Saying goodbye is never easy. Especially when you're bidding farewell to a Wooden Award winner, a first-team All-American, a 20-point-per game scorer -- or perhaps even a player who turned pro before he was ready.
At some point, though, it's time to move on.
One week after the 2013 NBA draft, programs across America are adjusting to life without their stars. The transition can be particularly difficult for schools who lost the elite players, the best of the best … the lottery picks.
Here's how those teams plan to cope.
No. 1: Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Bennett wasn't the top player in college basketball last season, but he arguably boasted the best talent. Of all the players on this list, Bennett is the most irreplaceable simply because his combination of size, athleticism and skill is so unique.
For the Runnin' Rebels, the loss of the 6-8, 240-pound Bennett isn't the only thing that stings. Katin Reinhardt (USC) and Mike Moser (Oregon) both transferred, and guards Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins graduated. Add reserve forward Quintrell Thomas to that mix, and six of the eight players who logged double-digit minutes last season are no longer on the roster.
Still, there is plenty of reason to hope for UNLV fans. Guard Bryce Dejean-Jones and forward Khem Birch are back after combining to average 17.5 points in 2012-13. Juco transfers Deville Smith (Mississippi State) and Jelan Kendrick (Ole Miss) are both former D-I starters.
Coach Dave Rice is also excited about a recruiting class that includes four-star signees Christian Wood (forward) and Kendall Smith (point guard). ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep said Wood is a talent, but he needs to gain strength to be able to bang at the Division I level.
"He's an Austin Daye knockoff," said Telep, comparing Wood to the former Gonzaga star. "The major question is, 'Where is he going to be physically in terms of being ready to come in and play right off the bat?' There's definitely a chance he can make an impact early.
"But there's no replacement for Anthony Bennett. There are very few guys out there who would be able to step into those shoes, if any. It's going to have to be a by-committee situation."
Nos. 2 and 4: Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Indiana
The Hoosiers were the country's top-ranked team for much of last season thanks to the production of guard Victor Oladipo and center Cody Zeller, who combined to average 30.5 points and 14.6 rebounds. Their efforts enabled Indiana to become the only school to have multiple selections in this year's NBA draft lottery.
"It's got to come from different people," head coach Tom Crean said Wednesday of replacing Zeller and Oladipo. "You can't just plug in those points and rebounds and percentages.
"We're going to miss those guys as much on the defensive end as the offensive end. Cody didn't get much recognition for his defense last year, but the NBA people sure noticed it."
Crean said sophomores Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Jeremy Hollowell will be counted on to replace Zeller in the paint, along with incoming freshman Noah Vonleh, ranked 13th nationally in a strong 2013 class.
"In the case of Cody, it's never going to be about one person," Crean said. "It's going to be about different guys doing different things. Especially because they're younger, and their skill level is continuing to jump. I think Hanner has made a huge jump this spring and summer, and so has Jeremy Hollowell."
Also gone are graduated seniors Christian Watford (power forward) and Jordan Hulls (shooting guard). Point guard Yogi Ferrell is the lone returning starter -- and he and teammate Will Sheehey are currently away from the team while competing in the World University Games in Russia.
Crean said having two of his veterans missing from the practice gym in July could actually turn into a positive for the Hoosiers, who will count on freshmen such as center Luke Fischer and wing Troy Williams to contribute immediately.
"With [Ferrell and Sheehey] gone, everyone else will get a chance to pick that leadership mantle up a little bit," Crean said. "They can try to stand out in their own way.
"This is a key summer for us. We don't want to skip any steps. If that means one less day of recruiting each week, so be it. The most important team we have is the one that's right here."
No. 3: Otto Porter, Georgetown
It'd be understandable if the Hoyas weren't prepared for the departure of Porter after just two seasons. After all, no one could've seen this coming two years ago, when Porter was an unheralded recruit out of Missouri who didn't command major college attention until his senior year of high school. Now he's a multi-millionaire following an All-America sophomore campaign in which the versatile Porter led Georgetown in points (16.3) and rebounds (7.4).
The positive news for the Hoyas is the John Thompson III's squad returns nearly every other key piece of a unit that won a share of the 2013 Big East championship. That includes assists leader Markel Starks, who also contributed 12.5 points per game. Also back are post players Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins and guards Jabril Trawick and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Georgetown's chances at a Big East title took a huge hit, though, when forward Greg Whittington tore his left ACL last month. He could miss the entire 2013-14 season. Whittington ranked second on the team in points and rebounds when he was suspended at the semester break for academic reasons. The Hoyas' signing class features just one player: four-star power forward Reggie Cameron from Hackensack, N.J.
"He's basically a face-up 4-man who is a 3-point specialist," Telep said. "He's a stretch guy. He was brought in to fill a role. They won't have anyone that has the versatility of Otto Porter."
No. 5: Alex Len, Maryland
Len was a big part of the Terrapins' run to the NIT semifinals last season, when he averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Had he returned, Maryland would've been a fringe top-25 team. Still, coach Mark Turgeon is optimistic about his squad's outlook.
Leading scorer Dez Wells returns on the perimeter along with Nick Faust. In the paint, Maryland will look to Charles Mitchell and Shaq Cleare to make up for the loss of Len. Both players contributed double-digit minutes as freshmen last season.
"It'll be a different look," Turgeon said Tuesday. "Alex was a rim protector. They're not rim protectors, but they've got big, wide bodies. They're good players who are ready to do their part."
Turgeon said he's particularly impressed with Cleare, who has decreased his body fat from 22 percent to 10 percent.
"He's such a hard worker. He was behind a lottery pick last year, and it was hard to play them together. He's gained a lot of confidence. He's much more skilled than I thought he was going to be. He's ready to do his part."
Turgeon said a pair of fresh faces -- Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz and freshman Demonte Dodd -- should also contribute down low.
"Smotrycz is a 6-9 guy that can really shoot it and stretch the defense," Turgeon said. "Dodd is an under-the-radar guy. He's 6-10 with a 7-2 wingspan. He blocks shots much better than we anticipated. He's been a pleasant surprise."
No. 6: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Before tore his ACL in February, Noel was considered the top defensive post player in college basketball. ESPN's Jay Bilas even referred to him as a "defensive savant." Still, when Noel announced he was leaving school after one season to enter the NBA draft, the Wildcats hardly flinched.
"It's a next-man-up philosophy," Telep said. "There's no concern about replacing guys. This is what they do. When you walk through the doors, you're expected to replace the next guy."
Kentucky returns projected first-round draft pick Willie Cauley-Stein in the paint. A 7-footer, Cauley-Stein made tremendous strides as a freshman but is still incredibly raw. He'll have the luxury of playing alongside incoming freshman Julius Randle, a 6-9, 225-pounder who is almost certain to be a top-five pick in next summer's NBA draft.
"They have a rim protector on their roster in Willie Cauley-Stein and they have another rim protector in Marcus Lee, who's going to have to figure out a way to get on the floor as a freshman," Telep said. "It's not like they're void of rim protectors. They just don't have the best one in college basketball anymore."
No. 7: Ben McLemore, Kansas
Losing a talent such as McLemore, who broke Danny Manning's Kansas freshman scoring record, would cause most any program to take a significant step back. Especially when the four other starters departed along with him.
The Jayhawks, though, don't seem concerned thanks to the arrival of a No. 2-ranked recruiting class headlined by Andrew Wiggins, who some have labeled as the best incoming freshman college basketball has seen since Kevin Durant. The Jayhawks may be young, but that hasn't changed the expectations in Lawrence, where KU will be expected to contend for a 10th straight Big 12 title.
"We aren't going anywhere," head coach Bill Self said at the team banquet in April. "We've got a great group of incoming kids who will give their heart and soul to this place who will be very good players. Anything less than celebrating a marvelous season next year will be a disappointment, because I think we have a chance to be great again."
Freshman Frank Mason will battle Naadir Tharpe for starting point guard duties while freshman Wayne Selden and Wiggins will likely start at shooting guard and small forward, respectively. Look for sophomore Perry Ellis to start alongside Memphis transfer Tarik Black in the paint, with freshman Joel Embiid contributing significantly off the bench -- at least at the start of the season.
"On the surface it would look like a huge rebuilding job," said Self, whose program has been a 1-seed in the NCAA tourney five of the past seven years. "But we've had rebuilding jobs here before. I'd be very surprised if next year's team doesn't compete for championships, just like other teams we've had here."
No. 8: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Pope was named SEC Player of the Year after averaging 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds last season. Bulldogs coach Mark Fox was hopeful the wing would return for his junior year, but he was also realistic.
"We tried to prepare ourselves in recruiting for an early departure," the coach told ESPN.com.
According to Fox, the No. 1 candidate to replace Pope is Kenny Gaines, who averaged 10.3 minutes per game as a freshman backup last season. Gaines was a Parade All-American in high school.
"Kenny got a lot of experience last season," Fox said. "Was it enough? I'm not ready to say that. But he definitely got a big chunk of it.
"Usually you want your lead role players to be juniors and seniors, but with the days of early entry, that's not always the case. We have three guys (Gaines, Charles Mann and Brandon Morris) who are going to be sophomores who got a bunch of experience last year."
Fox also signed shooting guard Juwan Parker, and he added junior college recruit Cameron Forte and freshman Kenny Paul Geno, both of whom are forwards.
"They'll be able to help us, but they have no experience in Division I games," Fox said. "Getting those guys comfortable and acclimated it going to take a little time. There's no way around it. No team can replace a lottery pick with just one player. It's going to have to be by committee."
No. 9: Trey Burke, Michigan
Arguably no freshman in the country has bigger shoes to fill than MIchigan point guard Derrick Walton Jr. His predecessor, Trey Burke, won the Wooden Award after leading the Wolverines to the NCAA title game. At No. 30, Walton Jr. enters college with a higher ranking than Burke (No. 84) did two years ago. But he's already mature enough to realize that those types of numbers mean absolutely nothing.
"I can't be Trey," Walton Jr. told ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein for a feature last week. "Trey is a different player. I just know that I bring a lot to the table and he brought a lot to the table. I'm just going to be Derrick Walton. I'm not going to be Trey Burke.
"The things he did on that level were ridiculous. If somebody compares me to him coming out of high school, it's a privilege, but I think it's somewhat disrespectful for him to compare him to a high school player."
A pass-first point guard, Walton Jr. may not be as good of a scorer as Burke. But recruiting analysts believe he is just as good of a leader and competitor, and they can't say enough about his court vision and ability to read defenses.
Walton Jr. won't be the only point guard on Michigan's roster to log significant minutes. Spike Albrecht scored 17 points in an NCAA title-game loss to Louisville and will certainly play a significant role as a sophomore this season. Walton Jr. and Albrecht will have the luxury of passing to returning starters Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas.
No. 10: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
The Mountain Hawks got a jump start on adjusting to life without star C.J. McCollum. The guard was injured in January and missed the final 18 games of the season.
"There's a statement that says success leaves a footprint and a path to follow," Lehigh coach Brett Reed said. "Good players who are about the right thing leave a footprint and a culture and a path to follow for their teammates.
"Our players seemed to carry forth with the poise and confidence that C.J. had in pressure situations. He rubbed off on them. To see them move forward with the dynamics and culture he helped develop was really gratifying."
The problem is that many of the players McCollum influenced are no longer on the roster. Reed said his squad lost "more than 5,000 career points" from its graduating senior class.
Mackey McKnight, who averaged 11.9 points and a team-high 4.9 assists, is the Mountain Hawks' top returning player. Reed said he's excited about the potential of power forward Tim Kempton Jr. and point guard Austin Price, both of whom are freshmen. Eight players on the current roster have never seen action in a Patriot League game.
"McKnight has played in NCAA tournament games," Reed said. "He's been a high-level performer for us. Now we need him to show the same type of consistency from a leadership standpoint as he has on the court. If he can be a good leader, we can be very competitive. If he falters in that area, we could be inconsistent."
No. 11: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Carter-Williams averaged 11.9 points, 7.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals last season, making him the most versatile point guard in all of college basketball as only a sophomore.
Is there a chance Syracuse could actually experience an upgrade at the position? That may be a stretch, but Telep said inserting freshman Tyler Ennis into the lineup won't cause the Orange to take a step back.
"I think Tyler Ennis can have a really big role at Syracuse next year," Telep said. "There are some things he's naturally better at than Michael Carter-Williams. He's a better perimeter shooter and he has a strong voice as a leader. So I think that those two things combined give him a jump start on playing that position at Syracuse. He's a mature kid in his approach and his make-up."
Indeed, Carter-Williams -- who shot 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from the 3-point line -- could be his own worst enemy when things weren't going his way. But Syracuse fans also know the Orange would've never made the Final Four if not for MCW. Now they're hoping their squad will experience similar success with Ennis manning point. Having experienced players such as C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant to pass to certainly won't hurt.
"I think he'll be ready to go," Telep said. "It's very strange to talk about a high school kid replacing a lottery pick and using the word 'seamless.' But in many ways, Tyler is more ready to do this than Michael was at the same age.
"It's not 25 years ago anymore where we ask guys to come in and sit and learn. They need to be ready to go. Tyler is more than ready to be a starting point guard at a high-major team, even as a freshman."
No. 12: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Adams' one season at Pitt was underwhelming. The center averaged a team-high 6.3 rebounds, but only scored 7.2 points per contest. Still, there's no question that his ceiling is extremely high, which is why he was lottery pick.
"We've had very few one-and-dones," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "But we're happy for Steven. We're excited for him. We knew this was a distinct possibility."
What Dixon didn't predict was the departure of players such as Trey Zeigler and J.J. Moore, both of whom transferred. Pittsburgh has a pair of top-flight returnees in leading returning scorer Lamar Patterson, a small forward who averaged 10 points last season. Point guard James Robinson (3.6 APG) could have a breakthrough year.
Also back is forward Talib Zanna, who has shown flashes of brilliance the past few seasons in the paint. A senior, Zanna snared 19 rebounds against Villanova last season while starting at center in place of Adams.
"[Zanna] was more productive as a 5-man, to be honest," Dixon said. "He'll play some more 5 this year than he did last year."
The biggest issue down low will be a lack of depth. Dixon said freshman Mike Young will have to adapt in a hurry. Dixon said Young is a tad over 6-foot-9 in shoes and weighs about 245 pounds.
"He's bigger than most people realize," Dixon said. "He's growing. He's getting stronger and bulkier. I've been impressed with him."
No. 13: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
You'd be hard-pressed to find a player who made a bigger leap in 2012-13 than Olynyk, who went from averaging 5.8 points as a sophomore to 17.8 points as a junior (with a redshirt year sandwiched in between). Olynyk's dominance earned him first-team All-America honors and resulted in him being selected with the No. 13 overall pick in the NBA draft.
"We had no way to prepare for this," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Not that Few is complaining. Whether it's Blake Stepp or Ronnie Turiaf or Adam Morrison or Austin Daye, the Zags seemingly lose a star player every year, yet always find their way back into the top 25.
"The program has always been able to absorb it," Few said. "Other players always step up. It's not about filling a void or replacing a particular player. Year and in year out, your team has to take on a new identity."
The one concern for Gonzaga is that, along with losing Olynyk, the Zags also graduated leading rebounder Elias Harris, who will be remembered as one of the top post players in program history.
Luckily Gonzaga returns Sam Dower, a senior who has averaged double-digit minutes in each of his three seasons in Spokane. Dower is averaging 7.6 points for his career. Few is also excited about the potential of sophomore Przemek Karnowski, a 7-1, 305-pounder who contributed 5.4 points per game as a freshman.
"They've got a great opportunity," Few said. "They've both been waiting for this chance. They've been looking forward to it. Sam has basically been a starter anyway throughout his career. He's got an opportunity to play even more minutes. He'll have a longer leash.
"Przemek was really progressing as the season went on. It was showing more so in practice. It was hard for him to garner a lot of minutes with Kelly and Elias and Sam out there. Now it's his time to step up and shine."
No. 14: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Multiple times over the past few months, analysts dissecting potential first-round draft picks referred to Muhammad's one year at UCLA as "a disappointment." Maybe that was the case based on expectations, but the guard still averaged a team-high 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds while leading the Bruins to the outright Pac-12 title. That's impressive no matter how you slice it.
Muhammad is gone now -- and so is head coach Ben Howland. The Bruins may be hard-pressed to win a second-straight league crown in new coach Steve Alford's inaugural season, but they should still be pretty salty. Especially if newcomers Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford (Steve's son) adapt to the college game quickly. Both are combo guards who can move around the backcourt and provide solid 3-point shooting.
Alford hinted to ESPN's Andy Katz last month that he may employ a lineup that features two point guards on the floor at the same time. In that scenario it'd likely be his son and 6-foot-8 sophomore Kyle Anderson, who can play multiple positions. Anderson didn't see much action at the point last season because of the success of Larry Drew II, who graduated.
"[Point guard] is a position [where] we'll be tested by youth," Alford told Katz. "Kyle can play all over the floor."
LaVine, an ESPN 100 recruit, probably won't be thrust into too many pressure situations early, Alford said.
Other players who will help make up for the loss of Muhammad's scoring prowess are returning players Jordan Adams, Norman Powell and David and Travis Wear. Also keep an eye on sophomore Tony Parker, who is in better shape than he was his first season.
"He's lost 18 pounds in the first two months we've been here," Alford said. "He looks much, much better."