With the NBA Draft finally over, and underclassmen stars like Greg Oden and Kevin Durant now working on customizing their brand-new Bentleys, it’s time to look at how their former teams will fare next year in their absence. Here’s an outlook of several teams with some big holes to fill.
Underclassmen lost: Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Joakim Noah
The “Oh-Fours” left their mark on college basketball by playing as a team, so it makes sense they would all leave Gainesville at the same time. However, they left more than a legacy- they’re also leaving quite a hole. Guard Walter Hodge and forwards Dan Werner and Marreese Speights are the only returning players who saw any significant minutes last year. They’ll be joined by incoming McDonald’s All-Americans Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas as the Gators try to battle Tennessee and Kentucky for SEC East supremacy. The return of Billy Donovan helps, but this Gator squad is probably too young and inexperienced to make any real threats come March. However, if the newcomers step up and play to their reputations, they should still be a dangerous team.
Underclassmen lost: Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, Greg Oden
Kosta Koufos doesn’t have too much pressure on him this year. All he has to do is replace Oden - one of the most hyped recruits in school history, a guy who helped lead his team to the championship game, and the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. No problem right? Koufos will have help, in the form of seniors Jamar Butler and Othello Hunter, as well as sophomore David Lighty. Butler will likely have to shoulder the scoring load early on, but Lighty showed flashes last year of becoming a force on both ends of the floor. Hunter and Koufas can match up with most frontlines, and freshman Evan Turner will earn major minutes with his athleticism. Thad Matta usually knows what buttons to push to get his team to go, and he continues to draw talent to Columbus. While another 35-win season is probably out of the question, the Buckeyes should still be in contention in the Big Ten.
Underclassmen lost: Gabe Pruitt, Nick Young
The backcourt at USC should still be just fine next year, thanks to the presence of incoming freshman O.J. Mayo. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Mayo and ultra-talented forward Davon Jefferson will join Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett on a Trojans squad that put a scare into UNC last year in the Sweet 16, and is looking to go deeper this year. Hackett and Mayo, if they play under control, should form one of the most dynamic backcourts in the Pac-10, while Gibson is a force to be reckoned with down low if he stays out of foul trouble. The Trojans’ stiffest competition in the conference may come from just across town – a loaded UCLA Bruin squad. Look for USC to remain near the top of the conference all season, and to be a threat come March.
Underclassman lost: Kevin Durant
Yes, the Longhorns lost only one player, but when that player was the consensus National Player of the Year.. well you can see why Texas fans are a little nervous. Durant not only put up incredible numbers and showed remarkable leadership, he also opened the floor up for everyone else. The ‘Horns do return four starters, led by ultra-talented point guard D.J. Augustin, but they will still feel the void left by Durant’s departure. On the bright side, Augustin showed that he can be a real scoring threat himself, scoring 15 or more points in a game 17 times, while his backcourt mate A.J. Abrams averaged nearly 18 ppg in the last seven games of the season. Rick Barnes also welcomes in stud forwards Gary Johnson and Alexis Wangmene to join big men Connor Atchley and Dexter Pittman up front. Even with no Durant, look for Texas to still be dancing by the end of year.
Underclassman lost: Brandan Wright
The Heels are probably one of the few teams who can afford to lose a lottery pick like Wright, and still have national championship hopes. Led by forward Tyler Hansbrough and guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, Carolina still has more than enough talent to cut down the nets this year. The job of replacing Wright will fall to sophomores Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson, who both showed flashes of their potential last year. Neither has the athleticism of Wright (few players do), but both are physical players with solid post moves. With a deep rotation featuring Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Quentin Thomas and Bobby Frasor, UNC fans are entering the year with their eyes on their second title under Roy Williams.
Underclassman lost: Jeff Green
Like UNC, the Hoyas enter the year as one of the early title favorites, despite the loss of a lottery pick. Green was a play-making forward who fit perfectly into John Thompson III’s system, and his versatility will be missed. However, Georgetown does return center Roy Hibbert, who pulled out of the draft and should challenge for All-American honors, as well as forward DaJuan Summers, who is a tough match-up with his size and ball skills. In the backcourt, Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp will have to hold off highly-touted recruits Austin Freeman and Chris Wright for playing time. Even without Green, the Hoyas still have plenty of firepower to bring home their first title since 1984.
Others: LSU (Glen Davis), Georgia Tech (Javaris Crittenton, Thaddeus Young), Washington (Spencer Hawes), Kansas (Julian Wright), UCLA (Arron Afflalo).