Replacing NBA draft lottery picks
Losing a lottery pick can be crippling to a college basketball program -- but it's not always. It all depends on what's waiting in reserve. While schools such as Connecticut and Illinois will be in rebuilding mode after watching star players shake NBA commissioner David Stern's hand last week, others such as Kentucky and Florida will enter the 2012-13 campaign with NCAA title hopes. Here's a look at the 10 schools that lost lottery picks in last week's NBA draft and what to expect from them this season.
What to expect: It may be difficult to fathom, but some recruiting experts believe Nerlens Noel -- the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2012 -- is a better shot-blocker than Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Matching Davis' 4.7 swats per game will be a tall task for Noel, who isn't very polished offensively. Look for another freshman, Alex Poythress, to take over for Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward. Wildcats coach John Calipari said Poythress is "a beast," which is a term that was commonly used to describe Kidd-Gilchrist.
"He's going to be another wing that runs and can make plays and can score the ball," Calipari said. "He shoots it good. We've got to get him more consistent."
No team lost as much as the defending national champion Wildcats, who had six players drafted. Look for NC State transfer Ryan Harrow to take over for Marquis Teague at point guard while Archie Goodwin replaces Doron Lamb at shooting guard.
Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer, who played sparingly last season, will likely be a factor in a frontcourt that lost Davis and Terrence Jones. "If they could ever do on the court what last year's team did, it would be a great story," Calipari said.
FloridaLottery pick lost: Bradley Beal
What to expect: The Gators have reached the Elite Eight the past two seasons. Even without Beal, no one would be surprised if Florida went a step farther in 2012-13 and advanced to the Final Four in Atlanta. Kenny Boynton, who has averaged 14 points or more the past three seasons, returns for his senior season in the backcourt. He'll be joined by Mike Rosario, who could have a breakthrough season after spending his summer competing for the Puerto Rican national team. Scottie Wilbekin is more of a true point guard than Erving Walker, who graduated.
Gators coaches have done an excellent job of developing center Patric Young, who likely would've been a first-round pick had he entered the NBA draft after his sophomore year. Young averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds last season and should improve on those numbers as a junior. Erik Murphy, Young's mate in the frontcourt, is one of the most underrated players in the country.
SyracuseLottery pick lost: Dion Waiters
What to expect: Even though he came off the bench, Waiters was regarded as Syracuse's best player last season. He averaged 12.6 points in just 24 minutes a game. He also led his squad in steals (1.8). Still, even without Waiters, Syracuse's backcourt should be dangerous. Brandon Triche, a fourth-year starting point guard, returns for his senior season. Also back is shooting guard Michael Carter-Williams. The 21st-ranked prospect in the Class of 2011 averaged just 10 minutes per game as a freshman in 2011-12, when he played behind standouts such as Waiters and Scoop Jardine. Now is his time to shine. Head coach Jim Boeheim is also excited about 6-foot-7 freshman Jerami Grant, who was on the U.S. men's under-18 team that won the gold medal in Brazil last week. Grant is a long, athletic wing who can play multiple positions.
KansasLottery pick lost: Thomas Robinson
Painful as it is to lose Robinson, the departure of four-year starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor could sting even worse. Senior Elijah Johnson, who is more of a shooting guard, will become the primary ball-handler for the Jayhawks. Small forward Ben McLemore, who redshirted last season, could be the most talented player on KU's roster. "I never thought this past year's team would get to 32 [wins] -- especially with the way we started," said KU coach Bill Self, whose squad lost to Kentucky in the NCAA title game. "I don't see how in the world, playing in the Big 12, that next year's team can get to that level. But players do rise up to the challenge around here."
Weber StateLottery pick lost: Damian Lillard
What to expect: The Wildcats lost a once-in-a-lifetime player in Lillard, who averaged 24.5 points as a junior last season. Still, five of the eight players who logged double-digit minutes in last season's CIT loss to Loyola Marymount return. Weber State coach Randy Rahe is hoping the publicity surrounding Lillard will help his program in recruiting. Lillard never led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament, but they were a Big Sky contender every season. "We feel like he has already helped us [get] in with some kids that we shouldn't have," Rahe said. "We've gotten in with some kids that were above us."
North CarolinaLottery picks lost: Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson
What to expect: Along with the three lottery picks, the Tar Heels also lost center Tyler Zeller, who was the 17th overall selection. North Carolina might take a step backward -- but not a mammoth one, as there are plenty of talented players anxious for a chance to shine. Look for Dexter Strickland, who went down with a knee injury last season, to battle freshman Marcus Paige for starting point guard duties. Strickland should be able to begin playing again by late August or early September.
The Tar Heels boast a pair of potential first-round draft picks on the wing in Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston. And Leslie McDonald is back after sitting out last season. Outside shooting will need to be a strength for a UNC squad that won't be as strong in the paint as it's been in the past. Granted, the Tar Heels will feature one of America's top post players in James Michael McAdoo, who is expected to be a top-five pick in next summer's draft. Look for Joel James, Brice Johnson and Desmond Hubert to compete for minutes at the other starting spot.
WashingtonLottery picks lost: Terrence Ross
Lorenzo Romar's squad should still be strong on the perimeter with the return of guard C.J. Wilcox, an NBA prospect who averaged 14.2 points last season while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. And Abdul Gaddy is back after averaging 8.1 points and 5.2 assists. Seven-foot center Aziz N'Diaye became a force in the paint as a sophomore -- especially on the defensive end -- and should be even better in 2012-13. Washington may have a tough time topping UCLA and Arizona in the quest for the Pac-12 title. But the Huskies will definitely be in the mix.
ConnecticutLottery picks lost: Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb
What to expect: It could be a tough season for the Huskies, who won't be allowed to participate in the NCAA tournament after posting a poor APR. Along with Drummond and Lamb, Jim Calhoun's squad is also dealing with the departures of Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley, all of whom transferred.
The frontcourt is the main area of concern. DeAndre Daniels, Tyler Olander, Niels Giffey and Enosch Wolf will have to make significant contributions after being role players a year ago. Calhoun is also counting on two newcomers -- 6-8 German Leon Tolksdorf and 6-10 Milwaukee native Phillip Nolan, a late signee -- to log minutes in the paint. As shaky as Connecticut could be down low, the Huskies could be excellent on the perimeter, where Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier could form one of the top backcourts in the Big East.
With standout freshman Omar Calhoun and Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans also expected to contribute, don't be surprised to see the Huskies employ a four-out, one-in lineup from time to time. "We have to be a team that is a lot more mistake-free, because we won't have a big margin for error," Calhoun told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.
DukeLottery pick lost:Austin Rivers
What to expect: Rivers -- the 10th overall pick in last month's NBA draft -- led Duke in scoring (15.5 points) last season, so replacing him won't be easy. The absence of guard Andre Dawkins, who will redshirt in 2012-13, will also contribute to Duke's backcourt rotation having a different look. Shooting guard Seth Curry (13.2 points) is back for his senior season. Backup guards Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton also return. They combined to average 8.9 points last season. The key to Duke's success on the perimeter, however, may rest with incoming freshman Rasheed Sulaimon. The 12th-ranked player in the Class of 2012 has good size at 6-3. And his length will make him a factor at the other end of the court, as well.
IllinoisLottery pick lost: Meyers Leonard
What to expect: Losing Leonard was a huge blow to first-year coach John Groce, who is concerned with the Illini's lack of experience in the frontcourt. Forward Tyler Griffey is the squad's top returnee in the paint. He averaged 4.9 points in 16 minutes of action per game last season. Groce is also hoping sophomore Ibby Djimde steps up and becomes a factor. Either way, Illinois will definitely count on Coastal Carolina transfer Sam McLaurin to provide an immediate boost in the paint. McLaurin averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds as a junior last season. Groce said he passed on a couple of other prospects who wouldn't have been good long-term fits for the program. "We're not taking any shortcuts," Groce said. "This isn't about Year 1. This is about a long journey."