Every NCAA tournament, NBA fans get the chance to observe and appraise some of the top prospects in that year's draft. It's a fun time when people get to look at the league's future stars for an extended period. There are more draft prospects elsewhere — Europe, the NIT, etc. — but March Madness is a little more special.
Except, starting this year, some of those college players won't have quite so long to assess their stock in the draft. At DraftExpress, Jonathan Givony reminded everyone exactly what these new rules mean for early entry candidates:
The main change that occurred this year involves the NCAA's unilaterally imposed "early-entry withdrawal deadline" of April 10th.
According to NCAA Proposal No. 2010-24, "student-athletes interested in 'testing the waters' of the NBA draft [are required] to remove their name from consideration before the first day of the spring National Letter of Intent signing period." [...]
Last year college players had until May 8th to evaluate their professional options, which gave them about a week to work out for NBA teams and gather feedback about their NBA draft stock. College players (like their international counterparts, who are not bound by the NCAA's rules) used to have until ten days before the draft (this year June 18th) to do their research and gather as much information as possible before making such an important decision for their future. [...]
The reason for this change, in the NCAA's words is: "to help keep student-athletes focused on academics in the spring term and to give coaches a better idea of their roster for the coming year before the recruiting period is closed."
Take a few minutes if you need to laugh at that last bit about academics, the NCAA's all-purpose excuse for a rule that improves its bottom line. As noted by Givony in the piece, this rule has come under criticism as an example of the NCAA trying to protect its financial interests under the guise of helping the students. Given that players now have less time to decide what's best for their futures, it's hard to read it any other way.
Regardless of its intention, this rule will have an effect on the draft. In the past, early entrants had the chance to work out for teams, figure out where they stood, and at the very least get on teams' radar before returning to college for another season. Now, they can only get a general sense of their possible draft position before choosing to making the jump. With workouts and the combine playing such a large role in deciding a player's draft position, it's far from an ideal situation.
Still, because the rule is new, it's unclear exactly how people will respond this year. Some might get reckless and enter without full knowledge, whereas others could get conservative and wait until their play in college guarantees them a better spot. Whatever the case, their decisions will lack the information that makes them reasoned. Some players might end up wondering if their careers could have gone differently.
But, you know, good luck to the college basketball machine as it attempts to exploit its athletes for all they're worth.