Kevin Ollie Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsKevin Ollie appeals to several NBA GMs as a future coach in the league.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It wasn’t all that long ago that the Program that Calhoun Built appeared to be in a precarious position. There was the Hall of Fame coach abruptly stepping down because of health issues, the NCAA smacking UConn with a postseason ban because of subpar academics and the Huskies heading into a new league that many didn't even realize existed.

“I had no idea what conference they were in at the start of the season,” said former UConn point guard Khalid El-Amin.

Shabazz Napier stuck around despite the postseason ban, and new coach Kevin Ollie quickly won over new UConn athletic director Warde Manuel, receiving a five-year, $7 million deal just months into his tenure as Calhoun’s replacement.

“I wasn’t sure right away,” Manuel admitted of Ollie shortly after UConn dispatched Kentucky 60-54 on Monday night to capture its fourth national title in the past 16 years. “But I am now.”

It’s not as though UConn is completely in the clear, though. Napier is gone, and he was the kingpin in the rapid resurgence of UConn basketball. Don’t be surprised if DeAndre Daniels tries his hand with the NBA draft, either. Louisville leaves the American Athletic Conference this season; Cincinnati and Memphis will each take dips with key departures; and Ollie’s long-term future in Storrs could be in question.

The NBA is coming. Manuel knows it, Calhoun knows it and the NBA community knows it.

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John CalipariThomas J. Russo/USA TODAY SportsKentucky has reached the Final Four three times under John Calipari.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With a coach as successful and high-profile as John Calipari, the rumor mill seldom stops churning. And regardless of the credibility of the rumor, the specter that Cal could someday turn away from the Kentucky Wildcats for another opportunity is enough to keep 'Cats fans on edge.

The latest rumor began on Twitter courtesy of former Kentucky guard Rex Chapman just an hour or so prior to the national championship contest, suggesting a departure to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Calipari denied it to ESPN's Jeannine Edwards after his team lost the national title game to Connecticut. That should give some comfort to Kentucky fans who came close to hanging another championship banner in Rupp Arena. But so long as Calipari stands on the sideline, the Wildcats will almost always have strong odds to add more hardware to an already well-stocked trophy case. In truth, Calipari's departure is the only thing that can slow down Big Blue Nation.

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Mike BreyScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesMike Brey's Fighting Irish squad underachieved in 2013-14, but should be much better next season.
Kentucky will be strong again next season. So will Arizona and Wisconsin. However, there are other teams that were relevant this season that won't be a year from now -- teams that are heading for a big fall in the 2014-15 season. Conversely, a number of teams that struggled mightily in 2013-14 will rise to prominence next season. Here are the six biggest risers and fallers for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

I missed on this one badly prior to last season, but I'm not giving up on coach Mike Brey and the Irish despite the fact that they finished just 15-17, won just six league games, and they'll lose Eric Atkins, Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight. Jerian Grant will almost certainly return from his suspension, Pat Connaughton is back for his senior season, and Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson should be better equipped to step into more critical roles.

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Bo RyanHarry How/Getty ImagesBo Ryan and the Badgers should be Big Ten favorites in 2014-15.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The scene in the Wisconsin locker room was as somber as any I can recall in more than a decade. Josh Gasser embraced teammate Evan Anderson with both players crying uncontrollably. Frank Kaminsky was unable to raise his head as he sat before his locker in disbelief of what had just transpired.

The Badgers had just watched Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison crush their national championship dreams with his latest dagger, a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left over Gasser that sent Wisconsin home.

Devastating. Crushing. Brutal. Pick your adjective.

This Wisconsin team was just 5.7 seconds away from playing seventh-seeded UConn Monday night with a chance to win the national title.

"It sucks," Kaminsky said, over and over. But the sentiment is more permanent for some of the Badgers than others.

Senior Ben Brust is gone, but he’s the only player of note who won’t be back with Wisconsin next season. Gasser has another season. So does Traevon Jackson.

Both Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, who could each flirt with a decision to leave early for the NBA, told ESPN they will return to the Badgers next season. More often that not, I don’t hold kids to their NBA decisions just moments after an emotional loss, such as the one on Saturday night, but I believe Dekker and Kaminsky.

"I’m coming back," Dekker said.

"I’m not going anywhere," Kaminsky added.

If that’s the case, the Badgers have a chance to return to the Final Four.

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Chris WalkerKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsChris Walker's draft decision will drastically impact Florida's 2015 title chances.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- No one saw this coming. Not the loss in the national semifinal against UConn, but this Florida Gators team reeling off 30 consecutive victories and entering the NCAA tournament as the odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in North Texas.

Sure, this was a group that had a fighter’s chance entering the season, but usually you need a bona fide star in order to rise to No. 1 and stay there for a significant portion of the season. Billy Donovan lacked one of those. Sure, Scottie Wilbekin had a tremendous season, but he will be fortunate to be drafted to the NBA come June. The Gators' most talented player is 6-foot-10 Chris Walker, who wasn’t even cleared to play until January -- and he logged just two minutes against the Huskies.

This was Donovan’s chance to enhance his legacy. He won back-to-back titles with Joakim Noah and Al Horford in 2006 and 2007, but to have done it again with this team would put him in a different stratosphere in terms of elite coaches.

Now, Donovan might have to wait awhile longer to get another opportunity like this one.

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Marcus SmartAP Photo/Sue OgrockiEron Harris will most likely land somewhere in the Midwest.
Transfers are the fad, the new-age tool to recruit. I compile the transfer list each offseason, and have done it for the past seven or eight years. It went from a few phone calls the first year or two to the point where I get hounded all season for an early edition of the list.

There are traditional transfers, those who leave and sit out a season at their next destination. There are those who head closer to home and gain immediately eligibility due to an ailing family member. And then there are the fifth-year transfers, players who can also play right away if they have graduated and have a year of eligibility remaining.

Everyone is looking for the next DeAndre Kane, who was a difference-maker for Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State Cyclones after spending his first four seasons at Marshall. UConn has earned a spot in the Final Four with the help of George Washington transfer Lasan Kromah. Arizona had traditional transfer T.J. McConnell running the Wildcats all the way to the Elite Eight, and much of Dayton’s postseason success was triggered by Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert.

We’ve already got in excess of 100 transfers since January, which adds to the 60 or so players who were on our midseason transfer list.

But who is most likely to have an outsized impact for their new program? Below are the top dozen guys who have already decided to play elsewhere next season.

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Aaron HarrisonBob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsAaron Harrison's tournament showing has impressed some NBA evaluators.
INDIANAPOLIS -- They came in with all the hype, the inevitability that they would both become the next one-and-dones in the factory that John Calipari created shortly after his 2009 arrival in Kentucky.

However, Andrew and Aaron Harrison struggled. Aaron was a big, strong shooting guard who had difficulty consistently making shots. His brother, Andrew, looked completely lost and out of sync while trying to run the point.

“Vastly overrated” were the words thrown around. Not just by me, but also by the majority of the NBA executives who watched them play throughout the season.

Averages athletes. Mediocre shooters. Subpar defenders. Poor body language. They took an absolute beating.

Most of the NBA folks didn’t even mention either Harrison as a potential first-round pick in December, January and even February, and the Twins were well-aware they were sliding down the draft boards.

“You play bad and people say you’re not good enough,” Andrew said after Sunday's Elite Eight win over Michigan that catapulted the Wildcats to the Final Four. “It’s motivation.”

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Tom IzzoZach Bolinger/Icon SMITom Izzo and the Spartans face an offseason of uncertainty.
This was the year for Tom Izzo and Michigan State. Izzo knew it. Just about everyone in East Lansing was cognizant.

This was a veteran team with talent, built to cut down the nets in Dallas. When Adreian Payne decided to return to school, the Spartans became one of the favorites to win it all this season. I’ve said all year that it’s tough to go against Izzo in March with comparable talent and experience. But the Spartans -- who dealt with a myriad of injuries all season long -- came up short against Shabazz Napier and UConn in the Elite Eight.

What’s next? Well, next season will be a major rebuilding year in East Lansing. That’s if Izzo’s even around to coach next year’s group.

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Nick Johnson Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsNick Johnson had 16 points in the loss to Wisconsin. Was it his final game as a Wildcat?
No one knows what might have happened if Arizona's Brandon Ashley didn't go down with a season-ending foot injury back on Feb. 1. Remember, the Wildcats were rolling, unbeaten and No. 1 in the land.

The Wildcats, who were the front-runners to cut down the nets in Texas, became just another Final Four contender. Ashley’s departure from the lineup took away a key offensive threat, and also eliminated what was the most formidable and powerful front line in the nation.

Arizona missed out on an opportunity, but Sean Miller and the Wildcats may have another next season. However, there are questions that need to be answered.

Aaron Gordon is a virtual lock to leave school after just one season in Tucson. He’ll be a top-10 pick in the NBA draft, and his toughness and defensive tenacity will be sorely missed and nearly impossible to replace.

Ashley told me shortly after the injury that he is almost certain to return to school. He was thinking long and hard about the NBA route prior to going down for the season, but he’s a second-rounder and should be back in the lineup next season.

The keys are Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and even Kaleb Tarczewski.

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End of an era in Louisville 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
Dwayne EvansKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesSophomore forward Montrezl Harrell is expected to depart for the NBA.

It began with an improbable Final Four appearance, ended with a devastating loss to their bitter rival in the Sweet 16 – and had a national championship sandwiched in-between.

This is the end of an era for the Louisville Cardinals.

Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng departed after last season’s magical campaign that culminated in snipping the nets in Atlanta. Now Russ Smith and Luke Hancock are leaving, and there’s a high probability that Montrezl Harrell will bolt for the NBA.

Rick Pitino is a Hall of Famer, a tremendous game coach who will still have enough talent to compete on most nights.

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Kyle AndersonNelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsKyle Anderson is likely heading to the NBA next season.

(Editor's Note: This post has been updated following Zach LaVine's reported departure for the NBA draft.)

In the wake of the UCLA Bruins' loss to the Florida Gators, Steve Alford's program was faced with a daunting reality. Kyle Anderson is gone to the NBA, as is Zach LaVine -- and there’s a chance that Alford could lose Jordan Adams as well.

But here's the most important takeaway: UCLA basketball will be fine next season and beyond.

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Gregg MarshallHarry How/Getty ImagesIn Wichita State, Gregg Marshall has a program on the rise.
ST. LOUIS -- Wichita State came into the season without cache, despite the Shockers' surprising Final Four berth a year ago. High-major programs didn’t want to face Gregg Marshall’s program since it didn’t have the same clout as, say, a Gonzaga or Memphis. A loss against the Shockers just didn’t hold the same weight.

Until now.

I poked holes at Wichita’s schedule all season, debating whether this team was deserving of a No. 1 seed. There were just a few quality wins in the non-league slate, and the Missouri Valley was as bad as it has been in more than a decade. I wanted to see Marshall play two-for-ones (two times at an opponent’s venue and one in Wichita State), but he felt as though the program deserved the respect to play a straight home-and-home series.

But the Shockers gained my respect. It doesn’t matter whether they were worthy of a top seed. These guys are legit, and they won’t be pulling a disappearing act from the national stage. But now -- like Gonzaga and Memphis have done -- the Shockers need to find a way to stay in the spotlight.

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Andrew Wiggins Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesIn Stanford, Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks ran into an opponent they could not handle.
ST. LOUIS -- Joel Embiid was sitting on the bench, unable to play due to his nagging back injury. Andrew Wiggins was invisible for much of the game, and fellow freshman Wayne Selden Jr. was also unable to make a mark.

Kansas is done after falling 60-57 to Stanford on Sunday. So, too, it appears, is the brief collegiate career of Wiggins.

Wiggins showed flashes during his time in Lawrence. There was the scintillating 41-point performance against West Virginia in the regular-season finale, and his 29-point showing in a home win against Iowa State on Jan. 29.

But there were also the times when Wiggins did not impose his will on the game, when he disappeared all too often, and Sunday’s game was one of those occasions. With the Jayhawks' season on the line, and the potential to get Embiid back for the Sweet 16, Wiggins struggled. He finished with just four points on a grand total of six shot attempts.

“I blame myself for the loss,” Wiggins said after the game.

That’s a stand-up move, but not entirely accurate. Could Wiggins have done more? Absolutely, but he needed help, also.

Wiggins is likely off to the NBA, and will be taken somewhere in the top three picks of the draft, most likely first or second. He’s an exceptional talent, but wasn’t quite prepared for the pressure of having to lead this Kansas group.

If Wiggins had a top-notch point guard and a leader -- let’s say a player like Tyshawn Taylor -- he would have been fine. However, Naadir Tharpe was unable to consistently do the job, Frank Mason is best served as a backup at KU, and Bill Self had to go with Conner Frankamp with the season on the line.

That’s desperate.

Kansas lacked more than just a point guard and a star with a consistent killer instinct, though.

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Kadeem ColebyAP Photo/Charlie RiedelKadeem Coleby and the undefeated Shockers have yet to face a team of Kentucky's ilk.
Kentucky freshman James Young couldn’t do it. The Wildcats' talented wing, a part of what some touted as the greatest recruiting class of all time entering the season, admitted that he was unable to name a single player on Wichita State’s roster.

Not a one.

That’s because the Shockers are the antithesis of John Calipari’s latest batch of youngsters.

“They’re experienced,” was all Young could say to describe Sunday afternoon’s round of 32 opponent.

But that’s not all that’s different about the two groups. They are also just about everything UK is not, at least for much of this season. The Shockers are a bunch of unheralded, lunch-pail guys who play hard and play with a sense of togetherness, purpose and toughness.

That's exemplified by players like former walk-on Ron Baker and his backcourt mate, lightly recruited point guard Fred VanVleet, along with Kadeem Coleby, who transferred from Louisiana-Lafayette, and Tekele Cotton, who picked the Shockers over Murray State, Morehead State and Tennessee State.

The Cats are a bunch of highly rated individuals who haven’t lived up to the hype, and rarely show the same level of intensity and passion that Gregg Marshall’s Shockers consistently display.

This is the Game of the Tourney thus far.

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Jim BoeheimRich Barnes/Getty ImagesWhat does the future hold for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse?
It was a little more than one month ago that the Syracuse Orange were 25-0 and rolling through the ACC. Orange fans were sticking their chests out and beaming with the sizzling start that had some even speculating about a perfect regular season. Then came the home loss to Boston College, followed by a road setback at Cameron against Duke -- the one in which Jim Boeheim went bananas at the end of the game after a controversial call. There was a loss at Virginia, another home setback to Georgia Tech, an early exit to NC State in the ACC tourney, and finally the loss to Dayton on Saturday in the NCAA tourney.

It just shows the importance of scheduling. Boeheim is known for a soft non-conference schedule and his unwillingness to leave the state of New York. But in this case, it was a back-loaded ACC slate that helped all of us overrate the Orange. Syracuse knocked off a single NCAA tournament team away from the Carrier Dome in the non-conference slate: Baylor. The Orange beat Villanova, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke and NC State, but all of those came in the friendly confines of the Dome. The lone quality true road win against a tourney team came on Feb. 12 at Pittsburgh.

The Orange had talent and had racked up 25 consecutive victories, but a lack of depth and the schedule caught up with them.

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