June 1 is a big date on the college basketball calendar as NBA Draft early entrants have until midnight to withdraw from the draft if they wish to retain their collegiate eligibility.
The deadline holds no suspense for Nebraska fans. Bryce McGowens announced back on March 21 that he was entering the draft without testing the waters while his older brother Trey shared on Tuesday that he is also staying in the draft rather than taking advantage of his extra season of eligibility.
However, plenty of intrigue remains in the Big Ten, between the impact of decisions already made to those players that have yet to make up their minds. Let’s look at some winners, losers and remaining decisions.
To be perfectly honest, there’s actually only one big winner at the point of this writing: Indiana. All-Big Ten big man Trayce Jackson-Davis received an invitation to the NBA Combine but announced his return to Bloomington by the end of it.
In addition to Jackson-Davis’s return, Race Thompson, Xavier Johnson and Race Thompson all decided to take advantage of their extra season of eligibility, giving Mike Woodson four os his five starters back. The Hoosiers only lost two rotation players but signed a top-10 recruiting class including a pair of 5-star prospects in Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau.
With Jackson-Davis’s return, expectations will be incredibly high for the Hoosiers’ in Woodson’s second season in Bloomington.
Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, Iowa’s Keegan Murray and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis are all lottery picks and were never returning to school.
However, Purdue also lost Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter Jr. The first three opted to remain in the draft rather than using their extra year of eligibility while Hunter pulled out of the draft with plans to transfer. Zach Edey is a very large building block, but Matt Painter has a lot to replace around him.
Ohio State also lost both of its double-digit scorers from last season as All-Big Ten forward E.J. Liddell potentially played himself into the first round after a dominant junior season while Malaki Branham took off during the second half of his freshman season and might crack the back end of the lottery. Both are remaining in the draft.
One of the players that seemed to be legitimately on the fence heading to the combine was Michigan State freshman Max Christie. He showed some flashes during his one season in East using but didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and his shooting touch combined with his positional size is why he is a prospect. He apparently heard what he needed to in Chicago, however, as he announced he was staying in the draft. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr. also decided not to use their extra season of eligibility, meaning the Spartans lost their top three scorers.
Illinois is also a loser as All-Big Ten big man Kofi Cockburn is staying in the draft, former Division II transfer Austin Hutcherson is also going pro after playing just four games in three seasons (redshirt in year one, injuries in years two and three) and starter Jacob Grandison withdrew from the draft but entered the transfer portal. However, Brad Underwood has been busy in the portal himself and landed Terrance Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech) and Mathew Mayer (Baylor), two players that tested the draft waters themselves, plus Rain Diana (also Baylor). Illinois also has a top-10 recruiting class led by point guard Skyy Clark.
The Big Ten program with the most riding on decision day is Michigan, whose two 5-star freshmen both tested the waters. Forward Moussa Diabate attended the combine while wing Caleb Houston seemingly declined an invitation, pointing to a potential promise from an NBA team.
Diabate tested very well athletically at the combine, which could be enough to tip the scales toward staying in the draft. However, he doesn’t appear to be a surefire draft pick after a good but not particularly special freshman season. Houstan didn’t have a great season either, but a team still could have fallen in love with his pre-college tape enough to take a chance on him.
If both return to join Hunter Dickinson, Princeton transfer point guard Jaelin Llewellyn and a top-10 recruiting class headline by Juwan Howard’s son Jett, the Wolverines could be in the mix to win the Big Ten. Without one or both, Howard will have to rely on more unproven players to round out the rotation. Point guard Devante’ Jones has already decided to stay in the draft after one season in Ann Arbor instead of using his extra season of eligibility.
Iowa is also waiting on an announcement from Kris Murray, the twin brother of their lottery pick who served as the team’s sixth man this season but could be poised to step into his brother’s shoes as the No. 1 option if he returns to Iowa City. Kris declined an invitation to the combine.
Another team waiting on a decision is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ star Ron Harper Jr. is staying in the draft, as is little-used sophomore Jaden Jones, but the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Caleb McConnell, has another season of eligibility if he wants to take advantage of it and is currently testing the waters.
The other prominent Big Ten player who has yet to make a decision is Northwestern forward Pete Nance, though the talented stretch-four is in the transfer portal and likely won’t be returning to Evanston even if he does pull out of the draft. Nance didn’t receive a Combine invitation but he did participate in the NBA G League Elite Camp.
Both Diabate and Houstan chose to remain in the draft, a big blow to Michigan.
However, Kris Murray is returning to Iowa and Caleb McConnell is headed back to Rutgers, so the news wasn’t all bad on deadline day. Nance also withdrew from the draft, but he remains in the transfer portal.
Perhaps the biggest news of the day was Drew Timme joining Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton in returning to Spokane for another season, giving the team that ended the year at No. 1 in the KenPom ratings three of its starters back.
KenPom’s No. 2 team, Houston, got good news from Marcus Sasser as he withdrew from the draft despite a strong performance a the G League Elite Camp and subsequent call-up to the NBA Combine. The Cougars continued to rack up wins despite losing Sasser, their leading scorer, to a mid-season injury, and now they’ll get him back for the 2022-23 season.
The reigning national champion, Kansas (No. 3 in KenPom), lost Ochai Ogbaji, Christian Braun and David McCormack, but Jalen Wilson withdrew from the draft, as did Kevin McCullar Jr., the Texas Tech transfer who chose the Jayhawks over Gonzaga.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.