SAN ANTONIO – Only a few hours after Villanova won its second national championship in three years, projected rankings were unveiled of the top 25 teams for next season.
The way-too-early unanimous choice for No. 1 was, drumroll please … Kansas.
Sometimes those rankings end up pretty accurate, depending on which players leave for the NBA or transfer in or out. That process can be unpredictable, but not as unpredictable as what could happen to college basketball in the 12 months leading up to the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis.
You can bet the sport will look different. But how much different?
NCAA President Mark Emmert and University of Minnesota President and Division I Board chairman Eric Kaler spoke in San Antonio about how the corruption revealed from the federal investigation is affecting the game. They addressed the transfer epidemic and one-and-done players among other topics.
Emmert said his commission on college basketball, headed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will present recommendations for reform April 25. Even he doesn’t know what to expect.
From NCAA figureheads to coaches and players at the Final Four this week, there was talk about enjoying their experience in San Antonio but also wanting to see changes made in the game before the 2018-19 season. Nobody knew which rules would be different this time next year.
Will players be allowed to transfer and be immediately eligible? Kaler and Emmert had no clue, stating only “it’s a complicated issue.” Players like Kansas guard Charlie Moore, who sat out this year after transferring from California, said: “I won’t make the rules, but I don’t think there should be a problem if you transfer and play right away.”
Will more schools, coaches or players be disciplined because of rules violations from the FBI probe? Kaler said it’s hard to be sure until the NCAA Division I board receives the recommendations from Rice’s commission, “but we are poised to act with efficiency in a nimble and quick way.”
Emmert called basketball the most important sport in college athletics and said the NCAA tournament “represents what’s great about college basketball.”
The tournament started with a bang, making history with the first 16-1 seed upset when UMBC took out No. 1 overall seed Virginia. Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean stole the hearts of the nation advancing to the Final Four. But Villanova’s blowout win against Michigan reportedly received one of the lowest TV ratings ever for the title game.
Still, it certainly helped the perception of the game to have some of the most respected coaches, such as Villanova’s Jay Wright, Michigan’s John Beilein and Kansas’ Bill Self, representing college hoops in the Final Four this year.
Voted in one poll last year as the cleanest coach in the sport, Beilein didn’t know how to respond when asked about that in San Antonio. It’s a distinction he believed many of his peers share, but it’s harder to know with the FBI’s investigation putting so many programs under suspicion
“I represent hundreds of Division I coaches that are doing things the right way,” Beilein said. “We do everything we can to make sure we follow the very spirit — not just the NCAA rules, the spirit of the rules of the NCAA.”
Wright, who also won the 2016 national championship in Texas, at Houston’s NRG Stadium, said he prefers warm-weather spots for the Final Four, which isn’t exactly the way to describe Minnesota in late March and early April.
“I have my few favorite spots for the Final Four, and one of my top criteria is when you can [have] warm weather and when you can walk around to your spots rather than have to drive everywhere,” Wright said. “Love the Riverwalk, love the weather, and love the fact you can walk everywhere, and everything is in close proximity.”
Getting around without driving won’t be a problem with U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, where teams will stay and most of the action surrounding the Final Four will take place next year.
Having warmer weather in the spring in Minnesota is definitely unpredictable. Just like what teams will be in the Final Four and what the temperature will be in college basketball a year from now. Time will tell.