Mon May 09 08:00am EDT
The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA draft passed Sunday night, which means it's time to evaluate how the landscape of next college basketball season has changed as a result of the decisions made the past few weeks.
Below is a look at eight programs that emerged as draft deadline winners. Click here for a look at the eight biggest draft deadline losers.
1. North Carolina: Had merely one or two of North Carolina's three likely first-round picks returned to Chapel Hill next season, the Tar Heels still would have been considered a potential Final Four contender. Because forwards Harrison Barnes and John Henson and center Tyler Zeller all passed on NBA riches to stay in school, North Carolina will begin next season as the clear favorite to win its third national title in seven years.
2. Ohio State: Many skeptics initially didn't believe freshman Jared Sullinger when he pledged to return for his sophomore season immediately after Ohio State's shocking loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. That the likely lottery pick followed through on his promise and junior William Buford also chose to stay in school is a big reason the Buckeyes will enter next season as title contenders once again.
3. Vanderbilt: Whereas numerous other borderline first-round picks took a gamble and entered the draft despite the threat of a lockout, Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor and Festus Ezeli didn't even bother to test the waters. The trio's return ensures that the Commodores will improve upon this past season's first-round NCAA tournament exit and challenge Kentucky for the SEC title.
4. Baylor: Even if Perry Jones' freshman season wasn't as dominant as many analysts projected it would be, the talented forward's decision to return to Baylor is still a huge coup for the Bears. Jones passed up the chance to be a top 10 pick, instead opting to team with freshman Quincy Miller and seniors Quincy Acy and J'mison Morgan to form one of the nation's most formidable front courts.
5. Pittsburgh: Ashton Gibbs may have been very determined to remain in the draft, but the sweet-shooting junior guard came to his senses by the end of the process and withdrew the day before the deadline. Not only does Gibbs get another season to prove to NBA scouts he can run a team and create off the dribble, Pittsburgh gets its best scorer back to complement a frontcourt chock-full of intriguing but unproven talent.
6. Xavier: The consensus was always that projected second-round pick Tu Holloway would return for his senior season, but Xavier has been burned by surprise early-entry decisions in the past. That Holloway did indeed withdraw from the draft on Sunday means the Musketeers will return their leading scorer and will be favored to win yet another Atlantic 10 championship next season.
7. Connecticut: Jeremy Lamb's brilliant NCAA tournament could have catapulted him into the first round of this June's draft, but the freshman guard wisely decided to stay in school and take advantage of the chance to be UConn's No. 1 option. His return gives the Huskies a chance to remain among the Big East's elite despite the graduation of first-team all-American guard Kemba Walker.
8. Missouri: Neither forward Laurence Bowers nor guard Kim English were likely to even be selected had they remained in the draft, so it's no surprise that both withdrew their names hours before Sunday night's deadline. Nonethless, it was critical to new Missouri coach Frank Haith's chances for a successful debut season that both seniors-to-be returned to provide leadership for a loaded Tigers squad that underachieved badly last season.
Other winners: Texas A&M (David Loubeau withdrew from the draft, Khris Middleton didn't declare for it); Miami (Reggie Johnson withdrew from the draft); Memphis (None of the freshmen bothered to test the waters); NC State (C.J. Leslie returned for his sophomore season); Northwestern (John Shurna withdrew from the draft); West Virginia (Kevin Jones withdrew from the draft)