This month will go a long way in determining the teams to beat in college basketball next year as the headlines are filled with an unprecedented flurry of transfers, the new NBA draft deadline and the late signing period (April 10-May 16th) happening all at once.
Anthony Bennett is one of the elite players who have yet to make a college decision. His destination will likely make a huge impact on college basketball in 2012-13. (247Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond)
It’s enough to make the staff at 247Sports.com grow a couple grey hairs trying to keep up with it all.
Freshmen impact college basketball like never before, and while a player like Anthony Davis only comes around so often, the incoming crop features a dozen players that can change a season. Five of the top 15 players in the 2012 class will make their decisions during this late signing period which started with a bang at the top two made a decision this week: Nerlens Noel is Kentucky bound and Shabazz Muhammad is headed to UCLA. The competition for the trio of Tony Parker, Anthony Bennett and Amile Jefferson, all of whom remain undecided, will intensify and that impact will be felt throughout college basketball.
Kentucky remains a constant on each of these players’ list with the defending national champions expecting to lose a minimum of three and up to six players to the NBA draft. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio State have the most need to secure one of these three with Duke’s disappointment last season combined with Austin Rivers departure means they have pressure to land Parker or Jefferson. Kansas, North Carolina and Ohio State must replace their stars who have declared for the NBA Draft.
The NBA Draft deadline looms this month eliminating the opportunity of college players to go through workouts and test the waters of their draft status as they had been able to do in the past. Most of this year’s AP All-Americans - first, second or third teams - will be entering the NBA Draft with only a couple exceptions returning to school. Kentucky, North Carolina and UConn are all set to lose multiple starters and Florida’s Bradley Beal is the latest headed for NBA lottery status.
And that’s not all.
More than 350 Division 1 players have declared their intent to transfer. It has long been said that recruiting is the most important aspect of a college program and now more than ever because even when a player is at a school the recruiting process never stops both for the player and for those who covet his services. The recent trends are to make a strategic move closer to home to eliminate the one year sit-out policy or graduate early and find a major that is only “available” at another school for immediate eligibility. Some teams will get stronger during this time, some will lose depth or potentially starters.
One of the top prizes on the transfer list is Alex Oriakhi, who is only a year removed from a double-double in the national championship game for UConn. He’ll be suiting up for Mizzou next season. And then there’s Mississippi State’s dynamic freshman, Rodney Hood. The 6-8 freshman averaged over 10 points per game for Mississippi State and promises to make a big impact for the 2013-2014 season. Louisville, Florida State and Georgetown are early leaders.
The world of college basketball will be greatly impacted by this month’s events. Transfers and draft hardships will affect the nucleus of those in contention and their ability to replace the talent is critical. The biggest question that looms is whether anyone can beat the national champions, Kentucky, on the recruiting trail? If the top prize this April was Nerlens Noels, the answer appears - probably not.
It’s the game within the game.
Leigh Klein is the owner of Five-Star Basketball Camps and formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island. Each year at Five-Star, he trains hundreds of future college basketball and NBA stars such as Michael Jordan, Grant Hill, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He will be blogging for 247Sports on college basketball and recruiting.
Follow Leigh Klein on Twitter @leighalanklein and let him know what you think about the blog.