Every year, it seems like there are some high-profile early entrants from non-BCS schools that shake up the competitive landscape, but this season's losses feel particularly heavy. When you lose talent like Nevada's Luke Babbitt, Xavier's Jordan Crawford, Ohio's Armon Bassett, UTEP's Derrick Caracter, Fresno State's Paul George and Butler's Gordon Hayward from the pool, you're going to feel an impact.
That said, there's still plenty of talent remaining in the leagues that get a bit less TV love. Butler, rightfully, will rightfully command much of the attention, but the Bulldogs are far from the only show in town. Here's a look at some of the most compelling non-BCS players in place for the 2010-11 season.
Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and Ronald Nored, Butler:Mack's star turn will be one of the season's major stories, but he's only one piece in a still-impressive Butler foundation. Howard's numbers (11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) dropped a bit last season as he struggled with foul trouble, but coach Brad Stevens insists that Howard's selfless and passionate play was a major factor in Butler's success. With the love that Gordon Hayward and Mack received, it's easy to forget it was Howard who was the Horizon League Player of the Year two seasons ago. It's also going to be time for Nored to increase his scoring role. The lockdown defender was an offensive opportunist this season, but his ability to get to the rim off the bounce should lead to more points as he moves up in the Bulldogs' scoring hierarchy.
Jimmer Fredette, BYU: The Cougars' leading scorer and long-range sniper took an early-entry dip and then withdrew to return to Provo for his senior season. With second- and third-leading scorers Jackson Emery and Tyler Haws also back, BYU should be strongly in the mix again for the Mountain West crown.
Elias Harris, Gonzaga: Harris, a German import, was a revelation in his freshman season, complementing Matt Bouldin with 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while shooting over 45 percent from three-point range. This season, the uber-athletic Harris should combine with Steven Gray to form a potent 1-2 scoring punch.
Chris Wright, Dayton: "Top Flight" returns to a Flyers squad that squandered an NCAA berth with a slew of close losses but won the postseason NIT. His athleticism has always surpassed the consistency of his contributions (13.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg last season), but he's still a difference-maker in a league that doesn't have many (any?) athletes like him.
Kevin Anderson, Richmond: The sharpshooting A-10 Player of the Year returns to a loaded Spiders squad that should be well positioned to redeem itself after a disappointing first-round NCAA tournament loss to Saint Mary's. With Dan Geriot having more time to get healthy and a strong freshman class supplementing Anderson and Co., a league title is not unrealistic.
Lavoy Allen, Temple: The Owls' rugged double-double machine also flirted with the draft before returning to school, which is a boon for the three-time defending Atlantic 10 tournament champs. The rising senior was the first Owl to average a double-double for the season since 1971. Now let's see if Allen can help Temple break its NCAA tournament slump. The Owls have been lost in the first round in each of Allen's three seasons, part of coach Fran Dunphy's ongoing (and head-scratching) all-time record of 11 straight NCAA losses.
Ryan Rossiter, Siena: After three straight MAAC titles and NCAA berths, the Saints lost the core of their program with the departures of Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and Ronald Moore. Now the leading role falls to Rossiter, a skinny-but-effective scorer and rebounder who quietly averaged a double-double last season (13.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg) while shooting 57 percent from the floor.
Randy Culpepper, UTEP: Culpepper averaged 17.9 points last season, and that was with Caracter getting his share of touches. Now that the big man has departed, expect the explosive 6-foot guard to up those numbers. He made nine threes in two separate games last season, exploding for 45 points against East Carolina.
Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: Skilled big man (and legendary quote machine) Omar Samhan may be gone, but the Gaels will be in good hands with this talented backcourt. The last national memory of McConnell was his banked-in three that helped subdue Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament in Providence. The method was unusual, but the outcome was expected for McConnell, who shot a blistering 51 percent from the arc last year. He's complemented by the heady and confident Dellavedova, who also is a fine shooter and ball handler.
D.J. Cooper, Ohio: You may have seen the diminutive freshman spearheading the Bobcats' mauling of Georgetown in the first round of the NCAAs, but that performance wasn't an outlier. The 5-11 (yeah, right!) point guard averaged 13.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season and now will have the backcourt spotlight to himself after leading scorer Armon Bassett stayed in the NBA draft. With coach John Groce's Ohio State (and, by proxy, Butler) lineage, keep an eye on the mojo for these 'Cats.
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State: As a freshman, Leonard was a rebounding savant, finishing in the nation's top 60 in rebounding rate at both ends. He just missed a double-double for the season, finishing with 9.9 rebounds per game in just 31 minutes a night. San Diego State returns most of a team that made the NCAAs last season and once again should be a dangerous threat in the Mountain West.
Kwamain Mitchell, Saint Louis: The Billikens are poised to be a threat in the A-10 and Mitchell is their main man, having scored in 15 points per game last season for a slow-ball team that only averaged 63. Saint Louis was really young last season, but played much better after Aussie Cody Ellis became eligible. The combo of Mitchell and rising junior forward Willie Reed gives the Billikens real hope of getting to the NCAAs.
Charles Jenkins, Hofstra: The Pride were really young last season and relied heavily on the scoring prowess of the league Player of the Year, who averaged 20.6 points from the guard position (while also chipping in with 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists). With the big outflow of talent in the Colonial, including Old Dominion's Gerald Lee, VCU's Larry Sanders and Northeastern's Matt Janning, Hofstra may be poised to make a strong move under new coach Mo Cassara (who took over after Tim Welsh resigned following a DUI).
Quinn McDowell, William & Mary: The Tribe were one of the feel-good stories of last season, narrowly missing an NCAA berth and then playing a wildly entertaining NIT affair at North Carolina behind Tony Shaver's patient, three-for-all attack. While departed senior David Schneider led the Tribe in scoring, McDowell probably was the team's most talented player. The Tribe suffered heavy graduation losses, but McDowell, who will be expected to improve upon his 13.9 points per game, is a nice piece around which to layer a good freshman class.
Kyle Weems and Adam Leonard, Missouri State: With the graduation of much of Northern Iowa's core, the Valley once again should be up for grabs, and Cuonzo Martin's Bears return a potent one-two scoring punch that combined for 175 made threes last season. Missouri State should benefit from a positive 2010 postseason run which culminated with the CollegeInsider.com Tournament title. If the Bears can tighten up their perimeter defense, they could be poised for a strong Valley push.
Keith Benson, Oakland: A rare skilled big man in a true mid-major league, the 6-11 Benson averaged 17.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and was a driving force behind the Golden Grizzlies' 17-1 Summit mark and NCAA berth. Benson had 28 points and nine rebounds in the first-round loss to Pittsburgh, a game in which the Grizz were handicapped when forward Derick Nelson was crushed by an inadvertent elbow.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Here's another talented mid big who's returning to the Eagles for his senior year after withdrawing from the draft. Coming off two straight seasons of at least 13 points and 13 rebounds a game, the active Faried gives Morehead another chance to take out Murray State at the top of the OVC ...
Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: ... which won't happen if Canaan and the rest of the Racers have any say in the matter. Murray State loses two 10-point-per-game scorers, but that's OK since it has four others returning. The pick of the litter is Canaan, who averaged 10.4 points as a freshman while shooting 48 percent from the arc, including this shot of the year candidate.
Damian Lillard, Weber State: When you last saw the Big Sky Player of the Year, he was standing dumbfounded on his home court after the Wildcats blew a 20-point halftime lead and got Anthony Johnson'd out of a spot in the NCAAs by upstart Montana. Lillard is a sweet shooter who made over 39 percent from three last year.
Derek Needham, Fairfield: With Siena's graduation void, the Stags should be the strong preseason MAAC favorite. Needham certainly wasn't shy as a freshman, leading Fairfield in scoring and assists while firing up 189 threes. With the departure of senior forward Anthony Johnson, Needham may have more opportunity to fill it up this season, with the hope that added experience will make him a more efficient scorer, as well.
Zack Rosen, Penn: Without checking, it's a safe guess that Rosen was the nation's only unanimous first-team all-league player from a 6-22 team. That's how valiant the rising junior was last season, despite program mayhem that included a host of injuries and the midseason dismissal of coach Glen Miller. Expect this writer's alma mater, under former star guard Jerome Allen, to be much improved, with several key players returning to health and a freshman class full of shooters to help take the burden off of Rosen.
C.J. McCollum, Lehigh: McCollum pulled off the rare FOY/POY combo in his debut season in Bethlehem, scoring in 19.1 points per game for the Mountain Hawks, who obviously softened up Kansas for Northern Iowa to finish off in the NCAAs. The 6-3 guard also pulled down five boards a game and shot 42 percent from the arc.
Ray McCallum Jr. (Detroit Mercy) and Trey Zeigler (Central Michigan): Two special situations in Michigan where highly touted recruits (and close friends) elected to play for their fathers and inject immediate legitimacy into the Horizon League and MAC programs. McCallum is a 6-1 point guard who finished third in the Michigan Mr. Basketball voting last season after leading Detroit Country Day to a state title. He is a consensus top recruit, with ESPN rating him at No. 17 overall in the Class of 2010. Zeigler, a 6-5 shooting guard, comes with a similar pedigree and hopes to elevate the Chippewas, who are the two-time defending MAC West champs (despite .500 or worse overall marks in those seasons) under Trey's father, Ernie.