Photo Credit: The Slipper Still Fits
As usual, changes from year to year in college basketball are inevitable. Seniors graduate, high school seniors begin their college careers, and many underclassmen declare for the NBA draft. Which team will suffer the most this upcoming season as a result of NBA draft declarations in particular?
Teams like Kentucky and Duke lose a lot of underclassmen each year, but they are typically able to reload with top-tier recruiting classes, so they should continue to compete on a high level when it comes to contending for championships. So which teams are, in fact, losing the most?
Teams like the Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon Ducks are losing much of their starting lineups and not reloading to the extent of Kentucky or Duke. However, no team is losing more from a contending standpoint than the Gonzaga Bulldogs, and much of it is a result of NBA Draft declarations.
The Bulldogs took a blow when freshman center Zach Collins decided to declare for the NBA draft. They then took another huge blow when junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss, a Wooden Award finalist, followed suit. With center Przemek Karnowski having graduated as well, Gonzaga getting back to the national championship game, a game they lost this past season to the North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 71-65, would take a miracle.
Sure, you could argue that a Wisconsin team that is losing four of its five senior starters after four consecutive Sweet Sixteen runs or an Oregon team that is losing Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, and Jordan Bell after a Final Four run may be the biggest loser personnel-wise heading into next season. But no team is losing what Gonzaga is losing coming off of what they accomplished, and what they accomplished proved a lot of people wrong. No team that got as far as they did is losing what they are.
North Carolina, the defending national champion, is North Carolina, and they are the only team to make it father than Gonzaga did. They are a blue-blood team always been an NCAA basketball powerhouse. Even with the few players that they are losing, they’re nowhere near the biggest loser heading into next season, and they will retain key players such as point guard Joel Berry.
The next best team, the team that lost to the Tar Heels in the championship game, was Gonzaga. With all the players they’re losing, they appear to be the team that will take the biggest fall heading into next season since they were so close to the top a season ago and are losing so many key assets from that near-champion team. Like I said, other teams like Wisconsin and Oregon may fall a bit as well, but none are falling from where Gonzaga was.
If any team and coach can recover from losing many of its stars, however, it is Gonzaga and coach Mark Few. They earned a 1-seed in 2013 before dropping off to an 8-seed in 2014. In 2015, they came back and earned a 2-seed before dropping off to an 11-seed in 2016. And as we saw this past season, they bounced back and claimed a 1-seed and made it to the school’s first ever Final Four and national championship game. While they will be losing a lot of key players heading into next season, don’t sleep on Gonzaga as a potential national championship contender a few years down the road.