Six most impactful college basketball returnees in wake of NBA draft deadline

There's uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 college basketball season, with NCAA fall athletics in jeopardy due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Whether the season begins in November or January, programs around the country are hopeful for there to be March Madness following the cancellation of the sport's signature event in 2019-20. 

With that, a handful of teams got major boosts for the upcoming season based on the returns of players who opted to wait on the NBA draft, which is set for October following the league's Orlando bubble playoff.  

Here's a look at the six most impactful college basketball returnees following Monday's revised NBA draft deadline. 

Jan 22, 2020; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza (55) reacts during the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

Luka Garza, Iowa

The 7-footer was a first-team USA TODAY Sports All-American and will make the Hawkeyes a top-five team in 2020-21 with his return. Garza's decision to bypass the NBA will make him a national player of the year front-runner on a Big Ten title favorite. Garza averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds a game in 2019-20 but more importantly he's the centerpiece to coach Fran McCaffery's offense made up of veteran guards. 

Remy Martin, Arizona State

Martin's decision to hold off on the NBA  means coach Bobby Hurley will have one of the most potent backcourts in the country alongside Alonzo Verge and Joshua Christopher. The first-team All-Pac-12 selection can erupt offensively, averaging 19.1 points, and the Sun Devils will be in the mix to win the Pac-12 in 2020-21. 

Jared Butler, Baylor

The Bears were projected as the preseason No. 2 team following the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. But then-No. 1 Gonzaga's loss of Filip Petrušev and Baylor's return of Butler and MaCio Teague likely will shift positions to make the Bears the preseason No. 1 team heading into 2020-21. Butler was the key offensive sparkplug on a Scott Drew team that was positioned to go to the Final Four before the NCAA tournament was canceled. Butler coming back keeps Baylor as national title threat heading into the upcoming season. 

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Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois 

Coach Brad Underwood will have himself a Big Ten favorite and preseason top-10 team next season, largely as a result of Dosunmu's return. The dynamic 6-5 guard averaged 16.6 points last season for the Illini and can put the team on his back offensively. The Big Ten has some top returnees in Michigan's Isaiah Livers and Michigan State's Aaron Henry, but Dosunmu's comeback is the most important to any team. 

Kofi Cockburn, Illinois 

Another huge return for Illinois, the 7-foot Cockburn is poised to be the Big Ten's most explosive big man behind Garza after averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds as a freshman. Expect his sophomore surge to be significant, catapulting the Illini into national relevancy in the process. 

Chris Smith, UCLA 

Coach Mick Cronin has turned things around at a rapid pace in Westwood, securing one of the country's top recruits recently following a season in which he took an undermanned Bruins squad to the brink of an NCAA tourney at-large bid. Now he's got all five starters back, the most pivotal of which is Smith, a 6-9 wing who led the team in scoring with 13.1 points last season and thrived in Cronin's grittier philosophies. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson. 

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