stunts the growth of this squad going into the Pac-12 next season.

Georgia

It's a good thing Mark Fox got the Bulldogs into the NCAAs this season. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both left, leaving the Bulldogs without a ton of experience up front.

Fresno State

New coach Rodney Terry will be rebuilding without a major piece after Greg Smith decided to stay in the NBA draft. That doesn't mean he's going to get selected. Had he returned, he would have had a chance to dominate the WAC.

Washington

Had he returned to school, Isaiah Thomas would have been the favorite for Pac-12 Player of the Year next season with Derrick Williams gone. The Huskies always seem to replenish under Lorenzo Romar, but losing Thomas takes away this team's swagger, let alone its most proficient scorer.

Florida State

The odds of Chris Singleton returning were probably slim, especially after he broke his foot in February. But had he come back, the Seminoles would have been a lock for another top-three finish in the ACC next season. They'll take a step back without their best all-around player.

Illinois

Bruce Weber stayed. Jereme Richmond didn't. The Illini were already losing seniors Mike Tisdale and Demetri McCamey. Richmond's departure adds another hole, leaving the Illini without their most athletic wing.

San Diego State

The Aztecs were a senior-laden team. The Aztecs' one hook to bridge into next season and avoid a dip out of the NCAA tournament was to keep Kawhi Leonard. That didn't happen. On Thursday, he announced he was declaring and staying in the draft.

As expected

Connecticut

The Huskies knew midway through the season -- once Kemba Walker got on a roll -- that he likely wasn't returning. Shabazz Napier has developed into a more-than-capable point guard. Walker gave UConn plenty, notably a national title. No one can complain as he moves on to the NBA.

Arizona

Derrick Williams didn't enter school as a player likely to leave after two seasons. However, he emerged as one of the five best players in the country this season, leading the Wildcats to a Pac-10 title and an Elite Eight appearance. Arizona should thank him.

Duke

The Blue Devils knew when they recruited Kyrie Irving that he could be done after one season. He was sensational early before sitting out three months with an injured toe. He returned to dazzle in a Sweet 16 loss to Arizona. With Austin Rivers coming in to be the next star, the Blue Devils will be fine.

To be determined

Xavier

It's simple for Xavier: The Musketeers are the favorite in the A-10 next season if Tu Holloway returns. If he leaves for the NBA, they aren't.

Tennessee

The Vols have a hearing with the NCAA Committee on Infractions in June and still have to wait and see whether there are more sanctions coming their way. In the meantime, new coach Cuonzo Martin has to see whether Scotty Hopson and/or Tobias Harris will withdraw by May 8.

Pittsburgh

Ashton Gibbs isn't a first-round pick, so it would be foolish of him to stay in the draft. If he returns, Pitt is once again a top-four Big East title contender.

Missouri

New coach Frank Haith should have one of the most experienced rosters in the Big 12 next season. Well, that's if Kim English and Laurence Bowers return. They should; they won't get drafted.

Boston College

Reggie Jackson likely is going to stay in the draft. He'll be a workout wonder and a first-round pick. If he does depart, Steve Donahue will have to completely overhaul his roster in his second season, building the Eagles from the ground up.

Louisville

Terrence Jennings declared. If he stays in the draft, the Cardinals lose another experienced player. However, last season taught us that the Cardinals can survive plenty of losses and still remain relevant.

Miami

The Hurricanes are looking for a coach. Whoever lands the gig had better hope he has Reggie Johnson as the primary post. If Johnson stays in the draft, that first-year coach's hopes of competing with the upper division of the ACC will be lost.

Michigan

The Wolverines are a Big Ten title contender next season if Darius Morris returns. The Wolverines would have one of the most athletic and productive tandems in the league with Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. If Morris departs, John Beilein's retooling project gets derailed a bit.

Maryland

The Terps didn't make the postseason with Jordan Williams as the primary post. They should make the NIT, at the very least, with him returning. If he doesn't, they definitely won't.

Georgia Tech

New coach Brian Gregory is putting his own stamp on the program. Lose Iman Shumpert and he enters his first year without the team's most productive perimeter player. In the long term, though, that might not matter in Gregory's success with the Yellow Jackets.

Butler

The Bulldogs will wait for Shelvin Mack to make a decision in the next two weeks. It's quite simple: If Mack returns, no one should doubt Butler's ability to make another Horizon title/NCAA run, even without Matt Howard inside. If Mack stays in the draft, the Horizon League will be wide open.

Kentucky

The Wildcats have a week to sweat out the decisions of guard Brandon Knight and wing Terrence Jones. With the nation's top recruiting class arriving next season, losing one or both won't be a major disruption. But if Knight and Jones don't even bother declaring, then the Wildcats will be no lower than No. 2 in the preseason poll.

Texas

The assumption is that Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph and Jordan Hamilton won't declare. If that is indeed the case, the Longhorns are a top-five team to start the 2011-12 season.

Vanderbilt

The Commodores should be locked in as the second-best team in the SEC behind Kentucky, but that's dependent on John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli ignoring the NBA draft.

Washington State

If Klay Thompson declares, the Cougars will be in a major rebuilding mode. Needless to say, they're anxiously awaiting Thompson's decision.

Colorado

Tad Boyle had the Buffaloes close to the NCAAs with Alec Burks. The Buffs' chances of making it to the tourney out of the Pac-12 hang on his decision whether to declare.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com