Offseason winners and losers

May, 9, 2011

The NCAA's early-entry deadline passed at 11:59 p.m. Sunday night. Sure, Gary Williams' retirement brought a little life back to the coaching carousel, but for the most part, we now know the main characters who will make up the 2011-12 season.

So, five weeks after the festivities ended in Houston, who are the biggest winners and losers of the offseason so far?

The winners

North Carolina: Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson all turned down would-be first-round spots in the NBA draft to return to the Tar Heels in a quest to win the national title. Because of their decisions, UNC almost will certainly be the preseason No. 1.

Kentucky: The Wildcats got Terrence Jones to come back after he flirted with the NBA. Nothing went awry with their top-ranked recruiting class, either, giving the Wildcats a core group who can return to the Final Four.

Ohio State: Jared Sullinger said all season he would return. No one really believed him publicly, but the staff knew better. He was sincere and returned, and the Buckeyes are a national title contender again.

Memphis: For once, the Tigers didn't have to deal with any players defecting to the NBA. The recruiting class stayed intact. And then Josh Pastner pulled off something NBA teams couldn't by landing noted strength and conditioning coach Frank Matrisciano, who is now having his famous San Francisco sand hill reconstructed behind the Finch Center practice facility. The Tigers will be the best-conditioned athletes in the country.

Arkansas: Athletic director Jeff Long made an interesting move to fire John Pelphrey, something that was unpopular in the coaching community. So there was immense pressure on Long to land Missouri's Mike Anderson, the former longtime Razorbacks assistant. Well, he got him. And with Pelphrey's final recruiting class as an aid, Arkansas now has a chance to bring back the passion of old.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores had no drama, which meant no one tested the draft. Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli are all back, and so are the Commodores. This should be a top-10 team in the preseason. Now can it finally succeed in the postseason?

Xavier: The Musketeers saw Tu Holloway remove his name from the draft and Chris Mack remove his name from a few coaching searches. Keeping the team's best player and its A-10 coach of the year is a pretty good spring.

Richmond: Chris Mooney was at the airport on his way to talk to Georgia Tech officials until the Spiders sweetened his deal. This is a win for Mooney and the school, where he's a perfect fit.

Miami: The Hurricanes landed Jim Larranaga from George Mason, then Reggie Johnson withdrew from the draft and lone recruit Bishop Daniels said he would honor his commitment.

Arizona: Yes, the Wildcats lost Derrick Williams to the NBA draft, as expected, but it was much more important for it to hold off Maryland and hang on to coach Sean Miller. With the program back on track, Arizona couldn't afford another rebuild.

Missouri: It's rare not to lose a single player during a coaching change. Missouri didn't. He certainly wasn't the coach Tigers fans had in mind, but Frank Haith inherits a team ready to win big.

Virginia: Mike Scott got a fifth year of eligibility after multiple injuries, and now Tony Bennett has a real chance to move the Cavaliers into the top five in the ACC.

BYU: Coach Dave Rose could have gone to Oklahoma and possibly Missouri. He didn't. And the Cougars will continue to be a major force in the West.

Oklahoma: Lon Kruger just wins. It might not happen right away, but Oklahoma will win again under Kruger.

Wyoming: Larry Shyatt understands the challenges of this job, and the Cowboys were able to lure him away from sunny Florida to complete some unfinished business.

Baylor: The Bears got Perry Jones III to come back for his sophomore season. He was a lock for the top five in the NBA draft and is facing a five-game NCAA penalty to start the season. His return was a shock.

Texas Tech: Not sure there was a better fit in the coaching carousel than Billy Gillispie in Lubbock.

Providence: Keno Davis was quiet and a bit withdrawn. New coach Ed Cooley is in-your-face giddy and the biggest extrovert you'll meet. The Friars needed the latter.

Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon could have gone to Maryland if he wanted. He did not. Ashton Gibbs could have remained in the draft pool if he wanted. He did not.

Connecticut: Yes, Kemba Walker declared for the draft as expected. But Jeremy Lamb did not, and Jim Calhoun didn't retire. The Huskies aren't going away.

West Virginia: Kevin Jones tested the draft waters but returned. Big man Aaric Murray transferred from La Salle and will join the Mountaineers in 2012-13.

Michigan State: Brandon Wood, Valparaiso's best player and top scorer, is taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule and will be eligible right away after withdrawing from the NBA draft. A great addition for the offensively challenged Spartans.

Purdue: Matt Painter could have gone to Missouri. He didn't. Robbie Hummel is getting healthy and due back in the fall.

Georgia State: Picking up IUPUI's Ron Hunter to be its head coach was significant. Can the Panthers finally gain a foothold in Atlanta?

VCU: The Rams stepped up and paid Shaka Smart to stick around and spurn multiple ACC overtures. He did just that.

Harvard: Tommy Amaker talked to Miami but withdrew from the search and will return to a team that returns everybody. The Crimson will be the favorite in the Ivy with a strong chance to get to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946.

Fairfield: Sydney Johnson lifted Princeton from the bottom of the Ivy to the league title and within a basket of beating Kentucky. He'll have most of the MAAC regular-season champs back and should keep the team atop the league. Solid hire.

Billy Donovan: The Florida head coach has had a recent run of hiring experienced veterans for his bench. He did so again while landing Pelphrey and former St. John's coach Norm Roberts to replace Larry Shyatt and Richard Pitino. Having three former head coaches on the bench and out on the recruiting trail will be a tremendous asset.

Rob Senderoff: He got a head-coaching job at Kent State after Geno Ford left for Bradley. Senderoff endured a show-cause penalty after he was involved in the Indiana mess and has come through it just fine.

Paul Hewitt: He was fired at Georgia Tech and has an estimated $7.2 million buyout due to him. He then got one of the best jobs outside a power-six conference (George Mason) and will have a team next season that will be much better than the one he left behind in Atlanta. Yep, we'd say that's a net-gain offseason for Paul Hewitt.

The losers

Texas: The Longhorns were a top-five team to start the offseason. They might not even be a Top 25 team anymore after their top three players (Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton) decided to stay in the draft.

Washington State: The Cougars are in a major rebuild mode with the departures of underclassmen Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto to the NBA draft.

Butler: The Bulldogs learned Saturday night that Shelvin Mack won't return for his senior season. The two-time national runner-ups will finally take a step back without Mack and senior Matt Howard.

Notre Dame: Mike Brey is staying, but Carleton Scott's surprising decision to stay in the NBA draft makes the Irish even younger after a senior-dominated team competed for the Big East championship.

Stanford: Johnny Dawkins' rebuilding process took a hit when Jeremy Green decided to stay in the draft. Green was ineligible this quarter, but Dawkins said he would have been eligible in the fall.

Louisiana Tech: New coach Michael White won't have his best player this season, as Olu Ashaolu decided to transfer after withdrawing from the NBA draft.

San Diego: The Toreros weren't directly affected by the point-shaving allegations for next season. Coach Bill Grier is safe for now. But the stain of dealing with such a story has a lasting shelf life.

Central Florida: Recruiting is going well -- maybe too well? -- as national stories documented recruiting relationships that don't exactly shed the Knights in a positive light. It already cost them waffling recruit Kevin Ware.

Boston College: Steve Donahue is now in full rebuilding mode after Reggie Jackson decided to stay in the draft.

Michigan: The Wolverines could have been a top-15 team in the preseason but won't be after Darius Morris surprisingly decided to stay in the draft.

La Salle: When you're struggling for recognition, losing your best player in Aaric Murray is never good.

Maryland: Gary Williams always made his teams better by his coaching. The Terps will now unquestionably go through a transition period.

Washington: Isaiah Thomas' decision to stay in the draft takes the heart out of this team. The Huskies will still be good, but they'll miss Thomas.

UCLA: The Bruins knew there was a chance that Tyler Honeycutt would stay in the draft. But the defection of Malcolm Lee came as a shock. UCLA just can't seem to catch a break lately.

Kansas: The Jayhawks took a major hit with Josh Selby and the Morris twins staying in the draft. KU will be fine, but the team doesn't get better by losing that trio.

Georgia Tech: New coach Brian Gregory won't have a stud to count on in Iman Shumpert, who decided to pursue his pro career.

Tennessee: The Vols did make a solid hire in Cuonzo Martin, but he'll be starting over, as Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson stayed in the draft.

Georgia: Mark Fox will have to replace major talents, as Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie decided to remain in the NBA pool.

Georgetown: The Hoyas continue to lose depth, as Vee Sanford and Jerrelle Benimon transferred. Getting Hollis Thompson to return helps, but the Hoyas were already losing seniors Chris Wright and Austin Freeman.

Colorado: The Buffaloes were so close to making the NCAA tournament last year, but they might find it an even tougher assignment next season after losing underclassmen Alec Burks to the NBA.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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