Testing the NBA Draft is a tricky game. There are 60 spots available for eager players, only 30 of which get their money guaranteed.
You almost have to be certain that you will get drafted in that opening set so that you can maximize the potential you established in college, especially since many teams use that second round pick on an up-and-coming European star who they can bank away for a rainy day.
All of that combines to make it especially risky for mid-major players. Those leaving early have to have achieved at such a high level that they leave no doubt they can do the same at the NBA level.
That is why you see a two-time All-American Doug McDermott returning to school. There were enough questions about his game that he was projected only into the second round. He can erase a lot of doubts by playing in the new Big East against tougher competition than that offered in the Missouri Valley.
But not everyone made the same choice, some on the good side; others on the bad.
Here are the mid-major players that are jumping ship:
1. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: No one made a better choice than Olynyk. His performance this season, especially as break-out like as it was, could be difficult to duplicate. The extra gains he might - and emphasis on the might - make are going to be negligible compared to the huge impact he made this season. Add in that Gonzaga's competition in the West Coast will be very scarce next season (only BYU and no one else) and this is the right time to leave. Otherwise, there will be too many doubts about the level of competition and if he is another product of Gonzaga, and not the real thing.
2. Ray McCallum, Detroit: McCallum seems to have made the right decision, even though he looks like a second-round pick. The Titan program has a lot of issues buzzing around related to the alleged affair between an assistant coach and the former AD, and how it may have affected the job status of another assistant coach. Now Ray still has his father as his head coach and Big Ray isn't going anywhere, not if Detroit keeps competing for Horizon League titles. But a Player of the Year win for the point guard, and his apparent erasure of many of the knocks against him other than height -- he was noticeably stronger this season and his ability to control the game much improved -- should help push him up a number of boards. The Titans will also not be the team they were this season with the loss of its strong frontcourt. All around, this is a good move.
3. Tony Mitchell, North Texas: Mitchell might need a change of scenery more than any other player in college basketball. We have detailed some of his struggles this season, and his new coach's inability to get Mitchell into the offense enough to have the Mean Green fighting where they were in 2011-2. Mitchell has been on a lot of radars for a long time. He loses nothing by going now, especially since his stock might have taken a hit this season, and a repeat performance could mean bad things.
4. Adonis Thomas, Memphis: Memphis is making the jump to the Old Big East, which should still provide plenty of challenges for the Tigers, even if most of the strength will have bolted. But Thomas isn't taking that opportunity to improve any more than he did this season. He finished 2011-2 with a -0.3 HW30, about in line with what an average freshman puts on the court. His sophomore campaign saw that improve to a 2.3 mark, mostly on the offensive end. The swing man was about on par defensively with what he did the year prior, a solid 9.0 DEF100. But there doesn't seem to be a lot more room for Thomas to grow -- he was the second leading scorer on the team, the offense is too balanced to really take over, and he takes the highest percentage of shots of anyone on the Tigers. So this is about as good as it is going to get for Thomas, even if that is a fringe second-round slot.
5. Christian Kabongo, New Mexico State/Southern Miss/Morgan State: Kabongo has the talent, and I am not sure bouncing around from school to school is going to help him showcase that. He has nothing to lose, but missing a year and a half of action isn't going to help him.
6. Nurideen Lindsey, Rider: Lindsey's transfer from St. John's wasn't a good sign for the guard, and the offensive skills just haven't kicked in, even at Rider. He lost his starting job and will likely head to Europe. But you have to wonder if this is as good as it gets for Lindsey.
7. Trevis Simpson, UNC-Greensboro: The announcement from UNC-G and Simpson makes it clear that he is making this move to take care of his young family. This looks to be a Euro play, plain and simple.
8. Tahj Tate, Delaware State: This is never a good sign:
"I just feel like I would be a better NBA player than a college player," Tate said. "I feel like I can get a whole lot better, and right now I'm working hard towards that goal."
Tate is beyond a doubt one of the top players in the MEAC. But it is not going to get him the look he thinks he should have. I hope his "backup plan" is a good one.
9. Adrien Coleman, Bethune-Cookman: Another of the MEAC stars, and the leading scorer in the league this season, Coleman wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Unfortunately this doesn't seem hot enough. This isn't a Kyle O'Quinn situation where there is an NCAA record to follow him. Coleman is at least level-headed enough to know he is likely headed to Europe next season.