The loss of Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams was nothing close to surprising to anyone but the most hard-core, or wishful thinking, of the citizens of the Tar Heel Nation.
Three programs, though, appear to have held up pretty well considering the losses they might have been tagged with.
Monday, Duke found out that one of the best post players in the country, Shelden Williams, intends to return for his senior season without even tossing his name into draft pool and working out for a few NBA franchises. He'll go into the season as one of the five or six top candidates to win the 2006 John R. Wooden Award.
And 6-foot-10 forward Josh McRoberts (Carmel, Ind.), easily the premier player in the national high school Class of 2005, has said that he will be enrolling at Duke in the fall. With Williams and All-American guard J.J. Redick returning for their senior seasons, and an exceptional freshman class, led by McRoberts and Greg Paulus (who will be the top freshman point guard in the country), the Blue Devils will one of the country's consensus two best teams in 2005-06.
The other will be Connecticut, which apparently will get through the May 14 deadline for early-entry application unscathed. And in this era of college hoops, that borders on the amazing.
Sophomore Josh Boone and freshman Rudy Gay would have been lottery selections, and sophomore point guard Marcus Williams would have been a first-round possibility.
The Huskies' coaches and fans should brace themselves for a Tar Heels-like underclass exodus a year from now, though. It's difficult to envision Boone, Gay, Williams and Andrew Bynum, a 2005 McDonald's All-America center likely to be chosen somewhere in the first round if he declared this spring, in Connecticut uniforms in 2006-07.
The other big "winner" in the early-entry wars was Gonzaga. Of the underclassmen and high school players expected to be playing in college next season, the Bulldogs' 6-8 Adam Morrison and Duke's McRoberts would have the most likely to be lottery selections on June 28.
Morrison is clearly the top NBA prospect who will be playing college basketball in the West next season.
C.J. Miles, a 6-5 left-handed guard from Skyline High in Dallas and one of the top 12 or so prospects in the prep Class of 2005, could help give Coach Rick Barnes a starting lineup (Miles, Gibson, forwards Brad Buckman and P.J. Tucker, and center LaMarcus Aldridge) that would rival those put on the floor by Connecticut and Duke.
NBA scouts who saw Miles play this past season and in the spring saw him more as a solid first-round possibility a year or two from now, not a few months hence.
The evaluation of Miles will take on added urgency now.
Coach Mark Gottfried will have one of the best point guards anywhere next season in sophomore-to-be Ronald Steele. And with Hendrix joining returnees Chuck Davis and Jamareo Davison, the Crimson Tide's frontcourt will be as potent as any not located in Storrs, Conn. or Durham, N.C.
But the decision of 6-5 Brandon Roy to return for his senior season could make help make Lorenzo Romar's Huskies the team to beat in the Pacific 10 Conference next season, especially if Hassan Adams (Arizona) and Chris Hernandez (Stanford) aren't back for their programs as seniors.
Even with the expected loss of Webster, Romar will have a player who will be the leading candidate to be the conference's top freshman in 6-7 Jon Brockman (Snohomish, Wash.).
Recently inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison's pieces at FrankHoops.com