At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college basketball coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.
This week's question: The deadline for early entrants to pull their names out of consideration for the NBA draft is Monday. Which player's decision will have the most impact on his team?
David Fox's answer:
Like several SEC teams, South Carolina spent time on the bubble in late February and early March. And, like most SEC teams, the Gamecocks missed the NCAA tournament. Another SEC guard, Jodie Meeks, would make a major impact if he returned to Kentucky. But the Wildcats' tournament hopes don't hinge on Meeks the way South Carolina's hinged on Devan Downey. He was one of the nation's underrated guards, averaging 19.8 points per game. I don't care that the SEC was mediocre last season; if you saw Downey in person, you were impressed. The league should be much improved next season, especially in the East. Kentucky is back on top. Tennessee returns every key player, as does Vanderbilt. The only way for South Carolina to keep up was for Downey to return. Now that he has decided to stay, things look much brighter in Columbia.
Mike Huguenin's answer:
The Wake Forest coaching staff has to be hoping against hope that guard Jeff Teague stays in school. With Teague, Wake is a top-25 team. Without him, the Demon Deacons will be a middle-of-the-pack ACC team. Wake already has lost forward James Johnson to the draft, and the double-whammy that would be Teague leaving could affect the program for a couple of seasons.
Jason King's answer:
Georgia Tech went 12-19 last season and finished last in the ACC at 2-14. The Yellow Jackets, though, may not be down for long – especially if standout forward Gani Lawal returns for his junior season. Partly because his team struggled, Lawal was one of the more underrated players in the country in 2008-09, when he averaged 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. That wouldn't be the case next season, when he'd combine with highly touted freshman Derrick Favors to form one of the top frontcourts in the ACC. Mix in a sure-to-be-improved Iman Shumpert with a national top-10 recruiting class, and Georgia Tech could go from last in the ACC to the middle of the pack – or better – in the span of one season. Lawal returning to the Yellow Jackets, though, may be wishful thinking, as most draft prognosticators are predicting that he'll be a first-round selection.
Steve Megargee's answer:
Perhaps no team has more reason to feel nervous about the impending deadline than Notre Dame. The Irish's chances of contending for an NCAA tournament berth likely depend on Luke Harangody's decision. Although the Irish already have lost three starters from a team that reached the NIT semifinals last season, the arrivals of Purdue transfer Scott Martin and Mississippi State transfer Ben Hansbrough should help Notre Dame reload without suffering too many growing pains. Hansbrough isn't as good as Kyle McAlarney, but he can help fill the 3-point shooting void left by McAlarney's departure. Martin can fit into Ryan Ayers' former role. But the Irish don't have any newcomer who can replace Harangody, who has led the Big East in scoring and has ranked second in the league in rebounding each of the past two seasons. With Harangody in the lineup, the Irish have reason to believe they can reach the NCAA tournament. Without him, they could have a hard time making the NIT.