The NBA's draft withdrawal deadline might become an unofficial college basketball holiday in the near future. Dozens of players across the country announced their decisions in the final days and on the deadline yesterday, and the majority of guys on the bubble decided to return to school.
Perhaps no conference saw its outlook change in the past two days as much as the Big Ten. In the final 36 hours before the withdrawal deadline, five key names announced they were staying put, while one (Indiana's Troy Williams) decided to leave and officially turn pro. Let’s look at the four teams most significantly impacted by these decisions.
James Blackmon is returning to Bloomington for his junior season after missing the last 22 games of the 2015-16 season with a partially torn ACL. When healthy, however, the 6-4 guard put up 16 points and 4 rebounds per game.
His return is key for the Hoosiers going forward, especially with forward Troy Williams remaining in the draft. Williams had a rather poor combine, according to most scouts, and is No. 86 in the Draft Express rankings, but will turn pro after three seasons anyway. Indiana will also have to move on from four-year starting point guard Yogi Ferrell.
So next year’s team should be centered on Blackmon and rising sophomore center Thomas Bryant, who has a potential NBA future of his own. Williams’ departure opens up a starting spot for perhaps the biggest X-factor in the whole conference, rising sophomore O.G. Anunoby, while Robert Johnson and Collin Hartman are expected to round out the starting lineup. It won’t be nearly as deep a team as the one that just took home the regular-season Big Ten title, but with a healthy Blackmon coming back, Indiana is still a force to be reckoned with.
Point guard Melo Trimble's return was officially announced just two hours before the 11:59 deadline Wednesday (though our Terrapin Times reported it days earlier), making him pretty much the last big name to declare. Out of all the announcements, his probably has the biggest impact on his team. Trimble will be the only starter returning from last year’s team. Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon ran out of eligibility, while Diamond Stone and Robert Carter decided to forgo the remainder of theirs.
Another season of Trimble will surely make the Terps better this year, but it also opens up a lot of room for speculation. It’s perfectly reasonable to question how often he and incoming freshman point guard Anthony Cowan will share the floor, or whether or not they can mesh. The Terps will also need someone else, most likely in the frontcourt, to step up. But although Maryland is far from a known commodity, fans in College Park were celebrating Wednesday night.
Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan announced their decisions to come back to school on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Edwards was the Boilermakers’ best perimeter player last year, while Swanigan was a key cog in the post.
The Purdue front line won’t have A.J. Hammons, who was a senior in 2016, but it will have Edwards, Swanigan and 7-2 mammoth Isaac Haas. Obviously, there are still question marks in the backcourt after departures by Rapheal Davis (graduation) and Kendall Stephens (transferring to Nevada). The Boilermakers did bring in point guard Spike Albrecht (famous for his performance for Michigan in the 2013 title game and subsequent tweet at Kate Upton) as a grad transfer, but he’s not a superstar by any measure. However, the returns of Edwards and Swanigan should keep Purdue relevant throughout the season.
One more year of Nigel Hayes awaits. The rising senior announced Tuesday that he was returning to school, which many evaluators at the combine thought was necessary. He led the Badgers in scoring and assists and was second in rebounds last year.
Wisconsin might now be the favorite in this conference. The Badgers were painfully close to a spot in the Elite Eight this March, and Greg Gard now has a full offseason as head coach after taking over for Bo Ryan midseason. The entire core is coming back, and, although Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter should continue to improve, it will still be Hayes and Bronson Koenig running the show.