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NCAA Draft Deadline Only Slightly Less Useless Than Preseason Polls and Verbal Commits in Football

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Today is April 10th and according to the NCAA the deadline for basketball underclassmen to withdraw their name from the NBA Draft assuming they entered it at all. Other than that it is simply April 10th.

If you recall, during the early summer months of 2008, the 2009 UNC basketball season sat teetering on a precipice. The decisions of three players would either put one of the best college basketball teams of the current century on the court for a run at the national title or turn the Heels into a good but not great team. It was a two month saga that ended in June when Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all decided to return to UNC along with Tyler Hansbrough who had already decided to return at the initial deadline. The two month soap opera was obviously too much for Roy Williams so he, along with other coaches, began pressing the NCAA for a deadline to reduce the limbo time coaches faced following each season. The first incarnation of this was a deadline that occurred roughly two weeks after the NBA cutoff for entering the draft. This season the deadline comes a full 19 days prior to the NBA entry date.

And it makes zero sense whatsoever.

Under this year's deadline a player who enters his name in the NBA draft but must withdraw it before April 10th to maintain his college eligibility. Needless to say that isn't very much time and since the NBA does not begin working players out in earnest until the May/June time frame, there is really no benefit in entering your name into the draft unless you were planning on doing so anyway. In that respect the deadline does ensure that players who were likely going to go make their intentions known upfront instead of waiting. Outside of that segment of players the deadline is mostly worthless. A player need not enter his name in the draft to get information about his draft stock from the NBA. In UNC's case, the information Roy Williams collects from his NBA contacts is as good as it gets as far as understanding a player's draft position. Given the deadline only applies to withdrawing from the draft, a player who has not entered his name in can basically ignore it and wait until the NBA deadline of April 29th to decide.

That begs the question of why the NCAA decided establish a date with so little teeth to it? Outside of the standard answer of "it's the NCAA" my guess would be the already noted impact of forcing decisions from players who were already 80-90% out the door. It possibly gives coaches leverage to push for a decision though how much is really in question. If the NCAA adheres to the same deadline next season I imagine the players will begin to eschew the deadline in favor of the NBA's later date. A year from now players will be acclimated to how the process works, hold their name out and use the NBA deadline instead. This could lead to some ruffled feathers between player and coach not unlike what went on between Roy and Danny Green in 2008. However, some players may feel that is worth taking the extra time which would mean the rule will end up not doing was it as intended to do.

The solution, in my opinion, is simple. If the coaches are dead set on knowing as soon as they can possibly know then the NCAA should simply adopt whatever deadline the NBA sets and tell players they are either in or out. No fuss. No mess. Just a straightforward deadline for a player to make a decision whether to enter the draft or not. If they are not sure then they can wait until the last minute to decide. If they enter their name and something changes then they can withdraw their name before the deadline. In an ideal world the NCAA and NBA would get together on this and work out a system where some shortened "testing the water" process could be implemented in the month after the college basketball season ends to give players some real feedback based on actual workout and evaluations. The NBA is likely not going to go for that and college coaches would like to avoid the kind of limbo that system created.

As has always been the case each entity will keep doing whatever is in its own best interest instead of coming to some agreement on that is acceptable to all parties involved, foremost being the players themselves.