Duke: Guard Nolan Smith lived up to his promise to return to school the night of the national title game and forward Kyle Singler became this spring's most surprising returnee a few weeks later. Between those two, the Plumlee brothers and talented incoming freshman point guard Kyrie Irving, Duke should begin next season as the nation's No. 1 team.
Purdue: Point guard E'Twaun Moore and forward JaJuan Johnson made Boilers fans sweat it out right up until Saturday's deadline, but the juniors opted to remain in school and make a run at the Final Four berth that has eluded them. With the Big Three returning, point guard Lewis Jackson healthy and a talented recruiting class coming in, Purdue will be a legitimate contender.
Seton Hall: It seemed as though Seton Hall was destined for a rough 2010-11 season when Jeremy Hazell, Jeff Robinson and Herb Pope all declared for the draft last month in part due to frustration with coach Bobby Gonzalez. All three opted to return to play for new coach Kevin Willard, meaning the Pirates could be an NCAA tournament team next season assuming Pope can recover from his scary collapse last week.
Big Ten: In addition to Moore and Johnson returning to Purdue, Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis came back to Illinois and Michigan State's Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas didn't even test the waters. That means the Big Ten will be loaded next season, with those three teams battling for the title and Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern capable of contending for NCAA bids.
Pac-10: The upside to having one of the worst seasons in conference history in 2009-10 is that the Pac-10 didn't lose a single underclassmen to the NBA this spring. Although the exit of seniors Quincy Pondexter, Landry Fields and Jerome Randle will hurt, the hope in Pac-10 circles is that this year was rock bottom and next season will mark the beginning of an upswing.
Virginia Tech: Malcolm Delaney's decision to return to school means the Hokies should return every significant player from last season's 25-win squad that was among the final snubs on Selection Sunday. Could 2011 finally be the year coach Seth Greenberg spends more time worrying about NCAA tournament seeding instead of bubble projections?
Morehead State: Get to know the name Kenneth Faried, who wisely withdrew from the draft last week. The 6-foot-8 big man's return to school makes Morehead State the favorite to unseat Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference and return to the NCAA tournament.
Xavier: No team got hit by a worse double whammy than Xavier, which first lost to Kansas State in a double overtime Sweet 16 classic and then lost star Jordan Crawford in part because of the buzz he created with his brilliant scoring in that game. Had the junior guard returned to school, the Musketeers would have been heavy favorites in the Atlantic 10 and a potential top 15 team.
Georgetown: Had Greg Monroe not
come to his senses reneged on his initial decision and entered the draft, the Hoyas would have returned every significant player from a schizophrenic 2009-10 team that at times looked as though it could beat anyone. Instead the Hoyas will try to replace the interior production of Monroe with freshmen Moses Abraham and Nate Lubick and veteran Julian Vaughn.
Butler: There was more risk than reward for Gordon Hayward in returning to college for another season, so no Butler fans should blame him for riding the wave of the Bulldogs' NCAA tournament run and turning pro this spring. Still, even with the majority of its team returning besides Hayward, the absence of its versatile star makes Butler just another top 25 team instead of an instant title contender.
Mississippi: Fringe first-rounder Terrico White could have played his way into better position with a strong junior season next year, but he instead turned pro coming off a disappointing sophomore campaign. Coupled with the transfer of Murphy Holloway and junior Eniel Polynice's decision to pursue pro basketball, and it's hard to imagine Ole Miss contending in the SEC West next season.
SEC: The five early departures at Kentucky obviously hurt, but what really weakens the SEC is losing more underclassmen to ill-informed draft decisions than any other league. Dee Bost at Mississippi State? A.J. Ogilvy at Vanderbilt? Courtney Fortson at Arkansas? Eniel Polynice at Mississippi? All long shots to be selected any higher than the late second round.
Oklahoma: The Sooners may be the first team that went 4-12 in its conference to lose three underclassmen to the NBA. The departure of Tiny Gallon, Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin may land Oklahoma in the losers category for now, but it's possible that purging the program and starting fresh may be exactly what the Sooners need to get back on track.
Louisville: Rick Pitino's attempts to put a positive spin on Samardo Samuels' stunning early exit can't hide how indispensable he was for Louisville. Samuels may not have the size to play center in the NBA or the perimeter skills to play power forward, but his low-post scoring and rebounding are qualities that a Cardinals program already trending downward will struggle to replace.