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Players who leave early for the NBA have no guarantees.

The annual National Basketball Association draft was held last night, an event that represented dreams come true for a handful of top players.

But it also was an evening of disappointment as well. How could it not be?

More star athletes were vying to be taken in the first or second round by NBA teams than there were slots available.

Here is what should be an eye-opening statistic — 86 college players with eligibility remaining stayed in a draft with only 60 available slots.

Here's another reality — the 30 players drafted in the first round sign contracts with guaranteed money. Second-rounders will have to prove their worth to get paid.

It's not as if those not drafted don't have options. They can play in the NBA's G League, where a relatively large number of NBA players toiled before moving up to the big league. Some will get an opportunity to play in the NBA's Summer League and show they're better than draft analysts thought. Finally, there is basketball overseas they can be paid to play.

But no one should kid themselves about the goals of the underclassmen who entered the draft. They're not leaving early to pursue their dreams of playing in the G League.

This exodus drains college basketball of talent and, to a degree, diminishes the college game. But considered in the overall context, that's a minor issue. The college game will always be great, even if it's not played by what would be the creme de la creme of college players.

The bigger issue is what's motivating players to consider leaving early and then remain in the draft when it's clear they won't be among the top players chosen.

Obviously, getting a college degree is not a high priority, maybe not even a priority at all. Maybe they have unrealistic attitudes about just how good they are.

They might figure their odds of a professional career won't improve if they stay in school and, perhaps, sustain a serious injury.

Maybe they just yearn to take a shot at the big time no matter how long the odds. Call it the "Rocky" syndrome — Joe Six-pack taking his shot to be among the best.

They're entitled to take their chances. After all, it's a free country.

Nine undergraduate players from the Big Ten opted to enter the draft. Only Indiana's Romeo Langford, a great prospect who had a somewhat disappointing freshman year, was expected to be taken in the first round.

With another college year or two under his belt, maybe he would have been a lottery pick. But he'll still get paid plenty.

The ACC lost 17 underclassmen to the draft, the PAC 12 lost nine and the Big 12 lost six.

Further, the number of those leaving early are going up.

In 2016, 56 undergrads left early. In 2017, there were 64. In 2018, there were 79.

So the trend line is clear.

One factor at play is the NBA's one-and-done rule, the product of a labor agreement that requires potential draftees to be at least 19 to enter the draft. It essentially required the best of the best high school players to spend at least one year at the college level before entering the draft.

When that's repealed — reportedly in time for the 2022 draft — it will change the undergraduate exodus, at least to a degree.

But the die is cast. What once was a trickle, for better or worse, has become a deluge. With it, the landscape of big-time college basketball is — once again — changing.