The Biggest Developments in the 2013 College Basketball Offseason
Just because college basketball doesn’t have trades or free agency does not mean the offseason is even remotely quiet. Players and coaches still change addresses (or stay put) and eligibility concerns stir the pot even further.
July’s most surprising news came from Indianapolis, where Butler coach Brad Stevens announced his unexpected departure for the NBA. Now the Bulldogs face a move to the new Big East without their celebrated bench boss around to run the show.
Read on for more on Butler’s unexpected plight, along with 19 more of the highest-impact changes of the summer in college hoops.
20. Tennessee’s Life No Longer Golden
With Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes up front and high-scoring Jordan McRae on the perimeter, Tennessee has a lot of the pieces in place to make an NCAA tournament push this season.
However, the Vols also lost a vital component of their postseason hopes when Trae Golden transferred to Georgia Tech.
Golden’s decision appears to have been motivated by a combination of academic issues and the need to be closer to his father, who's battling health problems.
The senior playmaker isn't enough of a game-changer to make the Yellow Jackets a contender, but as the Vols’ only experienced point guard, he makes Tennessee's road a lot more difficult by his absence.
19. Florida’s On-Again, Off-Again Point Guard Is Off Again
On the court, Scottie Wilbekin is one of the most productive point guards in the country. Off the court, he’s a recurring discipline problem who has managed to get suspended by head coach Billy Donovan yet again.
Wilbekin is back to practicing with the Gators, but there’s still no word on how many games he’ll miss.
At some point, Donovan—who has dazzling freshman PG Kasey Hill chomping at the bit—has to wonder whether the headaches with Wilbekin are more than his 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game are worth.
18. North Carolina Slows Down for Traffic
Opposing defenses still haven’t found a way to put the brakes on Roy Williams’ transition offense, but North Carolina police may have one.
Two different arrests of UNC swingman P.J. Hairston this summer prompted Williams to suspend his leading scorer indefinitely.
Hairston will be back in Tar Heel blue long before season’s end, but the circus surrounding him can only distract a team looking to bounce back from 2012-13’s disappointing 12-6 ACC finish.
However long he’s out, the pressure will be on Leslie McDonald and other second-line scorers to make up the lost points.
17. Creighton’s Best-Case Scenario (Part Two)
The 2012-13 Creighton Blue Jays—the best field-goal percentage offense in the nation—featured a returning All-American who had finished second nationally in scoring, plus a fifth-year senior point guard to run the offense.
The 2013-14 Blue Jays get both players back.
An unexpected sixth year of eligibility keeps Grant Gibbs in Omaha for one more season after he averaged 5.8 assists per game.
He’ll get plenty more of those in his Blue Jays swan song thanks to the return of two-time All-American Doug McDermott and his 23.2 points a night.
16. The A+ in Dunking Didn’t Count
Florida freshman Chris Walker soared at the McDonald’s All-America festivities, winning the dunk contest and grabbing six boards in 12 minutes of game action. Unfortunately for the Gators, he landed hard when it came to passing NCAA classroom scrutiny.
Walker’s academic troubles have left him ineligible for the fall semester, meaning he can’t suit up until at least January.
The hyper-athletic power forward will be a perfect fit in Billy Donovan’s press-and-fast-break attack, assuming he can get his grades up to par.
15. Oregon Turns Tables on Its Transfer History
Former Oregon coach Ernie Kent took plenty of heat from fans for the number of his players who transferred away from Eugene on his watch.
Dana Altman, now in his fourth season with the Ducks, is showing that he learned from his predecessor’s problems.
Altman has brought in a pair of impact transfers to help Oregon weather the losses of E.J. Singler and Arsalan Kazemi.
With Mike Moser (late of UNLV) taking over the rebounding chores and ex-Houston guard Joseph Young boosting the offense, another NCAA tournament berth is well within reach.
14. Come Back, Chane!
Louisville fans were delighted to learn that Chane Behanan would postpone his shot at the NBA to anchor the frontcourt for the team’s title defense. As it turns out, returning to school didn't necessarily mean returning to the Cardinals.
Rick Pitino has suspended the junior power forward indefinitely, citing December as the earliest possibility for his return. Without his defense and rebounding, the Cardinals frontcourt will be a far less imposing bunch in the early going.
13. Brad Stevens Pulls Another Stunner
After six years of leading Butler to on-court upsets, Brad Stevens had a less welcome surprise for the Bulldogs this offseason.
The wunderkind coach jumped to the NBA’s Boston Celtics, instantly transforming Butler from a solid program in a downturn into a rebuilding team with a new coach.
Brandon Miller, a former star guard for the Bulldogs, takes over Stevens’ spot for his first head-coaching stint. With his best player (Roosevelt Jones) out for the season with a wrist injury, Miller is in for a rough start in his team’s debut season in the Big East.
12. Michael Dixon Jr. Starts Over
Driven out of Missouri by accusations of sexual assault, Michael Dixon Jr. has found a new group of Tigers to run with. The high-scoring senior was ruled eligible to play immediately as he joins Josh Pastner’s deep backcourt at Memphis.
Dixon may or may not start as Pastner chooses from a guard pool that also features seniors Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford.
Whatever his role, though, Dixon's athleticism, defensive instincts and shooting touch will make this year’s Tigers a real threat to improve on last year’s round-of-32 postseason finish.
11. UNLV Suffers Mass Exodus
Anthony Bennett’s selection as the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft served notice that UNLV is back among the nation’s elite basketball programs.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Bennett (who left after his freshman season) was far from the only key player who departed from last year's 25-10 squad.
Bennett's frontcourt mate, Mike Moser, transferred to Oregon, while disgruntled-but-talented guard Katin Reinhardt left town for USC.
Add in the unavoidable loss of graduated PG Anthony Marshall, and even the inside-outside combo of Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones won’t be enough to keep UNLV in the conference title hunt this year.
10. Good Things Stay in Threes for Michigan
Last year’s youth movement took Michigan back to the national title game for the first time in 20 years. And, like the Fab Five lineup that lost that previous championship bout, these Wolverines managed to hang on to some of their young stars.
Sophomore Trey Burke and junior Tim Hardaway Jr. jumped to the NBA, but the freshmen trio of Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas decided to stay in school en masse.
Even with a very green backcourt, the Maize and Blue are serious Big Ten contenders (and ninth in the preseason rankings) because of the athleticism, skill and experience of those three forwards.
9. Marquette Sings the Blues
One of the bigger surprises on the NBA’s early-entry list this summer was Marquette’s Vander Blue. The shooting guard was coming off a career year as a junior, but it surprised few (other than, presumably, Blue himself) when he went undrafted.
As bad as draft night was for the 6'4" scoring specialist (now fighting for a roster spot in Philadelphia), his absence will be nearly as damaging to the Golden Eagles.
An already-shaky offense must now replace both PG Junior Cadougan and Blue, meaning that even Buzz Williams’ always-impressive D will need to battle to keep the team in Big East contention.
8. The Return of Russdiculous
After a sensational junior year capped by a national title, Russ Smith certainly fit the profile of an NBA early-entry draftee. To the delight of Louisville fans, though, Smith’s decision was no easier to predict than the angles of his acrobatic shots.
The Cardinals’ offensive and defensive leader opted to stay on campus to defend the national championship as a senior.
His presence was an essential factor in taking what might otherwise have been a Top 15 team and cementing it in the No. 3 spot of the preseason coaches poll.
7. Steve Alford Hits the Big Time
Shabazz Muhammad’s last missed shot of the season had scarcely stopped bouncing when UCLA fired embattled head coach Ben Howland.
To fill one of the most high-profile coaching positions in sports, the Bruins turned to a man who’s no stranger to high expectations: former Indiana schoolboy legend, and former Hoosiers backcourt star, Steve Alford.
As a head coach, Alford struggled at Iowa in his only previous major-conference experience.
He’s built New Mexico into a perennial title contender in the Mountain West, but translating that success to the Pac-12 will be a major challenge (even with a strong sophomore class in place in Westwood).
6. Marcus Smart Moves Forward by Standing Still(water)
With one-and-done becoming the new default setting for elite freshmen, it’s a major story when any draft-ready youngster stays on campus. When a projected top-five pick makes that call, it’s astonishing.
Marcus Smart is so overpowering in so many areas of the game (and the NBA so focused on point guards these days) that he’s a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 overall in 2014.
In the meantime, he’ll lead Oklahoma State to a run at the Big 12 title and maybe even its first Final Four since 2004.
5. Andrew Wiggins Worth Waiting for in Lawrence
Most of the country’s top recruits had long since picked their schools when Louisville cut down the nets in April. The pick of the litter, though, took his time in making his decision.
In mid-May, top-ranked freshman Andrew Wiggins finally announced that he was joining Bill Self’s stacked recruiting class at Kansas. Even without Wiggins, the rebuilt Jayhawks would have been dangerous, but with him, they’re decisive favorites in the Big 12.
4. USC Goes with the Hot Hand
Andy Enfield was the breakout young coach of the 2013 NCAA tournament, leading unknown Florida Gulf Coast to an unprecedented Sweet 16 berth.
He wasted no time in capitalizing on that notoriety, jumping from the Atlantic Sun to the Pacific 12 as he takes over the head coaching duties at slumping USC.
The Trojans job is never an easy one, given the long shadows cast by arch-rival UCLA and by the school’s own celebrated football program.
Enfield has energy but hardly any experience, and even his early successes in recruiting freshmen-to-be and transfers won’t make a turnaround an easy process.
3. ACC Ascending
No conference came out of realignment with a brighter basketball future than the ACC. The league’s only outgoing team (Maryland) is still hanging around for one more year, and three high-powered programs have already arrived to bolster the ranks.
The Big Ten, still riding the momentum of last year’s phenomenal performance, is likely to be the nation’s strongest conference again in 2013-14 after posting three teams in the preseason Top 10.
For the long haul, though, the ACC becomes the league to beat every season (all the more so once Louisville arrives in 2014-15).
2. Kentucky Hits the Mother Load
Even for John Calipari, the recruiting class that arrived in Lexington this fall is eye-opening. Of Kentucky’s eight incoming freshmen, a mind-boggling six earned McDonald’s All-America recognition.
The Harrison twins are a one-stop backcourt for a team that badly needed perimeter help, but they’re not even the best of the bunch.
That honor goes to Julius Randle, the country’s third-ranked recruit and a real contender for the SEC scoring title from his power forward spot.
1. The New and Somewhat-Less-Big East
The last major shock of realignment hit college hoops this summer with the dissolution of the Big East.
There will be many more teams changing conferences in the next couple of years, but nothing on the scale of seeing the single best basketball league in the country cut in half at a stroke.
The new AAC opens for business with several former Big East notables (UConn, Cincinnati, defending champion Louisville), while the Big East name stays with Georgetown, Marquette and another eight Catholic schools.
The retooled conference will still be a major player on the college hoops scene, but with founding members Syracuse and UConn gone, it will never be the same.