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College Basketball's Top 10 Returning Underclassmen

While Kentucky's five standout underclassmen are all likely headed to the NBA, many of college basketball's other brightest young stars have already announced their intentions to return to campus for another season.

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The NCAA deadline for underclassmen to declare themselves eligible for the NBA Draft has come and gone, meaning, well nothing really, as shown by the fact that the most noteworthy bunch of underclassmen -- the Kentucky five -- will all announce their decision during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

While each Wildcat is expected to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft, several of their fellow underclassmen stars have already made the opposite choice.

Here are the top 10 underclassmen who have rebuffed the potential riches of the professional game for another year in the college spotlight.

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton

The lone first team All-American who won't be getting paid to play the game next season, McDermott averaged 22.9 points while playing for his father, Greg, as a sophomore in 2011-12. There's a strong chance that the younger McDermott will head into his junior campaign as the preseason national player of the year. McDermott's return, coupled with the fact that Creighton is losing just one starter from the squad that won the Missouri Valley Tournament and advanced to the round of 32 in the big dance, should make the Bluejays the most likely candidate for endless "can they crash the Final Four?" conversations during the middle part of next season.

2. Cody Zeller, Indiana

A projected lottery pick in many mock drafts, Zeller might be risking more in returning to school than any other player on this list. The co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds during his first season in Bloomington, and was the biggest reason the Hoosiers were able to make (and advance in) the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Tom Crean. Zeller proved his pro potential by going toe-to-toe with likely No. 1 pick Anthony Davis in IU's Sweet 16 loss to eventual national champion Kentucky. He finished that game with 20 points while holding the consensus national Player of the Year to just nine.


3. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

The second team All-American was tremendous as a junior, averaging better than 19 points per game and nearly leading Murray State to an unbeaten regular season. Many saw Canaan's as a "strike while the iron is hot" situation, but he chose to make the slightly risky play to wait around for a 2013 draft, which figures to be less guard-heavy. His return, coupled with head coach Steve Prohm choosing to stick around, should garner the Racers at least a little bit of preseason top 25 love.

4. Trey Burke, Michigan

Perhaps the most important returnee on this list, Burke led Michigan in points (14.8), assists (4.6), steals and blocked shots as a freshman in 2011-12. The co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year's return will probably account for somewhere around a 10-spot difference in Michigan's preseason ranking, and re-establishes the Wolverines as a legitimate Big Ten title contender.

5. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

Though frontcourt mate Jared Sullinger earned the majority of the headlines, it was probably Thomas who was the Buckeyes' best player during their run to the Final Four. In five NCAA Tournament games, the sophomore averaged a team-best 19.2 points per game, including a 31-point, 12-rebound performance against Loyola (Md.) in the round of 64. With Sullinger off to the league, Thomas has a tremendous opportunity to both emerge as OSU's unquestioned star and solidify a spot in the 2013 lottery.

6. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

McCollum etched his spot in NCAA Tournament lore by scoring 30 points in Lehigh's historic upset of Duke, but many praising his "out-of-nowhere" performance were unaware of the fact that he actually entered last season as college basketball's leading returning scorer. The two-time Patriot League Player of the Year explained his decision to return for his senior year in a recent guest column for the Sporting News.


7. Christian Watford, Indiana

The second part of the returning duo that has Indiana almost universally ranked in the top three of every early preseason top 25 being published, Watford has been a leader for the Hoosiers since the day he arrived on campus. In three seasons in Bloomington, the 6'9" forward has averaged 13.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. Heading into his final collegiate season, he will be the Big Ten's top returning scorer with 1,287 career points.

8. Mason Plumlee, Duke

Frontcourt would have been a major concern for Coach K had Plumlee, probably Duke's most consistent performer last season, not chosen to return for his senior year. He averaged 11.1 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Blue Devil squad which earned a two-seed before being stunned by Lehigh in their NCAA Tournament opener.

9. Quincy Miller, Baylor

Miller, the Big 12's co-Freshman of the Year, likely would have heard his name called in the first round had he chosen to leave Waco after one season. He averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his first year out of high school, and showed flashes of brilliance that would have certainly convinced at least one NBA GM to take a chance on him before the midway point of the draft. Instead, his return, along with that of point guard Pierre Jackson, will have the Bears looking to take things a step further than their Elite Eight showing in 2012.


10. Patric Young, Florida

The sophomore big man basically shouldered the entire load in the post for the perimeter-oriented Gators, and averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds despite battling a foot injury for much of the season. He figures to step into a heightened role next season for a Florida team which should again start the season ranked somewhere in the top 15.

The Next 10:

Mike Moser, UNLV

James McAdoo, North Carolina

B.J. Young, Arkansas

Tony Mitchell, North Texas

Kenny Boynton, Florida

Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota

Myck Kabongo, Texas

Pierre Jackson, Baylor

Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State

Andre Roberson, Colorado