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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Updated: April 22, 7:57 AM ET
Offseason's biggest losers (so far)

By Jason King
ESPN.com

Wichita State and VCU held on to their coaches, and USC and Minnesota hired promising ones. Julius Randle -- the nation's No. 3 recruit -- pledged to Kentucky. James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston returned to North Carolina, and Oklahoma State will get another year of Marcus Smart.

Still, as kind as the past few weeks have been to some programs, other schools haven't experienced nearly as much good fortune.

Here's a look at some of the biggest losers of the offseason thus far.

Mountain West Conference

The MWC was ranked No. 1 in RPI for most of last season, when five league teams (New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State and Boise State) earned NCAA tournament berths. But only two of those schools (Colorado State and San Diego State) won their opening game, and both were eliminated from the bracket two days later.

The negative momentum could carry over into 2013-14. Regular-season champion New Mexico should still be a Top 25-caliber team, but the Lobos lost their best player (Tony Snell) to the NBA draft and coach Steve Alford bolted for UCLA. UNLV freshman standout Anthony Bennett is turning pro; Mike Moser transferred to Washington; and assists leader Anthony Marshall graduated. San Diego State is losing its two leading scorers, Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, and Colorado State started five seniors. It could be a "transition year" in the MWC.

Marquette's momentum

I thought Buzz Williams deserved national coach of the year honors for leading a rather unheralded group of players to a share of the Big East title and the Elite Eight last season. With nearly all of the key pieces from that unit set to return and a recruiting class ranked No. 11 in the country, Marquette seemed like a shoo-in for the 2013-14 preseason top 10. Not anymore.

The baffling decision of leading scorer Vander Blue to enter the NBA draft is a huge blow to the Golden Eagles, who were counting on him to be the focal point of their offense once again. Six-foot-4 Blue improved dramatically last season, averaging 14.8 points, but he shot just 29 percent from 3-point range. His name doesn't even appear in most mock drafts. Blue could've been a star as a senior and maybe even led Marquette to a Final Four. Instead, he made what appears to be an ill-advised decision to leave school early. Both sides could end up suffering from his departure, although Marquette should still be very, very good.

Kansas' Big 12 title hopes

The Jayhawks have won nine straight league crowns, but their chances of capturing No. 10 appear to be in jeopardy. "If someone else doesn't win it this year, no one ever will," one Big 12 coach joked.

Kansas lost all five starters (four seniors and freshman Ben McLemore) from a squad that went 31-6 and reached the Sweet 16, where it collapsed against national runner-up Michigan. Backups Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis, who combined to average 11.3 points a game, are the only returning players who contributed double-digit minutes off the bench. Kansas signed the nation's No. 3 recruiting class, and Bill Self is excited about the potential of top-30 prospects such as forward Wayne Selden (No. 12) and center Joel Embiid (No. 28), who could blossom into one of the best big men Self has coached.

The question isn't whether KU's newcomers will be any good but rather how quickly they can develop and adapt. These are two-, three- and four-year players, not one-and-dones like Randle, who broke Self's heart by choosing Kentucky over Kansas last month. Factor in the decision of reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart to return to Oklahoma State rather than enter the NBA draft and this year's conference race could be even more interesting than last season's. I'm still picking the Jayhawks, but I don't feel quite as strongly about it this time.

Providence's patience

The Ed Cooley era got off to a blockbuster start a year ago when the Friars signed Ricky Ledo, a consensus top-25 prospect good enough to propel Providence into the national spotlight in his very first season. Ledo, though, failed to meet NCAA eligibility requirements and had to sit out the 2012-13 campaign. Now, instead of gearing up for next season, Ledo is passing on college basketball altogether so he can enter the NBA draft. He's been told he might be a first-round pick.

The situation has to be frustrating for Cooley, who invested a lot of time and energy into Ledo in the past year. Still, Providence made huge strides last season -- it finished 9-9 in the Big East -- and should contend for an NCAA tournament berth thanks to the return of leading scorers Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts.

Memphis Tigers

Don't feel too sorry for Josh Pastner, whose Tigers signed the nation's No. 2 recruiting class and likely will open next season ranked in the top 15 or 20. Still, expectations for next year's Memphis squad would be even higher if not for a pair of departures that, although not all that surprising, were still disappointing.

Forward Tarik Black earned his degree in three years and will transfer to another school for his final season of eligibility, and talented forward Adonis Thomas has decided to enter the NBA draft. Thomas likely would've been a first-round pick if he had left school after his freshman season, but his stock has fallen a bit after a solid-but-not-spectacular sophomore season in which he averaged 11.9 points on 40.7 percent shooting. Memphis also loses highflier D.J. Stephens, who led the team in rebounds (6.7) and blocks (2.4).

Texas' rebuilding efforts

After earning an NCAA tournament berth in each of Rick Barnes' first 14 seasons, the Longhorns finished just 16-18 in 2012-13 and lost to Houston in the first round of the CBI. That was almost as bad as getting blown out by Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. Almost. The most depressing part? Things could get even worse next year.

Standout sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo, who was easily the team's top player, has entered the NBA draft, and second-leading scorer Sheldon McClellan has announced his intentions to transfer. That leaves Barnes with a lackluster roster that, for the first time in a long time, won't be bolstered by a standout recruiting class. It will be interesting to see how Longhorns fans and administrators react to a second straight underwhelming season.

Missouri's backcourt

Perhaps no other player hurt his team by entering the NBA draft as much as Phil Pressey, the Tigers' erratic but uber-talented point guard. Missouri went 23-11 last season and easily could've won more games. Six of its losses were by three or fewer points. Sure, some of those setbacks were Pressey's fault, but he also deserved credit for holding together a team full of new pieces and faces.

Missouri loses Keion Bell, Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers but returns some solid players in Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, Tony Criswell and Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson. With Pressey, this would've been a fringe top-25 team. Without him, Missouri has no true point guard, at least not one with any significant experience. That will put Missouri at a major disadvantage in an SEC that should be much improved with emerging teams such as Tennessee, LSU and Alabama joining Kentucky and Florida as contenders for NCAA tournament berths. Missouri might have a tough time finishing in the top half of the league.

NC State

The Wolfpack have won 24 games and finished fourth in the ACC each of the past two years. But Mark Gottfried's team has taken two major hits since the end of the season that could cause it to take a few steps back in the conference pecking order.

Leading scorer C.J. Leslie (14.9 points, 7.4 boards) has declared for the NBA draft along with point guard Lorenzo Brown (12.4 points, 7.2 assists), and freshman phenom Rodney Purvis is transferring to Connecticut. Purvis averaged only 8.3 points last season, but it's obvious he has some big days ahead of him. Mix in the graduation of forward Richard Howell and 3-point ace Scott Wood and, suddenly, a team that was ranked as high as No. 6 last season might not even make the NCAA tournament in 2013-14.