Monday, May 16, 2005
Player exits would really impact these teams
By Andy Katz ESPN.com
When Duke and Connecticut got hit in the final hours before the early-entry deadline, that's when we knew this year's draft had reached just about everybody.
Shavlik Randolph? What? He averaged six points and four boards for the Blue Devils and he wants to test his draft status? NBA teams aren't that na´ve. He probably won't stay in the draft, but who knows at this rate.
Andrew Bynum makes more sense, considering he's a 7-footer. Still, the Huskies weren't expecting Bynum to try the draft instead of heading to Storrs for the summer.
The likely preseason No. 1 and 1B for 2005-06 have been hit, albeit not as hard as some others. It just goes to show no one's untouchable.
"Everybody is taking hits with this thing," said LSU coach John Brady, who lost sophomore Brandon Bass to the draft on Friday. "No one is immune to this. It's a crazy year. It's sad, really. I don't get it."
At least Brady knows Bass is gone, because Bass can't test the process this spring since he already declared last year as well. Brady can now move on, focus on his frontline next season of Glen Davis and Tasmin Mitchell and a starting lineup that likely will have one senior, one junior, a sophomore and two freshmen.
"We'll just be young again," Brady said.
But how about other teams who are still waiting to see if a star player will return? They could be in limbo until the June 21 withdrawal deadline. While Duke and Connecticut still will occupy the top of the poll, with or without Randolph and Bynum, that's not necessarily the case for some of these other teams.
Texas A&M With Antoine Wright and Martellus Bennett:
The Aggies would be a serious contender for an NCAA bid and a top-four or five finish in the Big 12. Wright is the team's stud and would be a player of the year candidate in the league. Bennett wouldn't be available until after football season, but once he's on the court, his wide body and rebounding prowess would come in quite handy for the Aggies when facing the big boys in the Big 12.
The Aggies still have three of their top four scorers returning. They have two rising stars in Joseph Jones and Acie Law IV. But they still lack overall experience. Depth would be a major concern, as well. The NCAA isn't a reach, but it would become much harder.
Illinois With Dee Brown:
The Illini would have a legit shot at an NCAA berth. Brown would have to deal with more defensive attention, but he still has inside help in James Augustine. He also could aid in the transition period while the Illini move from a guard-oriented, attack offense to perhaps one that is more patient and less pressing.
Yikes. The Illini simply don't have a capable lead guard with Brown gone. Luther Head and Deron Williams are out, leaving the Illini to put a player who hasn't been in this role before as the chief playmaker if Brown stays in the draft. Augustine will have a hard time distinguishing himself in the paint without someone accomplished like Brown feeding him the ball. NIT? That would be very likely without Brown.
Arizona StateWith Ike Diogu:
The Sun Devils would have one of the top forwards in the country. He could be a preseason first-team All-American. Diogu gives the Sun Devils a marquee name and someone to build the whole offense around. He also gives them hope that they could make a run at an NCAA berth.
Likely no shot at a bid. They would lose the player who averaged 10 points more than the second-highest scorer on the team. Teams doubling Diogu also opens up shots for ASU perimeter shooters. Everything about guarding this team would get considerably easier if Diogu stays in the draft.
George Washington With Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu:
GW would enter the season as the A-10 favorite yet again. The Colonials would have three of their top four scorers returning, needing only to replace its lead guard. Hall and Mensah-Bonsu give them the necessary experience to make another run at a title.
The Colonials get extremely young. GW probably couldn't play at the same frenetic pace it did a year ago. J.R. Pinnock would be the top returning player but he feeds off everyone else and isn't exactly a front man. Replacing point T.J. Thompson is going to tough enough. The NIT would probably be a realistic goal.
Stanford With Chris Hernandez:
Stanford could be a legitimate pick to win the Pac-10. Hernandez could be a player of the year candidate in the league. The Cardinal would return their top point guard, along with leading scorer Dan Grunfeld (ACL injury) and third-leading scorer Matt Haryasz. The Cardinal would be done with their Mike Montgomery-Trent Johnson transition. This team would be experienced and ready for a run.
Without: Jason Haas would be the point guard. That's not too scary since he has filled in for Hernandez in the past. But Haas would be hard pressed to put up 20+-point games and create havoc for an opponent. Haas would be capable enough to get the Cardinal into their offense, but Hernandez can do so much more -- which is why the Cardinal would be in trouble without him.
Saint Joseph's With Dwayne Jones:
The Hawks might not slip that far, even though they're losing Pat Carroll and John Bryant. Jones gives them one of the top rebounders in the East. He is tough and is learning to better finish around the basket. Jones also is a quiet leader for the Hawks. He would help in any transition period.
Jones isn't a big-time player, but he's key to Saint Joe's defensive scheme. Jones is a solid rebounder and shotblocker and allows the Hawks' guards to ballhawk on the perimeter. If he goes, there is a huge hole to fill for the Hawks. Chet Stachitas and Dwayne Lee would be fellow seniors with Jones, giving the Hawks a senior-laden starting lineup -- if Jones returns.
Pittsburgh With Carl Krauser:
The Panthers would still have their toughness quotient. Sure, they're losing Chevy Troutman inside as well as underclassman Chris Taft, but Krauser is the heart of this team -- the player who can make the big-time 3-pointer, the defensive stand and also get in the grill of a teammate. Krauser gives the Panthers the edge they have had for three years.
The rebuilding will begin in earnest. Losing Troutman, Mark McCarroll and Taft is a hit in the paint. But the Panthers can absorb that with more PT for Aaron Gray and John DeGroat. Rising sophomore Ronald Ramon would take over for Krauser. He has moxie but he's not as experienced and not as explosive a scorer.
West Virginia With Kevin Pittsnogle:
The Mountaineers could be right back where they were last season. The 6-foot-11 Pittsnogle is a matchup nightmare with how he shoots 3s from the perimeter. Add Pittsnogle to returnees Patrick Beilein, Mike Gansey, Joe Herber and J.D. Collins, and the Mountaineers should be a contender for a deep NCAA run yet again.
The Mountaineers still will be a tough out (especially at home), because of their offensive approach and zone defense, but losing Pittsnogle takes away the Mountaineers' most difficult matchup. He makes centers chase him all the way out to the 3-point line. The Mountaineers already are losing seniors D'or Fischer and Tyrone Salley. Take Pittsnogle off the roster and the Mountaineers will be easier to defend.
Florida With Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh:
The Gators should be right back in the hunt for the SEC title. Roberson and Walsh would give the Gators the necessary leadership on the wings. Sure, they're losing David Lee, but the Gators have one of the best rising sophomore classes in the country. This team would be deep at most positions with players like Corey Brewer, Taureen Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah taking on even larger roles.
The Florida coaching staff isn't even planning on next season -- yet. They don't think they should start mapping out schedules without knowing if Roberson and/or Walsh will be back. The Gators will still be nipping at Kentucky's heels, even without those two, but they'll be relying almost exclusively on freshmen and sophomores if both stars bolt for the league.
Wake Forest With Eric Williams:
The Demon Deacons would have an inside-out combination of Williams and Justin Gray. Williams could end up being one of the top three power forwards in the ACC with Duke's Shelden Williams and Boston College's Craig Smith. Williams gives the Demon Deacons experience inside and in the locker room. Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser wants the offense to flow through Williams with Chris Paul gone. If Williams gets more touches, expect him to be an even bigger point producer.
The whole offense will have to be overhauled. Gray will have new mates at shooting guard and in the post. So, he not only will be learning how to play the point at a high level again but also trying to find the rhythm of his teammates. He already meshes with Williams. Take him out and this team could be on the bubble in late February.
MissouriWith Linas Kleiza:
The Tigers have one of the tougher post players in the Big 12. Kleiza keeps the Tigers in most games in the paint because of his tenacity. The Tigers also would have someone they could count on to score, which could be a problem with the departure of senior Jason Conley. Guards Jimmy McKinney and Thomas Gardner will take on more scoring in Conley's absence, but they play off of Kleiza.
Quin Snyder's job would get much tougher without Kleiza as an anchor. The Tigers will be extremely young in the post, not exactly the prime position at which to be searching for production in the rugged Big 12.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.