Champs among Biggest Underclass Deadline Losers in College Hoops

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, May 2, 2018 3:15 PM UTC

Wednesday, May. 2, 2018 3:15 PM UTC

The deadline for underclassmen to enter the NBA Draft has come and gone. Here are the programs coming out as the biggest losers in this unpredictable and agonizing process.

More than 130 non-senior college basketball prospects declared for the NBA Draft as early entrants in 2018. The deadline to apply was April 22. Does it feel like this rule is getting out of hand yet?

Only 60 players will be selected in the draft, which includes seniors and a growing foreign-player pool. Most of the early entrants are there to let scouts evaluate their skills and work out with pro teams. Some will head to the NBA, others to professional leagues overseas, but many will return to their college programs during the summer after giving their coaches and fan base a distressing and restless wait. Only those not signing with agents are eligible to return. The nearly 80 or so in this category can withdraw up to 10 days following the Scouting Combine.

The 2016 early-entry rule is fostering an unprecedented level of uncertainty among the nation’s top programs. Will certain players be on the roster next season or not? It affects recruiting, practice, preparation, classroom work, you name it. It also makes forecasting power rankings nearly impossible. Although the one-and-done phenomenon has also helped muddy these waters, it is clear among recent, successful NCAA Tournament teams (Villanova, Michigan, etc.) that experience and a seasoned roster matters. Some programs know which players are gone for good, while most wait in limbo.

Let’s evaluate the biggest losers in this process.


Jay Wright reaped the rewards of Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson returning to school last season by winning his second NCAA Tournament title in three years. Now he owns one of the most vulnerable teams in the nation. Both juniors are assuredly gone next year after signing with agents. In addition, guard Donte Divincenzo, the reigning Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, and center Omari Spellman have thrown their hats into the ring. Despite the latter not signing with agents, don’t count on a return. Each are projected late first-round or early second-round selections. Guard Phil Booth and wingman Eric Paschall announced they will return for their senior seasons, but still this is the biggest shakeup for the Cats in quite some time. Keeping experienced talent enrolled has clearly given Wright an edge over many of the one-and-done programs with higher player turnover rates in recent years. Now the veteran leader is dealing with major uncertainty and likely a little heartburn.

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A chant for the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player Donte Divincenzo breaking out at the parade.

He's got a few words for Nova Nation today after his standout performance in the Final Four.

— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 5, 2018


The Tigers clawed their way to an unexpected 24-10 record in 2017-18, giving eighth-year head coach Brad Brownwell his most wins in a single season. Already facing the departure of senior forward Donte Grantham, graduate transfer Mark Donnal, and his second-leading scorer senior guard Gabe Devoe, Brownwell will now have to navigate the uncertainty of three players entering the NBA Draft. Junior forward David Skara will definitely not return after signing with an agent. Junior guards Shelton Mitchell and Marquise Reed are eligible to re-enroll. If both decide to go pro, Brownwell will lose four of his top five scorers from last season. Ouch.


The Wolf Pack are a preseason top-10 team, if coach Eric Musselman can retain his top three scorers from last season: Caleb Marin (18.9 ppg), Jordan Caroline (17.7 ppg), and Cody Martin (14.0 ppg). The trio entered the NBA Draft each minus an agent, keeping a Reno return possible. It’s a crapshoot. Caleb Martin is expected to get picked up late in the first round or early in the second. Brother Cody and Caroline are longshots for the NBA, but likely to go G-league or overseas. All three are transfers and have each played four years of collegiate ball. There is little left to prove if the three are broken up.

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