Which programs are on their heels leading up to next week’s NBA Draft Deadline?
Check out our list of 10 below:
Arizona: Rawle Alkins’ decision whether to remain in the 2017 NBA Draft directly affects the Wildcats’ possibilities in other areas of recruiting and that’s why the sooner this 6-foot-5 wing makes a decision the better it will be for Sean Miller and his program. If Alkins opts to forego his final three years of college eligibility, it will put Arizona back in serious play for five-star wing Brian Bowen and Pitt grad transfer Cameron Johnson, who both seem to be far away from making their final decisions. If Alkins returns to Tucson, it’s highly unlikely either of those players would opt for the desert since Alkins and Allonzo Trier would be cemented as starters on the wings entering next season.
Kansas: Bill Self has assembled an elite perimeter trio entering next season with veterans Devonte Graham and Lagerald Vick along with Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, but he needs a veteran piece at the four to go with freshman Billy Preston and sophomore Mitch Lightfoot. That piece is Svi Mykhailiuk. Kansas’ staff initially thought the 6-8 forward would opt to forego his final year of eligibility and potentially play overseas if he couldn’t get an NBA offer, but an ankle injury at the draft combine forced Mykhailiuk to pull out of the process and re-evaluate his position. If he returns to school, then the Jayhawks have a senior forward to pair up front with burgeoning sophomore big man Udoka Azubuike.
Maryland: It must feel like deja vu in College Park. A year ago, Maryland fans had to wait until the deadline to find out if Melo Trimble was going to return to school for his junior season, and this year the same thing is likely to happen with Justin Jackson. The 6-7 forward averaged 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds last season as a freshman and impressed several NBA scouts with his ability to shoot the basketball (43.8 percent from 3-point range). Jackson will go through a few more workouts before making a final decision, but he’s likely to take this thing down to the wire. If he returns, Maryland has an excellent chance to play in its fourth straight NCAA tournament in 2018. If he doesn’t, there will be a major hole to fill for Mark Turgeon.
North Carolina: Roy Williams has always believed in playing two big men at the same time and that philosophy could be compromised next season if Tony Bradley opts to stay in the NBA Draft. If Bradley doesn’t return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season, than the only true post players who will be in the Tar Heels’ program are Luke Maye and freshmen Garrison Brooks, Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley. While the three first-year players are expected to be quality pieces down the line, asking any of them to be a 25-minute a game player in the ACC may be a bit much in their first season. North Carolina needs Bradley back in the fold if it wants to again be in position to go to a Final Four and win a national title. Without him, Williams may legitimately have to look at playing small with someone like Theo Pinson at power forward for extended periods of time.
UCLA: The Bruins inked an elite recruiting class for next season, but Steve Alford knows as well as anybody that incoming talent in college basketball never usurps returning talent. UCLA lost its top four scorers — Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton — from last season’s team that reached the Sweet 16 and now has two players — Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday — involved in the NBA Draft process without an agent. Both Welsh and Holiday averaged in double figures last season and both would be All-Pac-12-caliber talents in ’17-18. The Bruins need both back in Westwood if they hope to make the NCAA tournament next spring.
Purdue: Matt Painter needs either Vince Edwards or Caleb Swanigan to return to school to keep the Boilermakers’ ship afloat. While the versatile Edwards is expected to be back in West Lafayette, Swanigan’s situation is a little more perplexed. The 6-9 big man had one of the best statistical seasons we’ve seen in quite some time in college basketball, averaging 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds as a sophomore, but he still isn’t being projected as a lock first-round pick. If both return, Purdue would be a legitimate contender to win the Big Ten and make a run at the national title.
Kentucky: John Calipari has gone on record and said he’s going to retire if Hamidou Diallo is a lottery pick without ever playing a game for the Wildcats, and while that doesn’t seem likely as of now, the 6-5 shooting guard is likely to be a first-round selection if he opts to keep his name in the NBA Draft. The best athlete at last week’s combine in Chicago, Diallo was expected to be Kentucky’s replacement for Malik Monk at shooting guard, but that could change if he continues to perform well in workouts. If Diallo opts to pass on a return to Lexington, it could drastically change how Calipari’s team is structured next season.
Florida: The Gators were able to advance to the Elite Eight after John Egbunu tore his ACL, but getting their starting center back for another season would make Mike White’s team one of the best in college basketball. According to sources, the 6-11, 255-pound Egbunu is expected to wait until the deadline to make a final decision on whether to remain in the draft. With he and Kevarrius Hayes in tow, Florida would have one of the more formidable big man combinations in the SEC.
Xavier: If Trevon Bluiett does what he should do — return to school for his senior season — he’ll be viewed the same way next season that Josh Hart was viewed this past season at Villanova. The 6-6 wing averaged 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds as a junior while leading the Musketeers to a surprise run to the Elite Eight. Is Blueitt talented enough to play basketball somewhere for money? Absolutely. But he’s probably much better off coming back to school and being a part of a top-20 team that has a chance to challenge for a Big East regular-season title.
UCF: Johnny Dawkins has a sleeper NCAA tournament team next season if Tacko Fall returns to school. The 7-6 big man was the primary reason the Knights led college basketball in field-goal percentage defense last season and his presence would again make UCF a menace to try to run offense against. The Knights won 24 games last season and averaged only 67.0 points. That’s impressive. Fall still has several workouts to go through before making a final decision.
Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.