2022 NBA Draft: Arizona, Gonzaga and Kansas among winners and losers from underclassmen deadline
The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw or remain in the 2022 NBA Draft came and went Wednesday night with lots of noise and major implications, both for the draft and for the 2022-23 college hoops season.
There were plenty of teams that benefited from the deadline, with Kansas perhaps leading the way by getting a starter back from last season’s national title team and (officially) adding another star transfer. Soon-to-be conference foe Houston had its own deadline-night victory with Marcus Sasser announcing his college return.
Of course, there were plenty on the other end of the spectrum to emerge as losers from the deadline. Michigan comes to mind here after losing both of its players who were testing the draft waters. Same for Arizona, which in a bit of a surprise lost Dalen Terry late in the process in addition to Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko.
That’s just a sample of some of the programs and players who were affected as the deadline drew to an end Wednesday at midnight. Below is a full rundown of each — from KU to Gonzaga, Memphis to Michigan and everyone in between.
Winner: Kansas’ repeat title hopes
Kansas was likely never running back its entire title-winning roster – Ochai Agbaji is a lottery pick and Christian Braun was expected to stay in the draft, as he did, because of his first-round prospects – but it recovered about as well as expected. KU got back soon-to-be junior Jalen Wilson, who started 27 games last season, after he took his pre-draft decision down to the wire. Wilson led Kansas in rebounding last season.
That alone might’ve lifted KU into the winner’s circle, but of course Bill Self and KU tallied another dub on deadline day as Kevin McCullar Jr. officially announced he was Kansas-bound. An elite glue guy and defender, McCullar, the point man for the No. 1 defense last season at Texas Tech, was weighing a transfer to KU or staying in the draft — and he chose the former.
Replacing Agbaji and Braun is a tall task even for a coach of Self’s stature – not to mention big man David McCormack, who was the team’s best player down the stretch – but the Jayhawks are certainly on the right track here. Wilson has NBA talent if he can improve as a shooter. McCullar Jr., too. They’ll be the old heads on a really interesting, and really talented, remade KU team. They won’t be the favorites to repeat as champs, but they’ll no doubt have the talent that makes them impossible to ignore on that front.
Winner: Houston’s case as preseason No. 1
Marcus Sasser played in only a dozen games last season for Houston before a crushing season-ending injury shot down a potential All-American campaign. But he announced on Wednesday that he’s back for more in 2022-23 in arguably the most impactful and simultaneously underrated stay-or-go decision of the week.
Sasser popped at the combine and made his decision a tad more challenging than expected. However, in returning, he’ll likely resume his place as the star for the Cougars, which has made two straight Elite Eights (and a Final Four in 2021). This is a team that has a real case to be considered the preseason No. 1.
Loser: Michigan loses Houstan and Diabate
Just over a month ago, Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson announced in a huge boost for the Wolverines’ 2022-23 prospects that he would be coming back to school and putting the chase for a professional career on hold. That was the last of the good news. All throughout the pre-draft process, most believed Michigan may split the baby with Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate – get one back, probably lose one to the draft. Not the case. Instead, both opted to remain in the draft.
Dickinson gives Michigan a solid foundation on which to build for next season, but Houstan and Diabate peacing out pushes Juwan Howard into instant-rebuild mode. His incoming recruiting class has tons of potential, but with Diabate and Houstan gone it just doesn’t look as if the Wolverines will be major factors in the Big Ten next season barring a surprise.
Winner: Gonzaga gets most of core back
On Tuesday, Gonzaga sharpshooter Rasir Bolton announced his decision to return to school next season. Big domino.
On Wednesday evening, Gonzaga wing Julian Strawther did the same. Bigger domino.
On Wednesday night, just minutes before the withdrawal deadline passed, Gonzaga big man Drew Timme joined them. Gigantic, mustache-wearing, curse-word saying domino.
The trio figures to keep Gonzaga in elite status next season after earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years. Bolton and Strawther were always considered more likely to return than not, but Timme’s return is a welcome one for college hoops and for Gonzaga that wasn’t a guarantee — even if his draft stock suggested a return was more than plausible.
The Zags would likely have been a preseason top-10 team once again next season with or without Timme and his sweet feet and ‘stache, but with him the can again dare to dream big as they look to get over the hump in pursuit of a title.
Memphis didn’t bring home all wins on the draft front – in a bit of a surprise, Lester Quinones remained in the draft – but overall, it can claim a deadline victory. It got back DeAndre Williams, which is big (he’ll be 26 when the season starts!), and is adding a star point guard in Kendric Davis after he transferred in from SMU. While neither were likely draft picks, that doesn’t take away from their chops as two of the most experienced and impactful college players at their respective positions. Penny Hardaway’s Tigers will be NCAA Tournament quality again.
To be sure, Hardaway has his work cut out to fill out the rest of the roster, and it won’t be easy — as Jason Munz noted, Memphis has lost nearly 85% of its 3-point production from last season – but there’s still time and plenty of options. Having Davis and Williams in the fold is a starting point most college coaches right now could only dream of having.
Loser: Arizona loses all its star power
Sophomore guard Bennedict Mathurin and junior big man Christian Koloko – breakout stars for Arizona last season in Year 1 under Tommy Lloyd – were already locks to leave school for the draft with both likely going as first-rounders. But there was hope, however unrealistic, that the Wildcats may bring back Dalen Terry as he shined last season mostly away from the spotlight.
Terry is joining Mathurin and Koloko in forgoing his remaining college eligibility. He had a great season as a starter playing mostly as a role player. He could have been a featured player next season for Lloyd, but passed, potentially under the belief that he’ll be selected in the first round.
There’s no guarantee here for Terry that he’ll go Round 1, but the potential of that seemed to clearly be what would eventually make him comfortable moving on. His departure makes Lloyd’s rebuild in Tucson all the more challenging after a strong opening-season campaign.
Winner: Indiana’s Big Ten prospects
Michigan lost Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate to the draft. Purdue lost Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams to the draft. Ohio State lost Malaki Branham and EJ Liddell to the draft.
Is the Big Ten possibly Indiana’s for the taking now?
I think the case is there. Trayce Jackson-Davis is back, as are the team’s other top two scorers from last season. Jalen Hood-Schifino, the incoming five-star freshman, is going to be a difference-maker as well. I think the returning production and added star power, combined with losses other teams in the Big Ten suffered, should thrust the Hoosiers into being a legit contender in the Big Ten and beyond.
Losers: Iowa State, Duke miss on big transfer
In something of a stunner on deadline day,
Hall of Fame wide receiver Northern Iowa guard A.J. Green announced he will stay in the draft and not pursue a transfer, dealing a blow both to Iowa State (the expected frontrunner to land him because his father is an assistant coach there) and also to Duke (the other program that was also in the mix to land him).
Taken alone, the miss is something you can live with. But Iowa State lost star Tyrese Hunter to Texas via transfer, and Duke lost Trevor Keels to the draft after debating the decision Wednesday down to the final minute. Missing on Green is just an extra gut punch for both programs.