ACC contenders, draft deadlines and more offseason storylines
Keep an eye on N.C. State as a stacked roster makes it an ACC contender
Indiana will be a Big Ten favorite even if Cody Zeller and Christian Watford go pro
Connecticut is on the verge of crumbling, which may signal Jim Calhoun's exit
With the NCAA tournament wrapped, we have almost three weeks until we know precisely who is going to the NBA and who is returning to school. Another couple of weeks after that, and we should have a final tally of which recruits are going to which schools.
It may be a while until we get a complete feel for what next season will hold in store. Until then, here's a look at some of the key storylines to follow this offseason ...
Who is the best team in the ACC?: North Carolina lost Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Harrison Barnes to the NBA Draft while Tyler Zeller graduated. If James Michael-McAdoo goes pro as well, the Tar Heels are going to be looking at a bit of a rebuilding season. Duke is in the same boat, as they lose Austin Rivers and the two oldest Plumlees, meaning that the Blue Devil's season will be in the hands of Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Rasheed Sulaimon. Florida State returns Michael Snaer and Ian Miller, but they lose much of the strength along their front line.
So that leaves N.C. State. The Wolfpack bring back Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell and Scott Wood while adding talented freshman T.J. Warren, Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis to the mix. That's a talented core, good enough to earn another trip to the NCAA tournament. But the Wolfpack jump up another level -- maybe top 10 worthy? -- if C.J. Leslie opts to return to school. He has developed into the player we all thought he could be in high school and would likely be the best frontcourt player in the conference.
The questionable status of Kentucky's players. There may be no roster more in flux than Kentucky's over the coming month. Darius Miller graduates, and there is little doubt Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones are out the door with him. Will Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb follow as well?
If so, Kentucky must once again rebuild from scratch. Kyle Wiltjer will still be around, as will N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress, both top-20 recruits, are signed. Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel, the top two prospects in the country, are being heavily recruited by Kentucky, as is blue-chipper Anthony Bennett. Of those three, who ends up in Lexington?
How much of a negative effect will the new NBA Draft deadline have? One of the most significant changes the NCAA made this year was to effectively end any chance for underclassmen to test NBA Draft waters. The deadline for players to announce their return to school in April 10, and while that date is relatively meaningless -- the NBA's deadline to declare is April 29, and if a player is headed to the NBA, what meaning does an NCAA rule have? -- both dates eliminate the chance for players to work out for NBA teams.
It greatly reduces the amount of accurate feedback they receive, increasing the chances of a wrong career decision. The draft doesn't take place until June 28. How accurate is the information these kids will get 2 1/2 months earlier, especially when NBA teams are in the playoff push?
How many kids will fall victim? How many college seasons will take a hit because a star player leaves for the draft only to become a late-second-round pick?
Can Louisville and Indiana truly be title contenders? If everyone comes back, then yes. Very much so.
That is a massive "if'," however, especially for Indiana. Cody Zeller is a first rounder if he leaves. Christian Watford probably isn't a first-round lock, but he climbed up draft boards last season. He's also looking at a situation where, if he stays, he may end up splitting minutes with Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Perea. If Watford finds a team to take him in the first round, then it will be worth it to leave.
Even if Zeller and Watford bolt, with the amount of talent Tom Crean has returning -- and coming in -- Indiana will be a favorite in the Big Ten. If they do come back, the Hoosiers will be scary good. Remember, they made the Sweet 16 despite being pegged a year away from their peak.
Louisville has fewer early entry issues. Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan are probably their best NBA prospects, and neither is quite ready for the next level. Peyton Siva should be back, sharing the backcourt with Russ Smith. The key for the Cardinals is going to be the health of Wayne Blackshear. With the way this group can defend, they can compete with anyone.
Their issue last season was perimeter shooting and consistent scoring. If Blackshear showed anything in the Final Four (nine points in 14 minutes), it's that he is capable of scoring in a hurry.
What happens to UConn? The way things stand, UConn will not be eligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament thanks to the increased APR requirements. There is still a chance that changes -- UConn hopes to appeal the ruling -- but that would mean the NCAA would open itself up to an avalanche of criticism. Sure, the NCAA wants to get serious about academics, but only if it doesn't get in the way of a national championship program competing in the postseason.
More interesting than the ruling itself is what will happen if UConn's status doesn't change. Alex Oriakhi already transferred. Others may follow. There seems little doubt Jeremy Lamb will go pro, and most believe Andre Drummond will, too. If his program crumbles like that, would Calhoun hang around for another season with his deteriorating health? If UConn loses all that talent and its stalwart coach, how much longer will it be a national championship-caliber program?
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