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May 11, 2010

Change of heart changes teams' fortunes

The impact of this year's early entries into the NBA draft will be evident Wednesday when Rivals.com releases its updated 2010-11 preseason top 25.

Kentucky topped our preliminary rankings, which came out before five of its players decided to leave school to begin their pro careers. The Wildcats obviously won't be ranked nearly that high in our updated rankings.

Before we release those updated rankings, we decided to whet your appetites by putting together a list of the teams that were helped or hurt the most by players' decisions in the days leading up to the deadline to withdraw from consideration for the draft.

Keep in mind this list only focuses on schools that had players who already had entered their names in the draft. For example, Georgia has emerged as one of the biggest winners of the offseason thus far because its two top players -- Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie -- chose to remain in school. But Georgia isn't included in this list because Thompkins and Leslie never entered the draft.


BYU: Guard Jimmer Fredette's decision to return to school gives BYU a legitimate national player of the year candidate. Having Fredette could make the Cougars the preseason favorite in the Mountain West Conference, particularly since New Mexico's Darington Hobson chose to stay in the draft. Fredette averaged 22.1 points and 4.7 assists last season while helping the Cougars go 30-6 and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament. Fredette's return became even more critical for BYU in the wake of backup point guard Michael Loyd Jr.'s decision to transfer.

ILLINOIS: The Illini failed to make the NCAA tournament this season, but they likely will open the 2010-11 season in the national rankings now that point guard Demetri McCamey and power forward Mike Davis chose to stay in school. McCamey led the Illini in scoring at 15.1 points per game and ranked second in the nation with 7.1 assists per game. Davis averaged 9.2 rebounds, becoming the first Illinois player in 23 years to lead the Big Ten in that category. Illinois expects to return all its starters from the 2009-10 season and also brings in three top-100 recruits in 7-foot center Meyers Leonard (the No. 31 prospect in the nation), 6-8 forward Jereme Richmond (No. 35) and 6-5 guard Crandall Head (No. 84).

MOREHEAD STATE: The Eagles' chances of reaching the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons received a huge boost when reigning Ohio Valley Conference player of the year Kenneth Faried decided to stay in school for his senior season. Faried, a 6-foot-8 forward/center, ranked second in the nation in rebounding (13.0) and double-doubles (25) this season to earn honorable mention All-America honors from The Associated Press. Had he gone pro, Morehead's OVC hopes would've died.

OAKLAND: The reigning Summit League champions should have one of the nation's best big men next season now that Keith Benson has decided to stay in school. Benson, a potential first-round pick, chose to stay in school after a postseason physical showed he needed surgery on his right thumb. Although Benson said he wasn't in any pain, the injury would have limited his availability to work out for NBA teams. Benson posted a team-high 17.3 points per game and set single-season school records with 367 rebounds and 117 blocks as the Grizzlies reached the NCAA tournament. His return means they could make another appearance next season. Benson already has received his degree in integrative studies. He will spend the upcoming school year taking graduate courses in architectural studies.

PURDUE: If guard E'Twaun Moore and center/forward JaJuan Johnson had chosen to leave school, Purdue might not have opened the 2010-11 season in the national rankings. With Moore and Johnson back in the fold, the Boilermakers could crack the top five. Moore was an honorable mention AP All-American who averaged 16.4 points and 2.7 assists to lead the Boilermakers in both categories last season. Johnson averaged 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds, and he ranks second in school history with 184 career blocks. If Robbie Hummel makes a successful comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2009-10 season early, the Boilermakers should emerge as legitimate Final Four contenders.

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies could end up as Duke's toughest challenger in the ACC now that point guard Malcolm Delaney -- the conference's leading scorer in 2009-10 -- has chosen to remain in school for his senior season. Delaney's decision means Virginia Tech will return all five starters from a team that failed to reach the 2010 NCAA tournament despite going 10-6 in ACC competition. Virginia Tech also is adding Florida transfer Allen Chaney, a 6-9 forward rated as the No. 96 prospect in the 2008 recruiting class. Delaney averaged 20.2 points and 4.5 assists this season and was a unanimous first-team All-ACC selection. He earned honorable mention All-America honors from the AP.


BUTLER: Forward Gordon Hayward's decision to remain in the draft should temper the sky-high expectations of Butler fans caught up in the euphoria of their appearance in the 2010 national championship game. Hayward's return would have given Butler four returning starters and would have made the Bulldogs a likely top-five team in the preseason rankings. Butler still should enter the season as the clear-cut Horizon League favorite, but the loss of the reigning Horizon League player of the year probably assures that the Bulldogs will have to settle for opening the season in the top 25 instead.

GEORGETOWN: After his sophomore season ended with a stunning loss to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 6-11 center Greg Monroe said he planned to return for his junior season. But he changed his mind in the ensuing month and decided to enter the draft. Monroe was one of the two or three best big men in the nation this season. The departures of Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins would have made Monroe the obvious choice as the nation's best post player had he returned to school. The talented backcourt tandem of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright should make sure Georgetown returns to the NCAA tournament next season, but Monroe's return would have made the Hoyas a potential top-five team and a preseason Big East favorite.

GEORGIA TECH: The losses of forward Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal aren't a surprise; Favors is a probable top-five pick in the draft and Lawal also could get taken in the first round. But their departures leave a giant hole in the frontcourt of a team that had serious backcourt problems throughout the 2009-10 season. Georgia Tech reached the NCAA tournament this season only because its frontcourt superiority could mask its backcourt deficiencies. It's tough to imagine the Yellow Jackets returning to the tournament without Favors or Lawal in the lineup.

KENTUCKY: No team in the nation is losing as much firepower to the NBA. The departures of point guard John Wall and forwards DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson were long anticipated; Wall almost certainly will be the first player taken in the draft, Cousins is a potential top-three pick and Patterson is a probable lottery selection. But many Kentucky fans held out hope that point guard Eric Bledsoe and post player Daniel Orton might return for their sophomore seasons. The dearth of point guards in this year's draft proved too tempting for Bledsoe, who could be the second point guard taken. Orton's upside makes him a possible lottery pick, even though he averaged just 13.2 minutes this season. The Wildcats did so well in the late signing period that they still might open next season as favorites to win the SEC title, but the loss of so much talent could prevent them from being realistic contenders for the national championship.

SEC WEST: After a season in which the SEC East thoroughly dominated the West, Kentucky's drastic roster turnover and Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy's decision to turn pro created the potential for balance next season. So much for that idea. Ole Miss lost guard Terrico White to the draft and also must replace departed swingman Eniel Polynice and forward Murphy Holloway. Then came the puzzling decisions by Arkansas point guard Courtney Fortson and Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost to turn pro. Of the West Division underclassmen to enter the draft, only White is likely to be selected. All that upheaval leaves the West Division with no clear preseason favorite, unless Mississippi State newcomer Renardo Sidney is every bit as good as advertised.

UTEP: Tim Floyd will begin his coaching tenure at UTEP without Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie, the Miners' top two big men during their drive to the 2010 NCAA tournament. Caracter, a Louisville transfer, led UTEP with 8.1 rebounds per game and ranked second on the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game this season. Moultrie, a 6-11 sophomore, averaged 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds. While Caracter left UTEP for the NBA draft, Moultrie apparently plans to transfer. "Arnett and I have arrived at a mutual understanding where it would be best for him to continue his career elsewhere," Floyd said in a statement released by the university. "We wish him well and thank him for his contributions over the last two seasons."

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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