By Riley Saxon
Just over three months ago, Baylor was crowned National Champion for the 2020-2021 College Basketball Season and the offseason following has been one of the craziest in the history of the sport. College Hoops Breakdown is here to get you caught up on the major storylines from the offseason so far.
The Coaching Carousel—Legendary Retirements
A couple of days before the Final 4, on April Fool’s Day no less, North Carolina’s Roy Williams shocked many when he retired. Not to be outdone, about 2 months later, Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced his retirement… after the 2021-2022 season. The stark difference in retirement plans between the two rival schools naturally added fuel to the fire, and all but assures that the two scheduled games between them will be must-see TV.
Other Major Changes in the Power Conferences
As if losing two Hall of Fame Coaches wasn’t enough, a myriad of changes happened at the helms of Power 6 Programs. Arizona, Boston College, Depaul, Indiana, Iowa State, Marquette, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, Texas Tech, and Utah all changed head coaches. Every Power 6 Conference had at least two head coaching changes, except the SEC (who had 0). Even the WCC, Mountain West, Atlantic 10 and the American had multiple head coaching changes.
Player Empowerment—The Transfer Portal
The Transfer Portal was possibly the most dominant force of the off season. At times, it was almost impossible to track, and even as this publishes, at least three impact players (Kofi Cockburn, Marcus Carr, and Kevin Obanor) are still in the portal. In fact, every single Power 6 team had at least one player in the portal, except for UCLA and Michigan. Kansas picked up two high powered guards (Remy Martin and Joe Yesufu), Kentucky added four strong players (Kellan Grady, Oscar, Tshiebwe, CJ Frederick, and Sahvir Wheeler) and Eric Musselman did Eric Musselman things (added four new players via transfers).
On July 1, players got another boost in power with the ruling that they could profit from their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). The change is less than two weeks old, so the major ramifications aren’t quite clear, but there seems to be a consensus that the impact is already being felt with draft decisions. Numerous fringe round 1/2 and round 2/undrafted players withdrew from the draft and returned to college. Additionally, fans everywhere have made their wishes known, from jerseys with player names on them to the return of college basketball video games.
College Basketball Returnees
Maybe in part because of the implementation of the NIL, a plethora of key college basketball players withdrew from the NBA Draft. UCLA got Johnny Juzang and Cody Riley back, Kansas had three players withdraw from the draft (Ochai Agbaji, Remy Martin and Jalen Wilson), and Hunter Dickinson returned to Michigan. March Madness Star Max Abmas is back at Oral Roberts, Julian Champagnie is back at St. John’s and so many more names are back for (at least) one more year.
Other News and Notes
Hartford Down to DIII: About a month and a half after playing in their first ever NCAA Division I Tournament, the University of Hartford Board of Regents made the stunning decision to drop down to Division III. The story is still developing, as Hartford athletes have filed a federal lawsuit to block the move.
Michigan State Name Change: Michigan State reached a sponsorship with Michigan-based Rocket Mortgage to be officially called the “MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage.” Will this be a trend-setting change or a hilarious aberration? How will the Score Tickers on TV show and abbreviate their name? College Hoops Breakdown has no idea, but we do know that this is a year late: Michigan State Guard Rockett Watts transferred to Mississippi State.
FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup: The U19 World Cup whetted the appetite of fans across college basketball. The US defeated Canada in the semifinals and then came back to win the gold against France. Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren dominated and Purdue had a plethora of players make headlines, led by Jaden Ivey. Other notable developments included Michigan’s Caleb Houstan lighting up the scoreboard for Canada and Kenneth Lofton Jr‘s performance putting Louisiana Tech on analysts’ sleeper lists across the country.
Introducing the Bruin Bias
Big-J Journalists are (supposedly) unbiased, and as College Hoops Breakdown strived to at least be a little-j journalist during our inaugural season, we approached our love of UCLA with trepidation. That’s not to say our rooting interest was completely hidden: Our March articles were riddled with reverse jinxes about UCLA and multiple jinx attempts on Southern Cal. This season, however, we are going to take a different approach: Introducing the Bruin Bias, the end-of-article feature that will be focused on UCLA basketball.
Naturally with UCLA, the big news at the forefront of everyone’s mind is the return of Johnny Buckets himself, Johnny Juzang. But for College Hoops Breakdown and a few others, the real excitement comes from the fact that the UCLA team will finally have a full offseason with Coach Cronin.
Cronin was hired in the midst of the 2019 offseason and the 2020 offseason was marred by Covid, so the 2021 offseason marks the first time Cronin and UCLA will have a full offseason period of prep. UCLA has responded well at the end of both of Cronin’s years at UCLA (an 11-3 run in 2020 and the Final Four in 2021), so there is reason to expect a full offseason will do wonders for the team.
Countdown to the 2021-2022 College Basketball Season: 120 Days.
College Hoops Breakdown appears twice a month through the summer at JoeTorosian.com
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