Aug 3. at 11:59 p.m. EST was the deadline for early entry players to withdraw from the 2020 NBA Draft. Ultimately, the winner was college basketball. Despite the lingering uncertainty about the 2020-21 season actually happening, the majority of the biggest players in the sport have elected to return to college for another season.
Gonzaga’s Filip Petrusev, the 2019-20 WCC Player of the Year and likely candidate to be a preseason first team all-american, signed a pro deal in Serbia and some of the top recruits such as Daishen Nix, Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd chose to go the way of the G-League program. However, the sport’s top prospect, Cade Cunningham, will be at Oklahoma State and an elite group of players are joining him at the college level instead of staying in the draft.
The winner is college hoops, and there weren’t many losers. Let’s take a look at the individual teams that benefited most from the decisions made at the deadline, and, unfortunately, the ones that didn’t.
It was highly unlikely Luka Garza was going to stay in the NBA draft. He wouldn’t have gone in the first round and there weren’t many people promising him that he would get drafted at all. But there was certainly a route for him to take overseas that would have paid him nicely. At the end of the day, Garza is headed back to Iowa City for his senior season as a Hawkeye.
Iowa is the biggest winner of the deadline simply because Garza will be the favorite to win National Player of the Year and take Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in the last five seasons. More importantly, the Hawkeyes now have a chance to win the regular season Big Ten title for the first time since 1979. The 2019-20 AP First Team All-American averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds last season and will be even better this year if there is a college basketball season. It’s a good day to be a Hawkeye fan.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Illini round out the main reason why the Big Ten might be the second biggest winner behind the entire sport of college basketball. Garza is the most important player to return to the Big Ten, but Ayo Dosunmu is a close second. The Illinois guard announced via Twitter that he would be returning for a third season after averaging 16.6 points, 3.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds for an Illini team that was on its way to the tournament for the first time since 2013.
Alongside Dosunmu is the other half of possibly the best 1-2 punch in college hoops, Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn announced on Aug. 1 he would also return and bring his 13 points and 8.8 rebounds with him. Just five days ago, it was an uncertain time in Champaign. Today, Illinois has a roster that needs to seriously be considered as one of the best in the sport. My faith in the Fighting Illini was low prior to last season, but they proved me wrong and they will be even better in 2020-21. With five other teams that are top 25 caliber in the Big Ten, the conference will be one of the best once again.
Iowa and Illinois cemented their chances of having really good seasons with the return of those three key players. The Baylor Bears cemented their place as one of the best teams in college hoops with the news they received. Both Jared Butler and MaCio Teague are returning to a team that spent 11 weeks in the top five last season and five weeks as the No. 1 team in the AP Poll. Teague and Butler combined for 30 points, five assists, and 7.8 rebounds in 2019-20 and were at the center of the best season in Baylor program history. Davion Mitchell, one of the best defenders in the country, is also returning to Waco — not that it was in question. The Bears are one of the bigger “what if’s” of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. If there is a 2021 NCAA Tournament, I have no doubt the Bears will be a very big part of it.
Will Wade will lose his leading scorer, Skylar Mays, to graduation but he is officially bringing back the next four leading scorers from last season. The decisions of Trendon Watford and Javonte Smart were both up in the air but both announced they will be returning to Baton Rouge next season. The pair were the second and fourth leading scorers, combining for 26.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists worth of production. With the recruiting class Kentucky has coming in and the next team on this list, LSU might not be the favorite to win the SEC, but they’ll certainly be competitive.
The Razorbacks leading scorer, Mason Jones, who averaged 22 points per game for Eric Musselman last season, signed with an agent back in the spring and will not be returning to Fayetteville. However, Isaiah Joe will be returning after testing NBA waters following averages of 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He will be one of the best offensive players in the SEC next season and is certainly in the discussion to be the conference player of the year, especially if the Razorbacks have a good season.
Alongside Joe, the Razorbacks are bringing in the eighth ranked recruiting class in 2020 along with three transfers — Indiana’s Justin Smith, New Mexico’s Vance Jackson and Northern Kentucky’s Jalen Tate — that are immediately eligible. With a coach like Musselman at the helm, Arkansas is ready to return to the NCAA tournament in 2021.
Michigan State Spartans
It, of course, made sense for Xavier Tillman Sr. to stay in the NBA Draft. He has a family and will almost certainly be a first round pick as a 6’8 impact defender with a 7’1 wingspan. With that being said, it’s indisputable that the Spartans were hurt by his decision to stay in the draft. They are now without their two leading scorers in Tillman and Cassius Winston, not to mention their in-game leaders and their only senior-to-be in 2020-21. Michigan State will be fine with Tom Izzo at the helm and their next five scorers returning and two top 75 recruits coming to campus, but they could’ve been much better with Tillman.
Last season was the best season for Cardinal basketball since 2015-16 and a lot of that had to do with Tyrell Terry. Terry was second in scoring as a freshman and had a Trae Young-type excitement to his game that was so fun to watch. After going 20-12 last season, it looked like the Cardinal had a chance to go back to the tournament for just the second time since 2008. Without Terry, the chances of that happening are much less likely, not to mention that head coach Jerod Haase probably never thought he’d have to say goodbye to the 109th player at 247Sports in the class of 2019 after just one season.