They were two of the top players at the NBA pre-draft combine last week in Chicago. Oladipo probably isn't getting past Phoenix at No. 5 in the draft. Zeller won't go too far after that selection. They interviewed well with teams last week and were just as impressive with the media.
Indiana doesn't win the 2012-13 Big Ten regular-season title or get to the Sweet 16 without either one.
Now comes phase two in their contributions to Indiana basketball. Will Oladipo and Zeller have a similar impact on Tom Crean's program in the same manner Dwyane Wade did -- and still does -- after playing for him at Marquette?
Wade led the Golden Eagles to the 2003 Final Four -- the first for that program since 1977. He was the fifth pick in the '03 NBA draft and has won two championships with the Heat -- one with Shaq before LeBron and one with LeBron after Shaq.
No one should or does expect Oladipo and Zeller to duplicate any of that in the NBA. While neither was able to take Indiana to the Final Four, they helped return the Hoosiers to the national spotlight and consistent relevance.
Crean sees the parallels to what Wade did for Marquette and the opportunity Oladipo and Zeller have at Indiana.
"They have added to this great legacy at Indiana,'' Crean said. "They are a big part of our era."
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesFor IU to continue its rise, Tom Crean needs former players to preach the program.
Crean has had Wade around his Hoosiers. Oladipo and Zeller saw the impact. Former Indiana players who are in the NBA -- such as Eric Gordon and D.J. White -- have returned. But they didn't play for Crean and don't have the same connection Oladipo and Zeller will have with him and future Hoosiers.
"They're going to grow into those roles,'' Crean said. "Victor and Cody have already been a huge part of our recruiting. There is no question they are going to have a future impact on Indiana basketball.''
Crean said the two have "the right stuff'' and haven't deviated from who they are when they arrived -- Oladipo three years ago and Zeller two.
"They brought the program back, worked hard and had tremendous character,'' Crean said.
Crean said Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, outgoing seniors, had a significant handprint on Indiana's revitalization as well. So did rising senior Will Sheehey. But those three don't have the opportunities ahead like Oladipo and Zeller. Oladipo, probably more so than Zeller, will have the platform with the potential to be a headline player in the league.
Crean said Wade wasn't about a financial commitment to Marquette but more so about his time. He referenced how he squeezed in a Marquette appearance during a tight window of commercial tapings for national ads to ensure he was on campus for an English teacher request.
"You have to really care about it or you're not going to do it," Crean said. "There is a lot of parallel with these guys. Dwyane did it and paid attention to the program. I saw it when I was at Michigan State and how Magic [Johnson] came back. He might have corporate speeches, but when he came back to Michigan State, it was a locker room speech. Dwyane is the same way. The former players at Indiana are a big part of it for us here. But now we're adding to it. For the future of our program, you'll see Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford."
Indiana will get the PR pop on draft night when a pair of Hoosiers are taken in the lottery.
Crean will certainly use the buzz that night to create momentum. He isn't demanding a return from the players. He simply expects it will happen because of the nature of who Oladipo and Zeller are and have been while at Indiana.
They have been to him at IU what Wade meant to him at Marquette. If they can come a quarter close to that in the future, then Crean will get a payoff that will be immeasurable.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta doesn't promote himself.
Winning does that for him. So, too, do all the NBA draft picks who continue to come through Columbus, Ohio.
Deshaun Thomas is about to be added to that list and just completed the pre-draft combine in Chicago. No matter -- Matta and his Buckeyes are back at work, prepping for yet another run toward a Big Ten title.
Count them out because Thomas is gone? That wouldn't be smart. There are certain programs that we expect to be good, regardless of the personnel. We fill out the preseason polls and pencil in Duke, Kentucky, Florida, Louisville, Michigan State, Syracuse, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Wisconsin, etc. Ohio State is as much a part of this list as any other.
Greg M. Cooper/US PRESSWIREOhio State has been a model of consistency in the nine years since Thad Matta took over.
The numbers back up the hype.
Matta has won or shared a piece of the Big Ten title five times in his nine seasons, and his Buckeyes won the Big Ten tournament championship in March even though the league was as good as it's ever been. The Buckeyes have been to two Final Fours in Matta's tenure and are coming off an Elite Eight appearance. They've done all of this despite losing a player early to the NBA in six of those nine years.
"I love where our program is right now,'' Matta said. "A lot of this has to do with the culture in the program and what is expected of the guys and how we do things. It hasn't been easy. We've had big challenges. We continue to coach the heck out of the guys we've got.''
Ohio State has always been considered one of the top jobs in the country because it has one of the richest athletic departments, is within driving distance of fertile recruiting territory, and boasts one of the Big Ten's brand names that carries plenty of weight.
There were plenty of successful seasons in the 20 years before Matta arrived, including Gary Williams' tenure and Jim O'Brien's Final Four trip in 1999. But Matta has elevated OSU to another level, a consistency that may be taken for granted at times.
Matta's teams develop and get better as the season goes along. That was certainly true last season after OSU lost at Duke and to Kansas in Columbus. After a 1-3 stretch in league play, Matta told his players in February that that they had to get going if they wanted to make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Ohio State returned from a 71-49 loss at Wisconsin to spank Minnesota by nearly the same score (71-45) three days later. The Buckeyes ended up winning 11 games in a row after that embarrassment in Madison, Wis., and were stopped just short of the Final Four by upstart Wichita State.
Despite that mini-skid in the Big Ten, when the Buckeyes lost three of four, they were still a tip-in away from getting their sixth piece of a conference title. That kind of success, winning five Big Ten titles in nine years, was hardly the norm at Ohio State.
So now what?
Well, the Buckeyes can't change who they are, which means Aaron Craft, the gritty and defensive-minded point guard, can't be someone he is not as a senior. Yes, he made a big-time 3-pointer to beat Iowa State in the NCAA tournament. But he averaged 10 points a game and shot 30 percent on 3s last season. He's not suddenly going to become a reliable double-figure scorer and volume shooter who can make three to four 3s a game. That's not who he is or needs to be for Ohio State.
No, the 20 points per game that Thomas is taking with him will have to be dispersed among a variety of players, and the offseason focus is already shifting to ensure that Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. can produce at a higher level. The need for Amir Williams to be more productive is also a must, and expectations are always high for OSU freshmen -- and so it will be again with Kameron Williams and Marc Loving.
The Buckeyes will be tested early. They drew Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, have a road game at Marquette (the two never got to play their scheduled game on an aircraft carrier last year), and play Notre Dame in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden with three mid-major sleepers in the preliminary rounds (Delaware, North Dakota State, Bryant).
"It's going to be interesting how this all comes together,'' Matta said. "We'll have a much different team.
"Our big focus right now is to look at our guys' weaknesses and improve on them in the offseason. We're hoping they have self-discipline and make the right strides to become better players.''
A musings column looking at what Andrew Wiggins' decision to attend Kansas means for next season:
• Kansas will be predicted to win the Big 12 after Oklahoma State was the pre-preseason favorite once Marcus Smart decided to return to the Cowboys.
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsThe wait is over, as Andrew Wiggins will join the Kansas Jayhawks.
• Coaches in the Big 12 aren't thrilled to scout against Wiggins, but they understand how much better it is to have him in the league.
"He's the best high school player who has come around in a long time," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said Tuesday. "He's freakishly athletic and has great size and great length. He's a special player and a special talent in our conference."
Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose Bears return Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin after both could have declared for the NBA draft, said "the addition of Wiggins and the players that have chosen to return to the Big 12 instead of leaving for the NBA, means the Big 12 fans will get a special year next season."
Said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford in a text message: "Andrew Wiggins immediately makes any team and league better! Wiggins is an exciting player that all [Big] 12 fans will enjoy watching! Also, this definitely makes Kansas a top 5 team in the country! Loaded with enormous incoming talent and many talented returners!"
• Players want to go against the best. Coaches in the league won't have to worry about getting their players ready for big games in the Big 12. Of course, every team gets up for Kansas, since the Jayhawks are the marquee event/game every season in the conference. Still, having Wiggins in the league will resonate with every player.
"When you go against a guy compared to LeBron James, that's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of guys in our league," Hoiberg said. "The hype surrounding him is the main story. I'm sure everyone is taking note of that and the opportunity to play against him."
• Kansas and Duke will now provide a rare matchup at the Champions Classic in Chicago on Nov. 12 when the top two freshmen, Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker, go up against each other.
That event at the United Center will also be littered with other talent, from Duke's Rodney Hood to Kentucky's No. 1 recruiting class -- highlighted by Julius Randle and Andrew and Aaron Harrison -- to returning stars Keith Appling and Gary Harris of Michigan State.
• I love what Kansas coach Bill Self said in a news release: "This was a pleasant surprise because we never had an idea which way he was leading." There was hype but nothing over the top. Wiggins actually made the decision and didn't leak it out on any social media. No sources needed on this story for the schools, fans or media.
• Self has never hidden from hype and was clear in the release, saying Wiggins could be "not just a good player but have the chance to be a great one."
• The Kansas recruiting class isn't as deep or as touted as that of Kentucky, but it now has an anchor to go with Brannen Greene, Joel Embiid, Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason and Wayne Selden. All but Mason are ranked in the top 40. Embiid could be the difference-maker inside for the Jayhawks with the departure of Jeff Withey.
AP Photo/Dave MartinJamari Traylor will be a key part of the nucleus around Wiggins.
• Kansas lost Ben McLemore, Travis Releford, Kevin Young, Withey and Elijah Johnson. But the returning core veterans, guards Naadir Tharpe and Jamari Traylor and forward Perry Ellis, have a chance to be the locker room leaders needed to lead this crew.
• The Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 28-30 took a hit when Tennessee lost Trae Golden. Kansas was still the headline act in the event, but now it gives Wiggins even more of a platform as the star in the field (bracket to be determined with USC, UTEP, Villanova, Wake Forest, Xavier and Iowa joining the Jayhawks and Vols).
• Florida State would have been a top 15-20 team with Wiggins. The Seminoles will still be in the top half of the ACC but now will have to grind it a bit more. Leonard Hamilton was upbeat and optimistic about the upcoming season before Wiggins made his announcement; knowing him, he won't fade from that prediction.
• Kentucky would have had a potential playing-time issue had Wiggins chosen the Wildcats -- for others, not Wiggins. No other coach could handle that better than Kentucky's John Calipari, but he doesn't need to massage any more egos with this team. He'll have his hands full keeping so many talented players pleased.
• Kansas' schedule includes plenty of tests for Wiggins and crew. Going to Colorado (Dec. 7), a top-five Pac-12 team, is a return game. New Mexico, the favorite in the MWC, was originally going to be a game at Phog Allen but was moved to the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Dec. 14.
The SEC Challenge game given to Kansas was a home run for both Kansas and Florida. Kentucky-Baylor in Dallas will be loaded with NBA-level talent, but the KU-UF game in Gainesville on Dec. 10 will involve two teams picked to finish first or second in their respective conferences. Kansas is the brand of the Big 12 in hoops, and getting the Jayhawks to go on the road in the first year of this event was a major coup for the SEC and ESPN.
• OK, to this point, I haven't mentioned a big-time home game at Phog Allen. Duke, the games in Atlantis, Colorado, Florida and New Mexico are all out of Lawrence. That's almost unheard of for a team of Kansas' stature.
The Jayhawks do have home games against quality "lower-level" teams in Iona (Nov. 19), Towson (Nov. 22) and Toledo (Dec. 30) in addition to Louisiana Monroe (Nov. 8). Iona and Toledo were originally scheduled for 2012, but due to conflict and APR issues, respectively, they couldn't get on last season's schedule. But the coup came in landing the series with Georgetown (Dec. 21) and San Diego State (Jan. 5) for home games at Phog Allen.
• The Big 12 looked bleak a few weeks ago, but look what has happened since: Wiggins to Kansas; Smart back to Oklahoma State; Austin and Jefferson returning to Baylor. Kansas State lost Angel Rodriguez, clipping the Wildcats a bit. Iowa State will be fine, and Oklahoma is on an upward tick. There's no reason to rule out West Virginia with Bob Huggins hungrier than ever to get the Mountaineers back. The same is true for Trent Johnson at TCU. And Texas Tech hired a national championship coach in Tubby Smith.
Where does Texas fit into this? Good question. This is a critical season for the Longhorns to stay relevant in the upper half of the league.
• The Big 12 has had tremendous success with players competing for one season in the league. Look at this list:
Ben McLemore, Kansas (2012-13)
Royce White, Iowa State (2011-12)
Quincy Miller, Baylor (2011-12)
Tristan Thompson, Texas (2010-11)
Cory Joseph, Texas (2010-11)
Josh Selby, Kansas (2010-11)
Ekpe Udoh, Baylor (2009-10)
Michael Beasley, Kansas State (2007-08)
Kevin Durant, Texas (2006-07)
• Self fully expects Wiggins to be the top pick in 2014. The Big 12 has had at least one of the top six picks in the NBA draft in each of the past seven seasons. That will go up to nine in 2014 after McLemore goes in the top three this June and Wiggins likely No. 1 or No. 2 in 2014.
• We're all living in a Canadian basketball world now. Mercy. Seriously, the talent coming from our northern neighbors is historic for that country's basketball program.
But he'll take a call if his phone rings.
Florida State is waiting to hear from Canadian and Huntington Prep (W.Va.) forward Andrew Wiggins, the top high school player in the country. Wiggins said he'll announce his school of choice on Tuesday, one day before the month-long spring signing period ends.
He could always sign beyond the month-long period, but it wouldn't be binding. The Seminoles, along with Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky, are awaiting to see what the star recruit will do and whether his decision will alter the thought process for next season.
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Wiggins is the centerpiece of a young but talented Kansas incoming class.
Neither Hamilton nor any of the other coaches can talk about Wiggins until he signs a national letter of intent.
But Hamilton doesn't get too high or too low about recruiting. He has been involved at all levels of recruiting during the course of his long career as an assistant and head coach. "This is no different; it's always the same," Hamilton said about waiting for a recruit to make a decision. "We've had kids sign early. We've had kids sign late. You do what you can do and wait on the outcome. That's the way I am all the time. You do the very best job you can. The strategy isn't any different."
There's no need to make phone calls at this late stage. Wiggins will make up his mind and apparently decide on Tuesday. "Whenever a youngster is ready to make up his mind, you have to respect that," Hamilton said. "Every situation is different. Sometimes you make calls, sometimes you leave well enough alone. I've never been a high-pressure type of guy on anything. I've always tried to be respectful of the process and try to put myself in the young man's or family situation and try to treat the recruit the way I'd want to be treated in that situation."
Hamilton will certainly be excited if Wiggins chooses Florida State. The arrival of Wiggins will certainly put the Seminoles in the preseason Top 25 and in the heart of the ACC race with Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse in 2013-14.
The eternal optimist, Hamilton couldn't be more pumped about next season. Since his arrival at Florida State, I've never spoken to him when he didn't think his team would be a sleeper -- at the very least.
The Seminoles finished 9-9 in the ACC, 18-16 overall and lost to Louisiana Tech in the first round of the NIT last March. Florida State had seven newcomers and dealt with Ian Miller's injury, which nagged him throughout the season.
"I'm extremely optimistic about the upcoming season," Hamilton said. "We've improved in all areas. We have Ian Miller back healthy. We have three 7-footers coming back. I like our incoming recruits [Jarquez Smith and Xavier Rathan-Mayes] a lot. Miller had a bone bruise last season and never practiced. He couldn't do walk through on game day. All he did was play in games. He toughed it out. We got to 9-9 with not much experience so I have to feel good about that."
Hamilton said he hopes the Seminoles won't need anyone to bail them out the way Snaer did the past two seasons. "We have great chemistry with this group, gym rats who are always around," Hamilton said. "I like the talent, and I think we're more versatile than what we've been in the past. We've got more off the bounce and have better overall shooters with nice size, length and athleticism."
Regardless of Wiggins' decision, Hamilton has a trip planned to Greece in August, which will be needed to get a jump on next season. Add Wiggins to the mix, and Hamilton has a huge advantage of 10 practices and games with a star player.
Florida State won the ACC tournament title the previous season for the first time in school history. Miami won the ACC regular-season and tournament title this past season. The Hurricanes will likely go through a rough transition period after losing some seniors. Florida State knew what that felt like this past season.
"In any league or college, high school or professional, it's hard to win a conference back-to-back," Hamilton said. "I think we have built our program to be very good and now we need to cross over to that elite level where you are competing for those championships each and every year. I thought we finished the season showing tremendous improvement. We regrouped, but we didn't drop out of sight.
"There were times when we had four or five freshmen on the court at the same time against veteran ACC teams," Hamilton said. "I thought we held our own even though we were inexperienced. I do feel we're more talented and versatile than we've been in the past and hopefully it reflects that in the way we play. I'm excited to go to Greece. It couldn't come at a better time for us. We could be one of those surprise teams, one of those two or three teams that comes out of nowhere. We're closer to being a complete team."
Yes, the Seminoles are very close, especially if they get Wiggins on Tuesday.
NC State was staring at a potential NIT bid in Mark Gottfried's first season with two games left in the 2011-12 regular season.
The Wolfpack won both to get to 9-7 in the ACC and then won the first two games in the conference tournament.
A tight loss to North Carolina in the ACC semifinals and upsets of San Diego State and Georgetown in the NCAA tournament propelled NC State into the Sweet 16, Gottfried to being a beloved Wolfpack coach and the team to hyped expectations entering last season.
The last was too much, too soon.
"People forget where we were [at .500], and then we wake up and we're ranked sixth in the country,'' said Gottfried, whose Wolfpack were picked to win the 2012-13 ACC title in the preseason. "I said, 'Timeout now.' We were missing key players from that season."
Gone were C.J. Williams, Alex Johnson and DeShawn Painter, three of the seven players who played regularly down the stretch.
The arrival of heralded Rodney Purvis was a dud, since Purvis struggled to get eligible. Lorenzo Brown battled injuries. Richard Howell was supposed to be a stud inside. C.J. Leslie, Scott Wood and newcomer T.J. Warren never got on the same hot stretch together.
The Wolfpack were never the story in the ACC. Miami was the team of record from the beginning of the conference season to the end, winning the regular-season and tournament titles.
Duke was always a story with Ryan Kelly's injury and triumphant return. North Carolina was left behind and surged back into NCAA bid contention and earned a spot in March Madness.
NC State sputtered at times, but it did rise up to knock off No. 1 Duke, beat archrival North Carolina and earn a second consecutive NCAA tournament bid before losing to Temple in an 8-9 matchup in the round of 64.
"We still won 24 games,'' Gottfried said. "You have to put it all in perspective. I wanted to do a lot more. I wanted to go farther, no question. But at the same time, when I took the job two years ago, if I had said [to the fans] you'll go to two straight NCAA tournaments, get to the Sweet 16, reach the ACC tournament semifinals in both years, and said who is taking that right now, raise your hands? There would have been a lot of hands up in the room.''
This NC State team wasn't ready for the expectations and the pressure put on it. Were the expectations too high? In hindsight, yes. This team lacked the experience, the drive and the overall depth in the post that Miami had last season. The Wolfpack weren't able to finish games like the Hurricanes, losing to Miami and Maryland on the final possession.
Scott Rovak/US PresswireMark Gottfried is excited about the foundation at NC State.
"We didn't finish well, and that's the one thing that's hard to get over,'' Gottfried said. "We have to learn from that. But we did a lot of great things by beating the No. 1 team in the country in Duke, beating Carolina and Wake Forest in the same season here since 1989. Miami at home and Virginia on the road [lost by three] were both winnable. We had an injury [to Brown]. We had a tip-in at Maryland at the buzzer.
"We weren't far away from 27 wins. Losing in the first round was disappointing. The problem was the expectations were too high.''
Now what? The Wolfpack are in a complete build mode in a season when the ACC will become the deepest conference in the country with the additions of Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pitt. A year from now, the ACC will get even stronger when it replaces Maryland with Louisville.
Oh, and Duke is projected to be a top-five team with North Carolina on its heels -- they'll be the top two teams in the league again. Newcomer Syracuse should be in step as well.
Leslie and Brown declared for the NBA draft. Purvis transferred to UConn. Howell and Wood were seniors. Guard Tyler Lewis returns, but the only returnee who played significant time is Warren.
"We'll have a completely new team on the floor,'' Gottfried said. "It's a restart, a regroup, reshuffle or reload -- whatever words you want to use. We're going to be tremendously inexperienced and young. It's a foundation, though, for years to come. It just so happens it comes in Year 3 for me. But we're laying a foundation to be back in a year or two to compete for a championship.''
That can happen only if the Wolfpack don't get discouraged and pounded down by the depth and strength of the 15-team league. The timing isn't ideal to be rebuilding.
"It makes us very vulnerable,'' Gottfried said. "We're in the infant stages of building a team. Our league has gotten stronger very quickly. The good news for us is that in a few years, we'll be very good. But we're going to be very vulnerable right now.''
The hope is that Warren will mesh with guards Anthony Barber and Desmond Lee and the three new bigs -- BeeJay Anya, Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman -- will have an impact, as will returning big Jordan Vandenberg.
"It's a good nucleus,'' Gottfried said. "We're just young and inexperienced and not ready right now. It's a great group to build on, and I'm excited.''
The Wolfpack dialed back the schedule a tad. NC State will play at Cincinnati in a home-and-home series. Gottfried signed up Missouri for a home-and-home that starts in Raleigh, and he drew Northwestern in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. He also added home games against Florida Gulf Coast and Detroit, two good names, but teams that lost key players, too. The ACC schedule isn't as daunting with the four home-and-home series coming against two teams -- Wake Forest and Miami -- that figure to be in the lower third of the league. Playing Carolina and Pitt twice will provide a major challenge, though.
Last season there were disappointed teams that had high hopes but failed to reach NCAA tournament expectations, like Georgetown, New Mexico, Gonzaga and Indiana.
But the early-season projections on all four of those teams were fair, and the teams didn't disappoint in the regular season at all. NC State was too hyped and, based on the preseason prediction, underachieved. Gottfried was adamant that the prognosis was too positive last fall. He had a good read on his team.
Now Gottfried has to deal with a low ceiling and a long climb ahead. If he can manage those projections better than expected, then he'll be praised even more than he was a year ago.
Zeigler transferred from Central Michigan to Pitt a year ago after his father, Ernie, was fired as CMU head coach. He received a one-time exemption to play immediately due to the stress of his father losing his job.
But if the members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches board of directors get their way, all transfers will have to sit out a year, regardless of their issue. There was apparently only one dissenting vote when the group met last week to discuss the issue and suggest to the NCAA a change.
The "transfer free agency" that has overrun college basketball is a direct result of waivers and loopholes that were added to the books a few years ago with good intentions but have netted mixed results.
Of the two most controversial waivers, one allows players to play immediately if they have an ill relative within 100 miles of their home. The other -- the one being taken advantage of more and more this spring -- allows players to graduate early and seek a master's degree not offered at their present institution.
Arizona State just lost Evan Gordon, who will seek to transfer and play immediately. UNLV's Mike Moser did the same and chose Oregon over Washington and Gonzaga. DeAndre Kane (Marshall to Pitt) and many others have done so as well this offseason.
Spruce Derden/US PresswireDeAndre Kane, who averaged 15.1 PPG and 7.0 APG for Marshall last season, will be able to play at Pitt right away.
"The rule in most cases is not being used as intended and is clearly adding to the widespread free agency in college basketball," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek told ESPN.com.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, an NABC board member, wasn't at the meeting last week in Indianapolis but weighed in on the subject when reached this week.
"We've just got into an area of unintended consequences," Boeheim said. "The rule was for if a kid really wanted a different academic program. Now it has gotten to be a strictly playing situation."
The waiver to allow a player to be closer to a relative has also been abused. The question is does the player want to be closer to his relative and actually help with transportation to treatments, be there to comfort, etc.? Or does he really just want to play in a new location or for a different coach?
"I've always felt that if you want to be with the person who is sick, it never made sense to me that you wouldn't just want to be with that person," Boeheim said. "Now people are telling the kids, 'Just transfer and you'll get eligible. We'll figure something out and get you eligible to play.' I don't think that's a good thing."
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who is on the board, made national news a year ago when he blocked a transfer by Jarrod Uthoff to rival Iowa (Ryan and UW eventually relented, allowing Uthoff to sit out the standard one year). On the postgraduate issue, Ryan makes his position quite clear.
"I positively believe a fifth-year guy should not be able to play right away," Ryan said. "All they're doing is looking at curriculum, finding a program that a school doesn't have. Are they really trying to get a master's degree? Or is it, 'Maybe my team isn't as good and we lost a lot and I want to be in the NCAA tournament next year and ' There's a market out there for this. You take guys through summer school and give them every academic advantage and then they graduate and then they can just go to another school."
Ryan went on to say that this abuse of the waiver "isn't what college athletics was meant to be. How about the guy leaving his teammates and the coaching staff that developed him?"
Marshall coach Tom Herrion agrees.
"The only way to minimize the transfer epidemic is to, no matter the circumstance, make them sit out the year," Herrion said. "There's been like 900 kids transfer in the past 12 months. It doesn't matter the level. Both sides have felt it or taken advantage of it, and schools like Michigan State, North Carolina have taken fifth-year guys. I had two when I got to Marshall. There is so much hypocrisy in our profession. Everyone, though, is playing by the rules of today."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who is on the NABC board, said he is in favor of making everyone sit, adding that it could be good for the transfer athletically and academically if approached the right way.
"It helps you academically and maturity-wise," Brey said. "We discussed the transfer thing thoroughly at the meeting. The problem with making the fifth-year guys sit a year is then you have to explore the sixth-year eligibility for some of them."
In a recent interview with ESPN.com, Rodney Hood -- a Duke transfer from Mississippi State -- spoke of this very issue.
Brey said the whole free agency of pursuing transfers has gotten out of hand, though. He said one member of the board discussed a "home visit" he conducted in a campus dorm room.
"That's just not right," Brey said. "We've got to explore sitting out the year to deter the free agency."
Boeheim, who warned that coaches don't need to come off as "anti-player," acknowledged that it's a complex issue.
"We can't have no one sit out, because that would get into mass movement [of players leaving] and that wouldn't be good for anybody," he said. "It's a difficult situation. I think we've gotten into something where it's prolific now. They're just plain unhappy with playing time, and that's why they may want to be closer to home. Or they had a run-in with a coach or they're not playing. It's a problem.
"I don't know the solution. I always thought transfers should have to sit out a year. I do think we'll have to limit [playing immediately] a bit."
From the first time Nerlens Noel worked out at Kentucky, John Calipari knew he had something special on his hands.
"He had something in him; he could take it all to another level,'' Calipari of Noel. "He had that will to win. I've had players like that in Derrick Rose and Brandon Knight. They can grab stuff from within that normal guys can't do. They make plays out of nothing to win a game. They're not afraid.''
He's hoping to see the same from two newcomers, big men Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson, and continued development from Willie Cauley-Stein.
AP Photo/James CrispUnlike like last season, Kentucky has experience returning with players like Willie Cauley-Stein.
Can Cauley-Stein find consistency and perform at a high level, such as when he had four blocks against Florida on the final day of the SEC season or scored 20 against Vanderbilt? Will Calipari play the 7-foot sophomore with the enforcing Randle or Johnson? Where does freshman Marcus Lee fit in? How will Calipari use Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer this time around?
The backcourt will actually be less confusing, with twins Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison and James Young anchoring the positions and getting most of the touches. But the frontcourt, from the 3 to the 5, will offer Calipari more options than he's had since he's been at Kentucky.
"We're going to be much stronger physically at all positions,'' said Calipari, who is still in the running for 6-foot-7 small forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player in the 2013 class. "Our post presence will be there with Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. He's a lot like Nerlens in terms of blocking shots and going after balls. He's bouncy with great energy, but he's not as big. Willie is coming back with one thought in mind: He wants to do something on the basketball court and in the tournament. He's got something to prove to himself. He's got a great frame of mind. He understands he's got to do it and do something different.''
Calipari said he's thinking about going with two taller players at the 3 and 4: Cauley-Stein and the 6-10 Johnson. The coach said he also has the option of putting Randle at the 3 and Cauley-Stein at the 4. Poythress will need to be a leader and a strong man. Wiltjer has to pick his spots and take advantage of the mismatches he can provide.
"There will be a lot of teams ahead of us, but we'll be deeper and the bench will be a great friend of mine,'' said Calipari, who with such a loaded squad will be able to hold playing time over players' heads throughout the season. "I'll be able to play like we played at Memphis. We'll be pressing and getting after people because we have more people. We're going to have competition.''
Noel Update: The former Kentucky big man is rehabbing from a season-ending ACL injury that occurred on Feb. 12 at Florida. Noel is working out with the team of specialists from the office of famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Calipari said Kentucky wanted Noel to be treated by one of the nation's best, not out of disrespect to the doctors in Lexington, but because he said they didn't want NBA officials questioning whether his surgery went well and whether he was ready to compete for the No. 1 pick in June.
"There is a trust level when the NBA talks to Dr. Andrews,'' Calipari said. "Jon Hood had his surgery here [in Kentucky] and it all went well. But we didn't want the NBA to have any questions. He's going to be fine. He's ahead of schedule. When you have a season-ending injury, you want the NBA teams to feel that he's as good as new.''
Noel, who could become UK's third No. 1 overall pick in the Calipari era, was a game-changer for Kentucky as a freshman. He blocked 12 shots in a critical road win at Ole Miss down the stretch. Four days later, Noel had 19 points and 14 rebounds in a key avenging road win at Texas A&M. If Noel hadn't gotten hurt at Florida, the Wildcats would have almost certainly earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.
At the annual league meetings last week, the Pac-12 basketball coaches didn't dwell on the turbulence created by Ed Rush's style as coordinator of officials or the new independent investigation into how Rush handled the Pac-12 tournament and the ensuing inquiry by the league office.
Instead, the coaches who gathered in Phoenix looked forward, hoping the conference will find someone who can secure high-profile officials.
According to a number of coaches who were in the room, the overall sentiment was that the league needs more elite officials.
"We expressed a sense of urgency,'' Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "Officials are starting to contract for their schedules and commitments with different leagues pretty early. We want someone who is well-liked, who is a good magnet for top officials and that can run the program effectively.''
A month ago, Rush resigned after one season on the job. He had replaced Bill McCabe a year ago, but only after the Pac-12 coaches met, meaning this was the second straight year the coaches were meeting without knowing who would lead the officials.
Rush's resignation came on the heels of a CBSsports.com report that Rush told officials at the Pac-12 tournament they would get inducements like a trip to Mexico or cash for carrying out the rule of bench decorum, including giving a technical to Arizona coach Sean Miller. Rush later told ESPN.com that he was joking and denied all charges made by officials in the meeting that he was ruling by intimidation. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott called Rush's actions inappropriate but said his actions didn't constitute a fireable offense.
But then he resigned on April 4. Rush had been an NBA official for 32 years prior to taking the job with the Pac-12.
The Pac-12 conducted its own investigation and talked to a number of officials, but since Rush's resignation, the league office decided to hire an outside counsel to look into the matter. The Pac-12 hired the Indianapolis based law-firm Ice Miller and its lead NCAA-case attorney Stu Brown to investigate the matter. Brown is conducting interviews and has to report back to the Pac-12 CEOs by June.
When contacted, Brown said he couldn't comment. Neither could Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne.
The coaches said there was some talk about the Rush situation at last week's meetings, but the majority of the agenda was about finding the right person to lead the conference's officials.
There was some who suggested to push for long-time West Coast official Scott Thornley to lead the conference.
The key, more than anything, is to figure out a way to get top referees to come west even if they work some of the other higher-profile leagues east of the Mississippi.
"The general tone is to attract more lead officials,'' Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "I don't care what league you're talking about it, it's the same guys on the same nights. And because of our geographic location, it makes it challenging. We want to get someone who can attract more quality to work our league. The ones we have are very good.''
The coaches did discuss the physicality of the sport but acknowledge that's more of a national discussion not limited to the Pac-12. The league's chore for now is to put the officiating controversy behind it and ensure the conference can latch onto a long-term solution for the current mess.
John Beilein has big plans for Saturday.
He's going to mow his lawn, listen to the Cardinals-Brewers game and play with his grandchildren.
Now that's a day off.
He hasn't had many of them -- zero, actually -- since Louisville beat Michigan on April 8 in the national title game in Atlanta.
The schedule has been a good kind of crazy and something Beilein has embraced with as much zeal as he did every practice day during Michigan's momentous, program-changing season.
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsJohn Beilein's Michigan team will face several nonconference tests next season.
"I can't wait to mow that lawn,'' Beilein said Friday. "When you can cut your lawn, you know things are starting to wind down. It's all good. Every bit of it is good. I highly recommend we do this again next year.''
Beilein doesn't think he has slept in his own bed more than three consecutive nights since he left for Auburn Hills, Mich., and the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 20. Getting two in a row was pushing it, too.
"The suitcase has been sitting there in my room, and I just reload it,'' Beilein said. "Kathleen [his wife] understands it. The entire family has been with me for most of it. It's almost been a family reunion of sorts along the way. I've got eight brothers and sisters, and I think three or four of them made it to Atlanta.''
Take a look at Beilein and the rest of his coaching staff's schedule in the past four weeks.
April 8: Title game in Atlanta.
April 9: Return to Ann Arbor, welcome-back reception at Crisler Arena.
April 10: In the office.
April 11: Player meetings.
April 12-14: Beilein and Trey Burke in Los Angeles for the Wooden Award.
April 14: Burke and Beilein return for Burke's news conference to announce he's leaving for the NBA draft.
April 15: Burke and Beilein in Oklahoma City for Burke to receive the Oscar Robertson Award.
April 16: Team goes through individual workouts on campus.
April 17: Tim Hardaway Jr. news conference to announce he's leaving for the NBA.
April 18: Board of regents recognizes Michigan in Ann Arbor in the morning; Mitch McGary and Glen Robinson III hold news conference to announce they're staying.
April 19-21: Beilein returns to Los Angeles to recruit while staff is in Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
April 22: Return to make calls and recruiting.
April 23-25: Open gym recruiting allowed as staff heads to Chicago.
April 26-28: Beilein and staff recruit at events in Hampton, Va., Atlanta, Indianapolis and Akron.
April 29-May 1: In the office, meeting with players.
May 2: Head to Lansing to be recognized by the governor at the state house.
May 3: In the office.
May 4: Mow lawn.
Beilein said the staff was rushed into making sure the players' decisions about their futures were fully vetted. He said he said as soon as the Wolverines got back to Ann Arbor on April 9, they put together the paperwork to get to the NBA by noon the next day so the NBA advisory committee could return with advice for the Wolverines' underclassmen.
Beilein was on the road with Burke when the star guard said he was leaving for the NBA.
"And then I came back and Tim said he was ready,'' Beilein said. "All four of the major decisions were back-to-back. All of them made educated decisions, and they're doing it for the right reasons.''
Heading back on the road to recruit and evaluate, so soon after playing in the pressure-packed title game, was actually welcomed by Beilein.
"I really enjoy that part of it,'' Beilein said. "I've come to the realization that if you get good players and good teammates that have a great passion for the game, you can really achieve a lot more success than we've ever had.
"There wasn't one day I went out there that I said, 'Oh, I've got to recruit today.' I want to continue to build this program and look for the next Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. It only made me want to recruit even more.''
Beilein said amid the hectic schedule he was able to get priceless time with Burke, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Robertson on the day of the award.
The Wolverines also had a few individual workout days remaining and immediately took advantage in the week after the title game.
"We wanted to look at everybody's game,'' Beilein said. "We worked on Mitch's inside and outside, Glen using more ball screens and getting everyone set up for summer workouts.''
Beilein is already looking at how he's going to replace Burke and Hardaway. Clearly there will be more offensive touches for McGary and a way to involve Robinson even more. The same is true of Nik Stauskas, getting him more shots as he continues to post videos of his prolific shooting of 3s in a short period.
Beilein said he stressed to Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht, who made a national name for himself with 17 points in the first half against Louisville, the need to get into the weight room and bulk up their slender frames.
And he's adamant that newcomers Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton will have an impact next season. Walton could be the point guard of record by the start of the season. Mark Donnal is the third member of the recruiting class.
"One thing Tim and Trey could really do is if our offensive options weren't there they could get their own shot,'' said Beilein. "That's something Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin can do. Mark is a big man who can play the 4 or the 5 and really shoot. All three will have an opportunity to come in and play when they come in.''
The Wolverines aren't shying away from proving it early in the nonconference schedule, either.
Michigan, which will be picked again to finish in the top four in the Big Ten, will likely draw a high-profile ACC team in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Wolverines will also play in the Puerto Rico Classic with fellow headline teams VCU, Georgetown, Kansas State and Florida State. (Long Beach State, Charlotte and Auburn are also in the field.)
Michigan is also playing Stanford at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.. Beilein said he wants to play in New York City every year or every other year to satisfy the Michigan alumni in the area.
But the marquee game of the schedule will be when fellow top-10 team Arizona comes to Ann Arbor in a home-and-home series.
Beilein can't wait for those games, practices over the summer and into the fall and even recruiting, too. He's enjoying every second of it. Just don't bother him Saturday while he's finally getting a chance to cut his grass.
Of 21 coaches polled from around the country Wednesday, every one of them wanted one date for the NBA early-entry draft deadline instead of the two that are currently in place. The consensus was to simply do away with the arbitrary one-week-after-the-Final Four date the NCAA has had on the books since 2009 (that meant April 16 this year).
"The [NCAA] date is irrelevant," Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
That date has no hold on players unless they actually send in their paperwork to the NBA. Simply stating that you will declare for the NBA draft, even publicly, doesn't hold any weight unless the official document is sent to the league office. If you're on the fence, you can simply not say anything at all and/or just not file your paperwork.
"The agents always tell the players that the [NBA date] is the only one that matters," Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
That NBA deadline is the final Sunday of April. This year, it was April 28.
"I've never been able to figure out why we have two dates," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsAs Andre Roberson and many others proved this year, the NCAA's super-early deadline for underclassmen holds little sway.
The early NCAA date was a rule pushed for by college coaches, specifically in the ACC.
"The rule was put in place and adopted because the coaches wanted it," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said.
At the time, Paul Hewitt (now at George Mason) was the coach at Georgia Tech and his Yellow Jackets were losing players early to the draft at a high rate.
"The rule worked, but it wasn't perfect," Hewitt said. "One of the things that convinced us to vote for it was the deadline would be before the late-signing period began. It gave us a chance to add a player to the roster and in turn help the upperclassmen who are coming back and the coaches to have a stronger team and a better experience. That was the main reason a couple of coaches switched the vote, like myself. The rule did give some coaches clarity as to who was leaving and allow them to go and sign a player to add to the roster. The returning players and coaches deserved that opportunity."
In theory, that should have happened, but, in reality, it didn't in many cases. Kentucky coach John Calipari said a year ago that he had his players wait past the deadline to announce a decision to prove a point that the NBA deadline is the one that matters. And a number of players this year used just about every last day and hour until the NBA deadline to make their decision: Michigan State's Adreian Payne, Creighton's Doug McDermott, and Baylor's Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson decided to stay, and Colorado's Andre Roberson and Miami's Shane Larkin used the time to decide they would leave.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle and NC State coach Mark Gottfried said that they wouldn't mind an earlier NBA deadline in mid-April but that they definitely want just one, definitive date. San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said the date needs to be later so the players can get a good read on their situation and actually work out for teams the way they used to do when players had until June to withdraw.
Working out for teams before April 28 is impossible now unless the NBA would allow teams to conduct workouts before the list is released. NBA teams work out players in May and June, and playoff teams tend to wait later into the playoffs to deal with large-scale workouts. There was a time, up until only a few years ago, when underclassmen could actually go to the pre-draft combine and still return to school once they were advised they wouldn't go in the first round or high enough in the second.
Most coaches polled, though, said the one thing adopted in 2009 that probably can stay is the rule that if you officially declare for the draft, you cannot return to school. You're either in or you're out by the NBA deadline, regardless of whether you sign with an agent. This year, there were 77 players who declared for the draft -- 46 of them from American colleges. International players can withdraw 10 days before the draft (this year, that is June 17). An American player can take his name out, as well, but he can't return to college.
In addition to the coaches listed above, the other coaches who were contacted and responded to the poll -- all of whom in favor of one date and had a player make a draft decision this spring -- were: Jim Larranaga (Miami), Tom Crean (Indiana), Steve Alford (UCLA), Craig Neal (New Mexico), Phil Martelli (Saint Joseph's), Kevin Ollie (UConn), Travis Ford (Oklahoma State), Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Greg McDermott (Creighton), Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee), Dave Rice (UNLV), Frank Haith (Missouri), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) and Mike Anderson (Arkansas).
"There is confusion for sure," Anderson said. "The 16th date is just a date right now. A kid can say 'Yes, I'm in' and still enter with the NBA deadline. We need something that works for both."
How can that be done? Simple, Osburn says. The same way it was switched in the first place.
"If a coach or anyone on campus thinks it should be changed -- or any issue -- then they can have discussion about it," she said. "The NABC [National Association of Basketball Coaches] can put forward a proposal. The [NCAA] group focusing on men's basketball issues has a meeting this month, too, and can propose to have it changed. Or it can go through the legislative process. There is also an overall review of the rulebook being done and it can be reviewed then, too. Or it can go through the normal committee governance process like it was the last time."