The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA Draft passed over the weekend, and at least 50 remained in, leading some of you to ask how many will be selected next month. My answer: Between 35 and 40. I'll go with 39. That suggests that although there were some questionable decisions made, the majority of underclassmen who declared will be earning more money than most this time next year.
Now let's recap:
The biggest winner was ... Purdue's Matt Painter. Most felt from the start that E'Twaun Moore would return to school, but the status of JaJuan Johnson was very much undetermined heading into the weekend. Some close to the situation believed the shot-blocking junior had one Nike out the door, and perhaps he did. But Johnson wisely -- it was wise because he wasn't certain to secure a guaranteed NBA contract -- withdrew by the deadline, meaning Moore, Johnson and Robbie Hummel will again serve as the core of a Final Four-caliber team.
The biggest loser was ... Butler's Brad Stevens (as long as the measuring stick is that he lost his best player). It's insane for anybody to criticize Gordon Hayward for remaining in the draft given that he's a possible lottery pick, but there's no denying that it'll lessen the hype of the Bulldogs heading into next season and greatly decrease the odds of them making back-to-back Final Fours. Butler will still be good, of course, and the Horizon League favorite. But losing Hayward hurts. It'll cost a preseason top five ranking.
The biggest surprise was ... Mississippi State's Dee Bost, I guess, but only in the sense that he remained in the draft despite the fact that he's a 6-foot-2 combo guard who will likely go undrafted. It became clear in the 48 hours leading up to the deadline to withdraw that Bost might remain in the draft for better or worse (almost certainly for worse). If he's OK with going to Europe or the NBDL, I'm OK with the decision. Whatever. But if he legitimately thinks he could land in the NBA next season he's legitimately lost his mind.
The most unique decision was ... Arnett Moultrie's decision to withdraw from the draft, but not to return to UTEP. Rather, he withdrew to transfer, and don't be surprised if the Memphis native ends up at Memphis. No, UTEP doesn't plan to release Moultrie to Memphis (or Auburn, where former UTEP coach Tony Barbee now coaches). But all that means is that the 6-11 forward would have to sit out next season (which would be the case anywhere) and pay his own tuition (as opposed to being on scholarship) before becoming eligible in 2011-12. It's not ideal, obviously. But Moultrie would get in-state tuition, and sources told CBSSports.com he'd be eligible for every kind of pell grant available, point being that his student loan would be minimal. The only real downside is that Moultrie would lose a year of eligibility and only have one season to play at Memphis (as opposed to two at a school approved by UTEP). But he'd probably only play one more season anyway before entering the draft again, which is why, in the end, most close to the situation believe he'll be a Tiger.
The smartest decision was ... Eric Bledsoe's decision to remain in the draft and leave Kentucky after one season, and those questioning it aren't properly grasping the situation, specifically that Bledsoe wasn't a big fan of, well, college. Beyond that, he'll almost certainly go in the first round, this despite being a 6-1 guard who wasn't a McDonald's All-American. So it's right to strike while the striking is good -- especially when you consider that A) John Calipari's future at UK remains uncertain, B) Bledsoe will probably never be the most talented guard on any UK team Calipari coaches (next year that would be Brandon Knight; in 2011-12 it would be Marquis Teague), and C) this is a relatively weak draft for point guards. Bottom line, I like Bledsoe's decision. This is the safest play he could make.
The theme from this year was that ... pretty much everybody with a legitimate reason to enter the draft entered the draft. Every projected lottery pick is in, and the highest-regarded prospect who returned to school is either Duke's Kyle Singler or Gonzaga's Elias Harris, which is something I implore you to remember next season when people start writing stories about how Baylor's Perry Jones and Kansas' Josh Selby really want to play more than one season in college.
Happens every year, and it's silly almost every time.
Because it almost never happens.
Locks for the lottery usually leave
Write that down and memorize it.
With few exceptions, locks for the lottery leave.
This year's list of underclassmen serves as the latest example.