Should you risk millions of dollars and complete your degree, or shove your education to the side and get yourself paid? It’s an incredibly tough decision that doesn’t really have a “smart” or “right” choice. But every year many underclassmen face this head-scratcher once the college basketball season concludes.
We have already had several choose their respective paths ahead of the 2017 NBA Draft, and their departures/returns have greatly impacted the outlook of the 2017-18 NCAA basketball season. We’ll go through the teams who have benefited, and those who will see their National Championship odds harmed most. After that, you can also find the odds for the underclassmen who are still on the fence.
The most surprising returnee of the offseason is without a doubt Miles Bridges. After a freshman year where he averaged 16.9 PPG and 8.3 RPG, Bridges had lottery-pick written all over him. But Tom Izzo and the Spartans will retain the 6’7″ small forward, who will be an early favorite for the Wooden Award.
Along with Bridges, Michigan State will also have freshman Nick Ward, Joshua Langford, and Cassius Winston back for a run in 2018. Add in five-star recruit Jaren Jackson, and you’ve got yourself an early Final Four favorite.
2018 National Championship odds: 16/1
Of course, losing seven-foot forward Lauri Markkanen hurts, but it was general knowledge that the Fin would be one-and-done. The departure of Rawle Alkins comes was a little more of a surprise, and is going to leave another hole that will be difficult for the Wildcats to fill. It hasn’t been all bad for Arizona, though, as Allonzo Trier has announced that he will not test the draft waters, opting to return for his junior season. This move alone gets Arizona into the offseason win column.
Trier’s return from suspension last season was what took Arizona from the third team in the Pac-12 to National Championship contender. The guard’s ability to get into the paint is going to pair well with ESPN’s no. 2 recruit DeAndre Ayton. The seven-foot center can step outside, but his athleticism is best used down-low. Trier and Ayton are going to be lethal in the pick-n-roll.
2018 NCAA Title odds: 12/1
The Fighting Irish will be without two key players in V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia when they take the floor next season, but they will retain their most valuable player: Bonzie Colson. After contemplating entering the NBA Draft following his junior season, Colson decided to return for his senior season and complete his degree.
Last season, Colson averaged 17.8 PPG and 10.1 RPG, while drawing many comparisons to Draymond Green. In one of the best draft classes we’ve seen in quite some time, the undersized forward wasn’t a sure-bet to be taken in the first-round. Another season under his belt to showcase his skill-set, and dodge this talented class, will likely lead to a 2018 first-round projection.
Notre Dame will look for Colson to lead a group that also retains Matt Farrell, Rex Pflueger, and Temple Gibbs. With Colson’s return, the Irish look like a team poised for more than the Sweet 16.
2018 NCAA Title odds: 49/1
The Ducks headed into the offseason knowing that seniors Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis had played their last college games. But Oregon hoped they could retain Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, and Jordan Bell. While the latter has yet to make a decision, both Brooks and Dorsey have announced they will be declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft.
If Bell decides to turn pro, as well, Payton Pritchard and top-recruit Troy Brown Jr. will have some heavy-lifting to do. Brooks and Dorsey’s crunch-time heroics will be very difficult to replace.
2018 NCAA Title odds: 75/1
The Bulldogs’ leader Nigel Williams-Goss has yet to decide whether he will return for his senior season. Unfortunately, the other player who was legitimizing Gonzaga’s chances of getting back to the National Championship, Zach Collins, has made a decision. In spite of sitting behind Przemek Karnowski in his freshman season, Collins showed NBA Scouts enough to project him as a lottery pick in 2017.
The seven-footer possesses a dominant low-post game, and was an absolute force under his own basket in the NCAA Tournament. Without him, the Zags go from National Championship contenders in 2018, to Sweet 16 hopefuls.
The Bulldogs are hoping Collins’ departure doesn’t influence Williams-Goss. Losing both would be too much for Gonzaga to recover from.
2018 NCAA Title odds: 24/1
I get that it’s tough to consider a team who is pulling in a fresh lineup of five-star recruits this offseason a “loser,” but the Wildcats were surely hoping to retain some of their 2016-17 team. We all knew De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Edrice Adebayo would bolt for the money. Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, and Dominique Hawkins were three more that were known wouldn’t be back, as their eligibility had concluded. Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries are a different story, though.
It was believed sophomore guard Briscoe would return to provide some veteran leadership, while the seven-foot Humphries would step out of the shadow of Adebayo in his junior year. However, the supremely talented recruiting class Kentucky welcomes in 2017 may have scared the two off, as both have declared for the NBA Draft, in spite of the belief they will not be drafted.
John Calipari’s squad will remain National Championship contenders, but the unexpected departures of Briscoe and Humphries rob them of experienced role players.
2018 NCAA Title odds: 25/2
Odds to Declare for 2017 NBA Draft
Jordan Bell (Oregon): 1/2
Giving up those two offensive rebounds to North Carolina in the dying seconds of their Final Four matchup will forever haunt Bell. But his play throughout the rest of the tournament was stellar. If he declares, he will have a late first-round projection.
Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga): 9/10
Williams-Goss is only projected as a mid-second-round pick, but his stock may never be higher than it is now.
Trevon Bluiett (Xavier): 5/4
A recent arrest for possession of marijuana only clouds this decision further.
Grayson Allen (Duke): 5/3
This past season was a rollercoaster for Allen. Though he is still projected as a late-first-rounder, his stock has room to rise.
(Photo Credit: Public Domain)