When midnight struck as Sunday turned to Monday, the deadline passed for early-entry candidates to put their names in the 2014 NBA Draft. For the Arizona Wildcats it means officially losing Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon for the 2014-15 season, but indirectly there is significance as well.
Arizona is a 16:1 favorite to win the national championship in 2015, and the regular season road to the NCAA Tournament might be a lot easier than it was last season. It's also easier than it might've been looking at this same schedule a year ago.
|Duke Blue Devils||9/1|
|North Carolina Tar Heels||16/1|
Early-entry has pillaged opponents on Arizona's schedule this offseason.
First, take a look at three key nonconference games, which at one time all looked like matchups between historic programs.
In December, the Wildcats face Gonzaga, Michigan and UNLV, the last two of which have been hit hard by turnover. The Wolverines lost point guard Nik Stauskas and swingman Glenn Robinson III to the draft, then were forced to part with Mitch McGary after he faced sitting out a year because of a positive test for marijuana -- that came after he sat out most of this past season with a back injury. UNLV is likewise losing big men Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith.
Gonzaga December 6, Michigan December 13, UNLV December 23— Jason Scheer (@JasonScheer) April 21, 2014
Now, the Wildcats look like heavy favorites in all three games.
And then there's the Pac-12 schedule.
A league finally inching back toward decency and depth will be shaken up again. Arguably, Utah might be the only team in the league that is both respectable to begin with and heading into next season without any wholesale -- and unforeseen -- changes to the roster.
Arizona's biggest threat to the Pac-12 crown, UCLA, loses Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine to the NBA. Eric Moreland left Oregon State, which also saw promising freshman guard Hallice Cooke elect to transfer. Byron Wesley, about the only good thing that happened for a retooling USC Trojans team, is skipping town for his final season of eligibility. And ASU is most likely going to look like a junior college All-Star team.
Gordon and Johnson will be missed, but Arizona's Pac-12 dominance likely won't be.