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The 15 Most Important College Basketball Nuggets from the NBA Early Entry Deadline

Willie Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein

John Calipari likes to make a big deal of NBA Draft day. That’s with good reason. No current coach has quite the track record he does of ushering players from college to the draft.

This year, the early entry deadline was reason for celebration for Calipari.

When Kentucky reeled in the most highly touted recruiting class of all time, did anyone expect Julius Randle and James Young to be the only two to leap to the draft? Thanks to the return of the Harrison twins, Kentucky emerged from the draft deadline as the biggest winner of the last month or so of players deciding to stay in school or go pro.

Kentucky made the biggest news surrounding the draft deadline, but dozens other teams saw key developments that will shape their 2014-15 seasons, whether it’s players leaving, players staying or players transferring.

Here’s a roundup of the news you need to know from the early entry deadline:

1. Kentucky stocks up for another NCAA run
For the first time during the John Calipari era, Kentucky will not have a mass exodus of freshmen to the NBA Draft. The decisions were made over the course of a few weeks since Kentucky’s run to the title game, culminating with the Harrison twins’ announcement Friday that they would return to school. Their return — plus that of Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee — will give Kentucky a roster that includes nine McDonald’s All-Americans and NCAA Tournament experience. Another preseason No. 1 ranking awaits, and this one may stick a little longer.

2. Louisville is not far behind its rival
The Cardinals were going to lose seniors Russ Smith and Luke Hancock no matter what, so the return of Montrezl Harrell is key for the Cardinals’ prospects for 2014-15. Chris Jones and Terry Rozier will form a solid backcourt, but Harrell, who was unstoppable at the end of last season, gives Louisville a key big man.

3. Mitch McGary has a decision made for him
Michigan lost Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III to the draft, but the Wolverines were optimistic that McGary would get a full season under his belt before moving onto the pros. That changed when McGary learned he would be suspended for the 2014-15 season for failing an NCAA-mandated drug test at the Tournament. Guards Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin all will be back for Michigan, but the departures of McGary and Jon Horford, who transferred to Florida, will leave a gap in the frontcourt.

4. North Carolina returns two big names
James Michael McAdoo went to the draft after his breakout junior season. Guard Marcus Paige and forward Brice Johnson could have taken the leap, but they will return to school for a team that should contend for an ACC title. Johnson could be one of the nation’s breakout players after averaging 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in less than 20 minutes per game.

5. Good news, bad news at UConn
The senior Shabazz Napier played his final game in the national championship, and DeAndre Daniels seized upon his NCAA Tournament performance to to go to the draft. Ryan Boatright, though, elected to stay at UConn, forming a solid backcourt with NC State transfer Rodney Purvis.

6. Florida's frontcourt will have Chris Walker and Jon Horford
Walker arrived at Florida as one of the top recruits in the class, but he didn’t become eligible until late January. By that point, he was not in position to become a major contributor for the Gators, not that Florida needed him with the veteran roster. Next season, the forward Walker will have an opportunity to go through the entire offseason program before playing major minutes. Florida also added Horford, who will be eligible immediately after his transfer from Michigan. Duke transfer Alex Murphy also will be eligible.

7. Ohio State fills its gaps with transfers
Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith were seniors last season, and LaQuinton Ross left after his junior season. The Buckeyes hope to fill some of those spots with transfers. Anthony Lee averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds at Temple last season. Seven-footer Trevor Thompson transferred from Virginia Tech and is hoping for a wavier to play immediately. Shannon Scott takes over Craft’s spot at point guard.

8. UCLA is hit hard
Losing Kyle Anderson wasn’t a shock. The 6-9 guard is a rare talent. Jordan Adams thought about returning to school before changing his mind to enter the draft. The most surprising departure from UCLA was that of Zach LaVine, who averaged 9.4 points per game. The Bruins will be without three of their top four scorers in 2014-15.

9. Syracuse loses big
Jim Boeheim has lost his point guard two years in a row in Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis. Both were gone earlier than Boeheim probably expected, leaving Syracuse with only one point guard on the roster. Jerami Grant will join Ennis off last year’s squad in the draft. Grant averaged only 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, but he may be a first-round pick on his athleticism. That leaves Syracuse without its top three of its top four scorers off a team that couldn’t score late in the season.

10. Arizona stands pat
Aaron Gordon’s departure after one season wasn’t much of a surprise. Neither was Nick Johnson’s after earning second-team All-America honors as a junior. After that, Sean Miller won’t have to scramble to replace anyone unexpected. Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all elected to return to a likely top-five team in 2014-15.

11. Branden Dawson returns to Michigan State
The Spartans are rebuilding with seniors Adreian Payne and Keith Appling and junior Gary Harris all departing. Michigan State, as usual, will have veterans to carry the team as Branden Dawson elected to return. Michigan State won’t be the Big Ten favorite, but Dawson’s return means the Spartans likely will be a top-25 squad to start the season.

12. Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie plays it safe
The Buffaloes were a potential Pac-12 contender had the Dinwiddie returned. Instead, the point guard declared for the draft. It’s tough to blame him after he lost most of his junior season to a torn ACL.

13. Two puzzling exits and one transfer from UNLV
UNLV might not have lost a first-round pick, but the Runnin’ Rebels lost three major pieces. Khem Birch, UNLV’s best big man and interior defender, entered his name in the draft, where he’s a likely second-round pick. Roscoe Smith, who averaged a double-double, also declared, though his prospects are probably overseas. Guard Bryce Dejean-Jones also left UNLV, transferring to Iowa State. The Rebels have a highly ranked signing class coming in, but those are the top three scorers and three would-be seniors at that.

14. There’s not much left at Missouri
Guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson both declared for the draft, and coach Frank Haith got out ahead of the hot seat talk when he took the Tulsa job. Missouri will rebuild with Kim Anderson, an alum and former assistant who comes from the Division II ranks.

15. Utah has a chance to compete in the Pac-12
Larry Krystkowiak has quietly put together one of the country’s best rebuilding jobs as Utah won 21 games last season and broke even in the Pac-12. Statsheet-stuffing guard Delon Wright elected to return to Utah on a team that returns its top eight scorers.

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