College Basketball 2011-12: 20 Burning Questions Heading into Next Season
With the 2011-12 season officially over, we can turn our attention to what lies ahead for next season.
From puzzling coaching changes to late-signing recruits to coaching retirements, there are a number of interesting questions that can be asked heading into next season.
Here, in no particular order, is a quick look at some of the water-cooler discussions we might be having over the next few weeks.
1. Will the Butler Bulldogs Make It to a Third Consecutive Final Four?
With two players returning who have started in two national championship games, can you ever say never?
It would be something...but something I couldn't bet on.
2. Who in the ACC Will Make the NCAA Tournament Other Than Duke and UNC?
Apparently, Seth Greenberg wants at least four teams in, which traditionally means the Virginia Tech Hokies would be the fifth team considered.
Whoever gets the N.C. State coaching job ( Mark Gottfried was just hired) will inherit some talent, but maybe not enough to get the Wolfpack back to the dance.
Clemson improved under Brad Brownell, but it loses a couple of key players. B.C. faces a similar situation, especially if Reggie Jackson hits a home run in his NBA workouts.
Florida State and Miami are perhaps the only other teams that could be invited to the ball, assuming someone is willing to take the Hurricanes vacant coaching job.
Virginia Tech will just be edged out for a spot in the First Four, probably.
3. Will Jim Calhoun Retire?
Although there is nothing but speculation to suggest that he will, what better way to go out.
Facing a suspension and possibly more NCAA sanctions might not be all that appealing to the man who has brought three championships to Storrs.
4. What Impact Will the Potential NBA Lockout Have on This Year's Draft?
This year's NBA draft is not what you would call a banner one, with the exception of Kemba Walker and a few others.
Maybe most drafts are like this one.
Some teams, such as Kansas and UNC, are hoping that the potential interruption to the pro season will sway potential early-leavers into staying that extra season. It is hard to predict who will view that as a viable option.
With David Stern's declaration of huge league debt, how will a new agreement impact rookie contracts?
Many questions at this time, but fewer answers.
5. Why Did Georgia Tech Hire Brian Gregory?
I like Brian Gregory as a coach and it was evident that Paul Hewitt was on his way out.
The hire just seemed quick. It might have benefited the Jackets brass to wait a little longer to see who may have been available (Shaka Smart?) after the NCAA tourney.
Gregory did a decent job at Dayton, but the Flyers underachieved in league play the last two years and their top two recruits from a year ago (Juwan Staten and Brandon Spearman) had decided to transfer before Gregory was hired by Georgia Tech.
6. Will Tom Crean Turn the Indiana Hoosiers Around?
One has to believe that if he doesn't this season, with prized hometown recruit Cody Zeller arriving on campus, he will be searching for a new abode at this time next year.
Crean has not had much luck recruiting or with injuries to key players, but this is not a patient fanbase. He needs to get it done this year or he will be out.
7. Which Mid-Major Conference Will Enjoy the Most Success Next Season?
Do you measure success in terms of a conference's best team or by the number of good teams within it?
If you go for just quality, then the Horizon and Colonial were the big winners this year. For quantity, the Mountain West and A-10 were tops.
Next year, the MWC takes on a different look as both BYU and Utah have found new digs. San Diego State will need to rebuild, as will Colorado State, which had a decent season but graduates three top players.
The A-10 looks to be solid once again, especially with Temple and Xavier at the top. Richmond will take a step back but likely not too far, and Duquesne has some talent.
The West Coast Conference, with the addition of BYU, may in time become one of the top mid-majors, but it won't happen next season.
8. Where Will Bruce Pearl Surface?
My suspicion is that the NCAA is not done with Tennessee, which might not be good news for new coach Cuonzo Martin.
But he knew that coming in, so good for him to take the job anyway. This guy will win in time.
Pearl will be poison for a year before someone will hire him. Don't be surprised to see this guy on television somewhere.
9. Can Michigan State Bounce Back from a Disappointing Season?
The guy trying to hide is Tom Izzo, coach of the Spartans.
Look at his track record.
They'll be back—maybe not national title contenders next year, but they'll be back.
10. Will the Loss of Colorado and Nebraska Hurt the Big 12 Conference?
Though both were decent this year, they have typically been bottom feeders in the conference.
The smaller conference means there will be less margin for error during league play, particularly for teams trying to break into the upper echelon.
This might be a case of addition by subtraction.
11. Why Did Missouri Hire Frank Haith?
Nothing against Haith, but he really didn't have much success at Miami and is taking over a program with great potential (should everyone return) this season.
Again, were there no other viable candidates? Ernie Kent, perhaps.
12. Will the NCAA Revisit the 68-Team Field?
This year's version of the First Four was met with excessive yawning, although, remarkably, one of the teams made it to the Final Four.
I wonder if that will ever happen again.
They will likely discuss the change, leave it for another year, and begin even more discussion about the 96-team field.
At which point, I will climb something very tall and wait.
13. Will Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Tristan Thompson Really Return?
Loved the Charles Barkley quote regarding one-and-done players: "The money ain't goin' anywhere."
He's right, but for some it's more about the guaranteed money.
Of the three, I would think Barnes might be the most inclined to go. Next year's draft could be a little deeper and his stock in it could be compromised. Or, he could be the No. 1 pick.
They have all stated their desire to stay with their respective schools, but until the moment of truth, nothing is etched in stone.
14. Will Mike Anderson Have Immediate Success in Arkansas?
The Razorbacks might be better than some think.
They have a good recruiting class lined up (should nothing change on that front) and some solid returning players.
Anderson's up-tempo style is generally appealing to players, so he shouldn't have too much trouble winning them over.
15. Can Purdue and Wisconsin Compete for the Big Ten Title?
Maybe Matt Painter thinks he should have gone to Missouri.
The Boilers will be in a tough situation next season, as their dynamic duo of E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson have exhausted their eligibility. The 5'9" Lewis Jackson is the leading returning scorer at eight points per game.
The Badgers lost one half of their top duo in Jon Leuer. Jordan Taylor, arguably the best point guard in the Big Ten this past season, returns but will need some help.
Bo Ryan always seems to find the right pieces for the Wisconsin puzzle, minus the pomp and circumstance. And they never lose at home.
16. Will This Be the Year Kentucky Wins a National Championship?
If this guy (Brandon Knight) comes back, they have a very good shot.
If he doesn't they will still be able to compete with anyone. I'm still not sure of the freshman formula, but with Deandre Liggins, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb returning, it won't be a freshmen-only squad.
17. Can Steve Lavin Mold St. John's into a Big East Contender?
This will be a tougher job than the one he had this year, when he inherited a roster full of upperclassmen.
Lavin will have a huge talent pool to work with, but it may take some time for this team to gel. If next season is not as successful as many hope, the following year could be something special.
18. Will Renardo Sidney Play a Full Season at Mississippi State?
Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Is this going to be the epitaph for Sidney or can he turn it around and be the player everyone thought he could be?
If he does, the Bulldogs could be a dangerous team. If he doesn't, it will be just another sad story of lost potential.
19. Which Direction Is Villanova Basketball Headed?
Maybe Jay Wright isn't sure either.
The loss of the Coreys (Stokes and Fisher) puts a big dent in the Wildcats' backcourt and leaves a big question mark as to who will replace them.
The last portion of the schedule in each of the last two seasons has been brutal for 'Nova, which needs to bounce back in a big way next season.
I'm not sure this will happen, but for the following year, since you are in the Philadelphia area anyway, Aaric Murray is available. Doesn't help the guard situation, but he's a good one.
20. Can Next Year's NCAA Tournament Get Any Crazier Than This Year's?
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