Midnight Madness is still 182 days away, but it never hurts to look ahead to the next college basketball season. The Louisville Cardinals cut down the nets in Atlanta this year and will be strong contenders to win it all again in 2014, but before we go picking out any favorites, there are still some questions whose answers could dramatically alter the college basketball landscape.
1. Where will Andrew Wiggins end up?
The nation's No. 1 recruit is still undecided, but Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina are all in the mix. Kentucky is the popular destination for the nation's top-ranked recruits; the Wildcats have already locked up five of the nation's top 11 prospects ranked by ESPN.com. John Calipari could surely find a scholarship for Wiggins, a Canadian-born wing, but it might be tough for him to stand out among so much talent. Kansas and North Carolina would both give him the chance to shine while playing for a contender alongside talented teammates.
2. How will Kentucky's team of freshman stars fit together?
John Calipari doesn't rebuild, he reloads. And this year, he did that by possibly assembling the greatest recruiting class in college basketball history. Julius Randle (No. 3 according to ESPN), Andrew Harrison (No. 5), James Young (No. 6), Marcus Lee (No. 18) are all headed to Lexington. Throw in Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, who both decided to stay in school, and Kentucky has almost too much talent to manage. Each freshman is used to dominating his high school and AAU teams, but will have to learn to share the spotlight. Competition in practice will be intense with playing time on the line, but let's be honest: having too many options is a great problem to deal with.(No. 7), Dakari Johnson (No. 11) and
3. What will we see from the first season of the AAC?
The old Big East, arguably the greatest basketball conference ever assembled, is no more. Next year, the so-called Catholic 7, along with Butler, Creighton and Xavier will make up the new Big East, while the leftovers are relegated to the basketball purgatory known as the American Athletic Conference. UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida make up the "permanent" members from the old Big East with Louisville and Rutgers joining for next year only. Those schools will be joined by Temple, Memphis, Houston and a few more Conference USA schools to make up a geographically diverse and hopefully competitive league. Louisville, UConn and Memphis will all likely be ranked in the preseason, and you can never count out the Bearcats or the Owls. With only 10 members in line for next year, you can expect to see a double round-robin in conference play. The conference tournament location and format is still to be determined, so we'll have to see how it all turns out.
4. Will North Carolina's trio of stars return?
With Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame set to join the ACC next year, the league's balance of power is up for grabs. Whether or not James Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock return to Chapel Hill will play a key role in determining if the Tar Heels are major contenders. Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Nate Britt are all highly-rated recruits that will join next year, but that upperclassman experience that McAdoo, Hairston and Bullock would provide is invaluable. Oh, and those three were North Carolina's leading scorers this year for a young team that made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Right now, coach Roy Williams expects them all to be back, and McAdoo seems to be the only one ready to contribute at the next level.
5. How will the Steve Alford era begin at UCLA?
After an early NCAA Tournament exit, Ben Howland is out at UCLA and former New Mexico coach Steve Alford is in. Alford's track record speaks for itself with a 463-235 career mark and back-to-back Mountain West titles with New Mexico. But he also hasn't taken a team to the Sweet 16 since 1999 and will be expected to lead the Bruins back to the top. UCLA was a pretty young team this year, so they will have a ton of returning talent, plus a couple of four-star recruits in Zach LaVine and Allerick Freeman. Alford will have the tools. It's just a question of whether he can make it work.