Here are the college basketball teams that are the biggest winners and losers from the 2021 NBA Draft early entry deadline.
The deadline for early entrants into the 2021 NBA Draft came and went as Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning, serving as one of the final steps in solidifying rosters for the upcoming college basketball season.
Several impact transfers are still available and could swing their new team’s hopes in a positive direction, yet nothing can swing the needle for a team as much as the early withdrawal deadline.
Some teams, like Gonzaga, can be considered NBA Draft “winners” with Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard both returning for another season, but those teams were not considered for this list as those decisions were made well before the deadline.
Others, like Rutgers, picked up some serious momentum at the deadline, though that only offset previous losses. In the case of the Scarlet Knights, stars Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr. withdrew from the draft on deadline day, yet the team had already lost starters Myles Johnson (UCLA) and Jacob Young (Oregon) in the offseason.
So, who do we consider to be the biggest winners and losers from the 2021 NBA Draft deadline? The UCLA Bruins get things started.
UCLA was always going to end up on this list one way or the other depending on Johnny Juzang’s decision. The star of UCLA’s Final Four run, Juzang was the go-to perimeter scoring option that made the Bruins so dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. Now that he’s officially back for another season in Westwood, the Bruins have a very real chance to build off that momentum.
Most of the roster was set to return no matter what, including key players Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell, and Mick Cronin landed a major addition via the transfer portal with the aforementioned Myles Johnson.
That said, Juzang’s offensive prowess ties the roster together and is what pushes this group from a borderline top 25 team to a virtual top five lock — the difference between having a good season or potentially having a special one.
Kansas was one of the big winners from the transfer portal, landing Remy Martin from Arizona State and Joseph Yesufu from Drake. So, once it became official that both Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson were returning to school, the Jayhawks immediately became one of the preseason national title favorites.
Wilson was thought to be simply be testing NBA Draft waters and would return. As such, his announcement was met with more relief than anything else in Lawrence. Agbaji, on the other hand, was a projected second round pick and intended to remain in the draft. Rumblings of a potential return continued to grow throughout the pre-draft process and came to fruition on Tuesday.
Their return gives Bill Self’s squad excellent size and depth on the wing, and means Kansas returns its three leading scorers.
Another big winner from the transfer portal after landing Qudus Wahab (Georgetown) and Fatts Russell (Rhode Island), Maryland failed to capitalize on that momentum. Their backcourt trio of Eric Ayala, Darryl Morsell, and Aaron Wiggins all entered the draft early and all were expected to return.
Ayala, of course, did. However, Wiggins opted to remain in the draft after a strong combine showing while Morsell chose to transfer to Marquette.
The Terps now have to replace their top two assist leaders, two of their four leading scorers, and arguably their two best perimeter defenders (Morsell is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year). Mark Turgeon’s squad still projects to be an NCAA Tournament team, yet no longer appears in line for Big Ten title contention or top 10 consideration.
Juwan Howard could have his best team at Michigan in 2021-22 following the decisions of Hunter Dickinson and DeVante’ Jones to withdraw from the NBA Draft.
Dickinson was a star for the Wolverines as a freshman and was one of the best big men in the country. He wasn’t originally expected to enter the draft, yet he did. He then revealed to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman that he was close to leaving Ann Arbor. Doing so would’ve left Michigan with a gaping hole in the middle of their lineup that instead remains filled with one of the nation’s best players.
Jones’ decision also ensures Michigan has a strength at point guard instead of a weakness. The Coastal Carolina transfer and reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year was brought in to take over for Mike Smith, but he was only suiting up for the Wolverines if he bypassed the professional ranks as expected.
He did, and now all the Michigan hype can rightfully ensue. We have them ranked in the top three in our HeatCheckCBB Top 25 .
Loser: Ohio State
Let’s stay in the Big Ten, shall we? Similar to Maryland, Ohio State was ranked in the top five in our way-too-early HeatCheckCBB Top 25 when it was released. Stars E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. were in the draft early, though we expected both to return.
If that were to be the case, the Buckeyes would’ve been right up there with Michigan and Purdue as Big Ten and national championship favorites. Instead, Washington opted to remain in the draft, leaving Ohio State with a sizable hole when it comes to perimeter scoring, playmaking and shot creation. His absence certainly puts a much lower ceiling on Ohio State’s outlook for the 2021-22 season.
Winner: Oral Roberts
Max Abmas is back! As a result, Oral Roberts is a winner.
The program is returning the nation’s leading scorer and perhaps the biggest star of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, which is obviously a major win for anyone. But Abmas’ return also ensures that Oral Roberts remains relevant nationally in a way the program has never been. That is equally as important.
ORU might’ve been the deadline’s biggest winner if Kevin Obanor didn’t enter the transfer portal. Their “other star” withdrew from the NBA Draft just minutes before Abmas did but opted to remain in the portal to seek other college options. If he returns, the Golden Eagles will be an extremely dangerous team.
Winner: St. John’s
We’ve now reached the section where the decision of a single player would make or break a team’s chances. In St. John’s case, that guy was Julian Champagnie.
The 6-8, 220-pounder was the heart and soul of the Red Storm as a sophomore, leading them in points and rebounds while earning All-Big East honors. There was a real chance Mike Anderson’s squad could’ve lost him, too, as he was a projected second-round pick.
Champagnie announced his return on July 4 and immediately reinforced expectations for the program to return to the NCAA Tournament, and potentially pick up their first tournament victory since 2000.
Loser: West Virginia
West Virginia isn’t totally left out in the open as both Sean McNeil and Taz Sherman withdrew from the draft to return to Morgantown. That said, WVU is on this list because Miles McBride kept his name in the draft.
Once star big man Derek Culver signed with an agent in April, West Virginia’s hopes for a successful 2021-22 campaign rested on McBride’s shoulders. “Deuce” led the Mountaineers in points, assists, and steals a season ago. He was their leader, capable of going toe-to-toe with anyone in the country — which he did on a number of occasions, like when he had 31-7-7 in a win over Kansas or when he outplayed projected No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham in a win over Oklahoma State.
Of course, those skills are why he won’t be coming back to Morgantown and could hear his name called in the first round. It’s a good decision for him, though a painful one for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers are now tasked with replacing their three top offensive options from the start of last season (Culver, McBride, and Oscar Tshiebwe who transferred to Kentucky), which is no easy feat.