The Butler-Duke rematch set for Dec. 4 just got a whole lot less exciting. Bulldogs star Gordon Hayward, who was testing the draft waters without an agent following his stellar junior season will, according to the Indianapolis Star, stay in the NBA draft and hire an agent.
The decision makes sense. Hayward climbed up draft boards throughout the 2009-10 season, a climb helped by Butler's unlikely run to the NCAA tournament final. The one-time, three-star recruit from Brownsburg, Ind. is now a first-round lock according to ESPN Insider's Chad Ford; Hayward's father recently said he's been told that Hayward won't fall any further than No. 20 overall, and could go as high as No. 10, right in the middle of the lottery. If the NBA draft is about striking while the iron is hot, Hayward is timing his strike perfectly.
In the meantime, Butler fans will be disappointed, and not just because Hayward won't be around Dec. 4 to help the Bulldogs avenge their title game loss. With the 6-foot-9 swingman, Butler was a favorite to win the NCAA title next season. Without him, Brad Stevens' team will still be formidable -- they'll have center Matt Howard and guards Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored still in the fold; the 2010-11 Bulldogs will still be ruthless on defense -- but they won't have the star that could have pushed them over the top.
Instead, this leaves Duke and Michigan State -- and maybe Purdue, depending on the decisions of JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore -- as your early preseason favorites for the 2010-11 NCAA title. Butler will still be a very good team, but it won't be the same. The last shot of Hayward's college hoops career may be the closest they get to the NCAA title for some time.