Wesley Johnson hasn't ruled out returning to Syracuse -- for now

Jeff Eisenberg

Amid the heartache of Thursday night's disastrous Sweet 16 loss to Butler, Syracuse star Wesley Johnson offered dispirited Orange fans reason for a glimmer of optimism.

Johnson is projected as a likely lottery pick if he enters the NBA Draft this year, but the junior forward said that losing this early in the tournament makes him "lean toward going back to school."

Granted it's very common that what a prospect says hours after his final game isn't the same as what he says after his head clears a few days later, but it sounds as though Johnson is at least entertaining the idea of returning to Syracuse.

That's more than can be said at Kentucky, where not only are DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall almost certain to be leaving but fellow freshmen Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton sound as though they're NBA-bound.

Said a not-so-subtle Bledsoe, "I mean, it's a good possibility."

Added Orton, "If I'm a lottery pick, it's something I have to think about."

Ultimately, unless Johnson loved his college experience at Syracuse so much that he wants to come back for one last shot at a national title, he ought to take the same approach as Orton once the pain of this loss wears off. The former Iowa State transfer averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, starting the season strong, enduring a midseason dip after a hand injury and rebounding to look every bit like a lottery pick again by the end.

A multi-million-dollar contract is waiting for him. He shouldn't pass that up.