The NBA Draft Limbo Period is laughably short this year. The official window between the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft (April 25) and the deadline to pull out (May 8) is 13 days, but unofficially, it's even tighter. NBA teams don't yet have the official list of underclassmen in hand, can't begin working players out until April 29 and can't schedule workouts that conflict with class times. Realistically, all the draft prospects have is 10 days in which to decide if they'll sign with an agent and stay in the draft. These are the 10 college teams with the most at stake during that hurried process:
Waiting On:Gordon Hayward, 6-foot-9 Soph. SG/SF (15.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg)
What's In The Balance: The Bulldogs are a top-five team with Hayward and probably somewhere in the 19-25 range without him. Off-guard Shelvin Mack (24.9 percent of possessions used) and power forward Matt Howard (24.8 percent) were just as prominent in Butler's offense as Hayward was (24.5 percent), but his ability to create mismatches on offense, guard all five positions and clean up the defensive glass gave coach Brad Stevens a huge tactical advantage in game-planning.
Likely Outcome: My feeling, after consulting a few sources with knowledge of Hayward's situation, is that he'll stay in the draft. He's leaving his options open by continuing to attend classes, and working out with an Indianapolis-based trainer, but it would be a big surprise -- even to people at Butler -- if he came back for a junior season. His NBA stock is near its peak in the 15-25 range, and as long as his post-workout feedback still reflects that, the smart business decision is to turn pro. Don't make the mistake of lumping him in the same boat with Duke star Kyle Singler, either: Singler's stock was lower for this season, and he felt that he could play his way up into that fringe-lottery area with another year in college. Hayward is probably on his best-possible footing right now.
Waiting On: Jordan Crawford, 6-4 Soph. SG (20.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
What's In The Balance: A backcourt brigade of Crawford, Terrell Holloway, Dante Jackson, Mark Lyons and Brad Redford might be the best (and most diverse, skill-wise) in the country other than Duke or Michigan State. Crawford, who emerged as one of the college game's most dynamic scorers late in the season, would be a preseason All-America if he came back to school and the Musketeers would be in the top 10. Without him, they're more in the late teens or early 20s -- a solid defensive team lacking in major offensive firepower.
Likely Outcome: Crawford stays in the draft. He certainly wants to be in the draft -- that was the word during the end of the NCAA tournament, and it hadn't changed as of Monday -- but a source said his family is carefully gathering intel from NBA teams before signing with an agent. The only scenario in which I could see him returning is if he takes a hard-line stance about needing a first-round guarantee by May 8. For someone who's in the 25-45 range, that could be hard to obtain.
Waiting On: JaJuan Johnson, 6-10 Jr. F/C (15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg); E'Twaun Moore, 6-4 Jr. SG (16.4 ppg, 2.7 apg)
What's In The Balance: Purdue is due some positive karma after its season was derailed by RobbieHummel's ACL tear. Had that not happened, the Boilers might have been the second home-state team to make the Final Four in Indy. With a nucleus of Johnson, Moore and Hummel back, along with fully healthy point guard Lewis Jackson, they could finally break through and chase an NCAA title. If Johnson were to leave, their frontcourt would be too thin -- and too small -- for them to be considered a contender.
Likely Outcome: Multiple NBA scouts I spoke with said they expected both Johnson and Moore to return to school. Johnson is the only player with a real risk of leaving, but he, like Moore, isn't considered first-round material at present. The better option would be to stay in West Lafayette and hope for a stock boost with a strong 2010-11 tournament.
Waiting On: Kenneth Faried, 6-8 Jr. F/C (16.9 ppg, 13.0 rpg)
What's In The Balance: Faried means almost everything to the Eagles -- he's the nation's No. 1 defensive rebounder (36.7 percent) and No. 8 offensive rebounder (16.2 percent), with a wingspan and motor that makes him one of the draft's bigger sleeper prospects. With him, Morehead State can contend with Murray State for the Ohio Valley Conference crown and a second trip to the NCAA tournament in three seasons. Without him, it's unlikely that the Eagles can give the Racers a real fight.
Likely Outcome: TBD after workouts. DraftExpress did a podcast with Faried in which he seemed open -- but not locked into -- the idea of turning pro, and I know that some NBA scouts are high enough on his rebounding skills to put him in consideration for a guaranteed contract. The feedback Faried receives from his workout tour is likely to be the deciding factor.
Waiting On: Terrico White, 6-4 Soph. SG (15.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
What's In The Balance: I thought the Rebels might be a surprise team in 2009-10, and they looked that way early on, beating eventual NCAA tournament two-seed Kansas State in Puerto Rico. But Ole Miss tanked during SEC play in February and missed out on the Dance, with White not having the monster year that many expected. It looks as if '10-11 is the season the Rebs could finally break through into the tourney -- if White comes back and can be a consistent star alongside senior Chris Warren in the backcourt. Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi State (as long as it brings back late-declarers Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost) will all be competitive in the SEC, but there's no clear No. 1 team, and Ole Miss could easily be a darkhorse to win the league.
Likely Outcome: TBD after workouts. White has the size and athleticism to win a mid-to-late-20s team over in a workout setting, so there's a chance he could stay in the draft. But if his current stock -- as a fringe first-rounder or early second-rounder -- doesn't change, he'd best-served coming back to school. He's capable of playing his way into the 2011 top 20 with a huge junior year.
Waiting On: Avery Bradley, 6-2 Fr. SG (11.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
What's In The Balance: Texas had all kinds of backcourt problems in '09-'10, and imploded in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a result. A pairing of former Findlay Prep teammates Bradley (at shooting guard) and Cory Joseph (at point guard) could make the 'Horns dangerous enough to challenge Kansas, K-State and Baylor for the Big 12 crown. Joseph was one of the top-four point guards in the high school class of 2010 and should be able to solve their woes at that position, but he'll be more likely to thrive with a talent like Bradley at his side.
Likely Outcome: The feeling around the Texas program seems to be that Bradley will stay in the draft. Enough NBA teams are said to like his quickness and defensive ability that it would be shocking if he weren't taken in the first round. He'd have to have some extremely poor workouts to slip to the extent that a return to Austin would be his best option.
Waiting On: Jimmer Fredette, 6-2 Jr. PG/SG (22.1 ppg, 4.7 apg)
What's In the Balance: The Cougars are a top-10 team -- and the best team on the West Coast -- with Fredette in the lineup. They only lose gunner Jonathan Tavernari, who wasn't a huge part of their statistical success last season, and bring back key role players such as Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock and Michael Loyd Jr. They'd be the overwhelming favorites to win the Mountain West, and a darkhorse Final Four pick.
Likely Outcome: Fredette goes back to school. His father has already been quoted as saying Jimmer is "99 percent" coming back to BYU for his final season, barring a surprise first-round guarantee from an NBA team. The Cougars tentatively have a homecoming game scheduled for him on Dec. 8 against Vermont in his hometown of Glens Falls, N.Y. -- something they would cancel only if he were to turn pro.
Waiting On: Jeremy Hazell, 6-5 Jr. SG (20.4 ppg); Herb Pope, 6-8 Jr. PF (11.5 ppg, 10.7 rpg); Jeff Robinson, 6-5 Soph. PF (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
What's In The Balance: With promising new coach Kevin Willard restoring order to Gonzo's Zoo, and instilling the defensive principles that helped turn around Iona, the Pirates could be an NCAA tournament team in '10-11 if all three players return. The Big East won't be as deep in talent as it was the past two seasons, leaving room for the Hall to make the Dance, and Hazell and Pope to get more national attention. Without those two, especially, Willard enters rebuilding mode.
Likely Outcome: Willard has already said he expects Hazell and Robinson to be back, with Pope on the fence. Although there's nothing predictable about Pope, I think he may be back for another year, given that he has no shot at being a first-round pick and little shot at even being a second-rounder with a guarantee. Putting up double-doubles on an upper-level Big East team should get him noticed enough to make money after next season.
Waiting On: Demetri McCamey, 6-3 Jr. G (15.1 ppg, 7.1 apg); Mike Davis, 6-9 Jr. F (10.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg)
What's In the Balance: The Big Ten is going to be loaded in '10-11, with possible Final Four teams Michigan State and Purdue at the top, and Ohio State (with its huge recruiting class) right behind them. But an Illini team with McCamey, sophomore D.J. Richardson and freshman McDonald's All-American Jereme Richmond on the perimeter could make enough noise in the league to make the NCAA tournament -- and maybe even win the school's first game in the Dance since 2006. McCamey is an extremely well-rounded player who shouldered the team's scoring load as a junior while also posting the nation's best assist rate.
Likely outcome: Both McCamey and Davis come back. Davis is highly unlikely to do anything more than test the waters and McCamey only has an outside shot of being taken in the second round. His best option would be to stay in Champaign, make a run at Big Ten Player of the Year honors and try to solidify his stock for 2011.
Waiting On:Malcolm Delaney, 6-3 Jr. G (20.2 ppg, 4.5 apg)
What's In the Balance: There are no sure things in the ACC next year other than Duke. North Carolina, with the addition of Harrison Barnes, might be the second-best team, but the Hokies, if Delaney comes back, have the most returning talent. A runner-up finish in the league would surely protect them from being snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee, and a big year by Delaney -- who's one of the country's more underappreciated guards -- could put him more on NBA scouts' radar.
Likely Outcome: Back to school. Delaney might go undrafted and that's too big of a risk to take when the other option is starring on one of the ACC's best teams. There are simply too many scoring guards in the 2010 draft pool, especially in the late-first, early-second round range. It would be wise for Delaney to wait for next year.
West Virginia is still waiting for official word from sophomore forward Devin Ebanks, but he's thought to be heavily leaning toward staying in the draft. ... Same thing for Kentucky with freshman guard Eric Bledsoe, who's likely to be a first-rounder. ... New Mexico is still waiting on junior swingman Darington Hobson, who's likely to turn pro if he receives decent feedback in the 10-day window. ... Louisville sophomore Samardo Samuels is testing the draft waters, but his stock is far too low to justify signing with an agent. ... Richmond star junior guard Kevin Anderson is thought to be in the early-entry pool mainly to experience the workout process and gauge his stock before a return. ... Ditto for four other juniors: Penn State's Talor Battle, Temple's Lavoy Allen, Dayton's Chris Wright and UAB's Elijah Millsap. .... I'm not as certain that Florida's Alex Tyus, Fresno State's Paul George or Ohio's Armon Bassett will be back in college. ... Neither of the two Mississippi State players (Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson) who announced their intentions on Monday is expected to stay in the draft, nor is Renardo Sidney expected to be on the early-entry list when it's officially released.