This offseason could be one of unprecedented change for college basketball. It has been budding for a while now, really. The game’s popularity -- not to mention its watchability -- during the regular season has been kind of stuck in neutral. There will be more prodding, questioning and analyzing the game before the 2015-16 season tips off than there has been in a long time, all to make sure a better product surfaces come November when the games are real.
Here are top storylines to watch both on and off the court:
Pick up the pace: How many times this season did we hear coaches, commentators, players, fans and now even NBA owners (shoutout to Mark Cuban) complain about the product on the floor? The NIT experimented with a 30 second clock this postseason and compared to the regular season, it did create more possessions per game. Eliminating some timeouts is also being floated as a way to speed up the game. The eyes of college basketball will be focused on the rules committee when it meets May 13-15.
Upon further review: The NCAA tournament began and ended with controversial calls. The SMU Mustangs lost to UCLA because of a bad goaltending call that was not reviewable. The Wisconsin Badgers should have been awarded a late possession in their national championship game loss to the Duke Blue Devils -- and the officials consulted the monitor on that play, but got it wrong. Both instances have prompted an examination of how monitor reviews are used.
Offensive freedom: Officials may get some help in the form of lengthening of the restricted area under the basket from 3 feet to 4 feet. The NIT also experimented with that change in the postseason and it led to fewer block/charge calls. There could be a return to tighter calls to free up offensive players. That includes reverting to how block/charges were emphasized and called during the 2013-14 season when the defender had to establish position earlier. It's all being considered in an attempt to increase scoring.
Number of black head coaches in decline: During the 2005-06 basketball season, 25 percent of Division I head basketball coaches were African-American. That number has been decreasing ever since. This past season 11 of 25 coaches who were fired or otherwise vacated their position were African-American. The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development was formed to start a new dialogue and help stop the backslide.
Reverse pipeline: Chris Mullin (St. John’s Red Storm), Avery Johnson (Alabama Crimson Tide), Eric Musselman (Nevada Wolf Pack) and Mark Price (Charlotte 49ers) all have experience coaching or in front-office positions in the NBA. This coming season they’ll give it the old college try as head coaches as they return to campus. Fred Hoiberg's success with the Iowa State Cyclones may have served as the inspiration. But Musselman is the only one who already has made the transition, serving as an assistant coach at Arizona State and LSU the past three seasons before taking the job at Nevada. The first year for the group could be an education in humility.
Hook 'em & Havoc: Coach Shaka Smart declined a lot of offers to leave the VCU Rams after their 2011 Final Four run until the Texas Longhorns proved too enticing. Will his system of "Havoc" work in Austin? One thing's for sure, the pressure to win will be on from the start as the Longhorns look to build a new basketball arena.
Reload or rebuild? The Kentucky Wildcats officially lost seven players who declared for the NBA draft. We’ve become accustomed to coach John Calipari quickly fielding another contender though and this year shouldn’t be any different. Duke, on the other hand, normally doesn’t have the turnover it potentially faces if Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow follow Jahlil Okafor’s lead and turn pro. But the expectations at both schools will still remain high.
ACC juggernaut: Duke claimed the league’s first title since the Blue Devils won it in 2010 and with five league members advancing to the Sweet 16, the ACC has its swagger back. The conference should very well keep it next season as both the Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels are projected to be among the top three ranked teams.
Terps takeover? A year ago, many in College Park, Maryland, wondered if coach Mark Turgeon was sitting on a crumbling foundation after a number of player transfers. Now the Maryland Terrapins look like the favorite in just their second season in the Big Ten.
Can anyone beat Kansas? Seriously. The Kansas Jayhawks have won 11 straight Big 12 titles and will return enough to be a contender to make it a cool dozen. But the Oklahoma Sooners and Iowa State should have a big say in stopping arguably the nation’s most impressive winning streak.