And so the offseason begins. As we start the countdown to Midnight Madness, five of our writers examine some big offseason questions:
John Gasaway: What's to become of the Big East?
West Virginia will be a Big 12 school come July. Syracuse and Pittsburgh have pledged to join the ACC just as soon as they can get rid of their old league. And Connecticut is appealing a ruling that may force the Huskies to sit out the 2013 NCAA tournament for failing to meet Division I academic requirements. In other words, these are tumultuous times for the Big East.
The league's leadership is trying to meet this challenge by adding new members. Basketball fans will see Memphis, Temple, Central Florida, Houston, and SMU competing in the Big East starting with the 2013-14 season. Barring further defections, that influx will produce an 18-team basketball league, which certainly sounds healthy enough. But will Dave Gavitt's creation still have the same cachet in hoops? Will the Big East's annual March get-together at Madison Square Garden be as special as it was before? What's the long-term outlook for a basketball-rich Big East in a football-driven landscape? No one knows, least of all the Big East itself.
Andy Katz: Where will Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad end up?
This is my No. 1 offseason question for now. If one or both decide to go to Kentucky, the Wildcats jump up into the No. 1 discussion yet again. If UCLA gets Muhammad, does that mean the Bruins are back? There are so many questions still to be answered heading into the offseason, but these two players can shift the direction of the potential top teams more than others. The early-entry decisions this month will certainly affect the pecking order in college basketball. But unless there is a change of direction, most of the elite players will leave if they haven’t already. The decisions of these two incoming stars seems more relevant now.
Jason King: Can Ben Howland regroup at UCLA?
Howland’s image took a hit when a February Sports Illustrated article suggested he had strained relationships with his players and didn’t discipline them properly. The Bruins missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years, but the addition of highly touted freshman Kyle Anderson should significantly improve a team that will also add North Carolina transfer Larry Drew at point guard. If Howland can get better effort out of center Josh Smith and more production from the Wear twins, UCLA will contend for the Pac-12 title. But if Howland -- who took the Bruins to three straight Final Fours from 2006-08 -- endures another mediocre season, his future at the school could be in jeopardy.
Joe Lunardi: How will the conference dominoes fall?
Next season marks a real shift in major conference membership. Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, West Virginia to the Big 12, etc. It won't be long before we need a laminated pocket card to know who is in what league. And the 2013-14 season will be more of the same.
I'm past lamenting the loss the of certain rivalries or bemoaning the lack of geographic logic of it all. What matters most in my world is the long-term effect of membership changes on the NCAA at-large picture. For instance, it took several years for the Big East's five-team raid of Conference USA (2005-06) to pay off in a greater number of bids than those schools were already receiving.
With the dominoes still falling and several moves a year or more away (e.g., Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC), there is no way to really know the winners and the losers from a basketball perspective. And that's because basketball was never a primary consideration in any of this.
Dana O'Neil: Will John Calipari stay at Kentucky?
He has said repeatedly that he has his dream job and there is no arguing he is the king of college basketball at the moment. But more than a few people expect that a few NBA teams could make a run at Calipari. He already is well-compensated and sitting in the catbird seat, so professional basketball doesn't have the same allure for him that it might for others. But being the Kentucky coach is a full-time, exhaustive job that can wear even the best salesman out. And the NBA remains the one place that Calipari didn't have success, so I'll be curious -- as will the Commonwealth -- to see whether Calipari is tempted by the NBA.