Everything changes when the deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft arrives. This time a year ago, North Carolina went from being a program in transition to the prohibitive favorite to win the 2009 NCAA title — which it did — when Tywon Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green chose to stay in school. Here’s how the doings (and undoings) shook out this time:
1. Kentucky: The Wildcats lost Jodie Meeks of Norcross to the draft but kept Patrick Patterson, the best big man in the SEC. And they again have a real coach in John Calipari, who promptly delivered recruits John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
2. Kansas: The Jayhawks would’ve been preseason No. 1 if not for Kentucky’s flurry. Sherron Collins, who helped undo Calipari and Memphis in the 2008 NCAA final, is back, as is post player Cole Aldrich. Xavier Henry spurned UK for KU.
3. Michigan State: The Final Four won’t be in Michigan next year — it’ll be in Indianapolis, which is essentially the same thing — but the Spartans could well be make a return trip. Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan are big-time players.
4. North Carolina: Yep, these guys again. Four starters are gone, but the Heels return the inside tandem of Deon Thompson and the burgeoning Ed Davis. Marcus Ginyard missed last season with an injury. And the recruits are again stellar.
5. Villanova: The Wildcats got a boost when Scottie Reynolds, whose runner sent Villanova to the Final Four, withdrew from the draft. Add a consensus top five recruiting class and this becomes the new bellwether program in the Big East.
6. Purdue: If seasoning and continuity count for anything, the Boilermakers will make their biggest run since Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson was on campus. All starters return, including Robbie Hummel, who was slowed by injury, and JaJuan Johnson.
7. Mississippi State: The shot-blocker Jarvis Varnardo withdrew from the draft, meaning the Bulldogs won’t need an SEC tournament run to make the NCAA in 2010. The name to watch: Renardo Sidney, who spurned Southern Cal and ignited an inquiry.
8. Duke: Still chasing Carolina in the ACC, the Blue Devils might actually have nosed ahead next season if Gerald Henderson had stayed. But he didn’t. So now these are the same old Dookies of Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith.
9. Texas: It’s about time for Rick Barnes to win a national championship, wouldn’t you say? He had another terrific recruiting class in place — Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton are the big names — and then Damion James pulled out of the draft.
10. Georgia Tech: Yep, it’s a mighty long way from 2-14 in the ACC to the Top 10, but Derrick Favors and Mfon Udofia and the other freshmen are that good. And Gani Lawal’s decision to remain at the Institute was a massive and unexpected bonus.
The next wave: 11. Butler 12. Maryland 13. Dayton 14. Washington 15. Notre Dame 16. Minnesota 17. Cal 18. Michigan 19. UConn 20. Syracuse 21. Tennessee 22. BYU 23. Clemson 24. Ole Miss 25. Northern Iowa.
Part of the package: Here’s a little something I’ve written about Paul Hewitt looking ahead to next season. Click at your own risk.