So, here we go with another round of bold predictions -- this time for the 2015-16 season.
Tom Crean won't get fired after next season: The Thomas Bryant commitment was huge for Crean, who has been on the hot seat all season. Indiana reached the tournament with a variety of young pieces this season, but its opening-round loss to Wichita State was a disappointing finish for a loyal fan base that expects the best from the storied program. And even though 2014-15 was rough for the Hoosiers, Crean will find a rhythm again in 2015-16 with Bryant, the No. 22 recruit in the 2015 class per RecruitingNation, and Yogi Ferrell (likely) leading the way. The Crean “hot seat” talk will simmer, and the Indiana coach will still be on the sideline for the Hoosiers in 2016-17.
Kansas' Big 12 title streak ends: It's over, Kansas fans. I know, I know. You hear that every season. The Jayhawks have won 11 Big 12 titles in a row. So why would that change? Well, Iowa State will return a strong nucleus. And last season's other Big 12 contenders should be competitive again, too. Bill Self will lose Kelly Oubre, and he could lose Perry Ellis, too. Of course, Kansas will be in the mix. It always is. But it won't be No. 1.
Kentucky won't win the SEC championship: On Monday, John Calipari suggested that his team could lose as many as seven players to the NBA. That's a problem for Big Blue Nation. Kentucky owned the SEC in 2014-15, but that will change in 2015-16. Kentucky will face a more turbulent season next year. Arkansas should be solid. Florida's strong recruiting class, and the growth of Billy Donovan's returnees will help the Gators compete for the SEC title again. But Calipari has another top-ranked class (Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe, etc.) coming, so it's not like Kentucky will sink after its second consecutive Final Four. But the program will face more competition in the SEC.
The first 16-vs.-1 upset in NCAA tournament history is coming: At some point, it has to happen, right? The NCAA tournament is an equal-opportunity event. The setup allows 68 teams to compete for the national championship. It's a unique situation in sports. It's also the greatest three weeks in sports, one that still lacks a legit David-vs.-Goliath upset involving a No. 1 seed losing to a No. 16 seed. That, however, will change in 2015-16, when it happens for the first time in NCAA tournament history.
Georges Niang will win the Wooden Award: Fred Hoiberg's squad exited the NCAA tournament much earlier than expected, but his team received some great news a few weeks ago, as Niang (15.3 PPG in 2014-15) announced he'll return for his senior season. His fourth year will be his best season, one full of accolades. He will become the first Wooden Award winner in school history.
Melo Trimble will lead Maryland to a Big Ten title: Melo Trimble's decision to return for his sophomore season was a smart call. Yes, he averaged 16.2 points per game and had a chance to turn pro, but he'll be a better player for coming back. He'll work on his midrange game and help the Terrapins win the Big Ten crown. Teamed with Diamond Stone and Jake Layman (possibly), Trimble will lead the program to a Big Ten championship over Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin and to the NCAA tournament. He'll also fill one of the five slots on the 2015-16 first team All-American squad.
Ben Simmons won't live up to the hype: Simmons is a great prep player. He's the No. 1 high school player in America for a reason. The 6-foot-9 forward could be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft. He has the tools to be an immediate threat at this level. Just one problem: He has a coach who doesn't have a knack for developing talent. Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey didn't make the strides that most anticipated when the two NBA prospects returned for the 2014-15 season. Simmons will have the ball in his hands a lot next season. But will Johnny Jones and his staff mold him into the superstar that he's expected to be? There are no guarantees of that.
Wojo orchestrates nation's best turnaround: Steve Wojciechowski had a rough debut after leaving his post as an assistant at Duke to coach Marquette. But Wojciechowski relied on some young pieces during his 13-19 (4-14 Big East) opening season. But Henry Ellenson anchors the ninth-ranked recruiting class in America per RecruitingNation. As a result, Wojo's fortunes will turn in 2015-16 with a strong year that ends with an NCAA tournament appearance and the nation's top season-to-season turnaround.
Zero No. 1 seeds in the 2016 Final Four: This season, the Final Four featured three top seeds, as Wisconsin, Kentucky and Duke all earned their slots on the final stage of the NCAA tournament. But the field will balance out again in 2015-16. No powerhouses like Kentucky will be around. Everything evens out in 2016, and as a result, the NCAA tournament won't feature a No. 1 seed.
Shaka Smart struggles in his first season at Texas: Toward the end of his tenure at Texas, Rick Barnes didn't have a talent problem, he had a culture problem. The chemistry was off. He couldn't get everyone on the same page. That's why he had so many highs and lows. Smart will need time to fix that. Yes, he has to snatch top recruits, but he also has to establish his system, style and culture. That won't be easy in his first season at Texas. There are a bunch of repairs that need to be made at Texas that Smart can't address in one season.