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Lay Low for a Few Days and the Entire Basketball Landscape Changes

Where to begin? The easiest place to start is Kentucky, who just had five players elect to leave early for the pros – junior Patrick Patterson and the four freshmen Wall, Bledsoe, Cousins and Orton. UNC has gone through this twice in recent years, but both times followed national championships and consisted mostly of upperclassmen. This is the equivalent of the 2009 championship team leaving early in 2007, after losing to Georgetown. Calipari has always been on an extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to one-and-dones, having lost Dajuan Walker, Shawne Williams, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans after one year apiece at Memphis. (For comparison, while with the Tigers he only had five upperclassmen go pro, four seniors and a junior.) Kentucky fans don't seem worried, but it's going to increase the pressure to perform next year, and Calipari already has a history of running programs that get victories vacated. The temptation to wander into gray areas is only going to rise.

That one-and-done spectrum, as I picture it in my head at least, puts Calipari on one end and Krzyzewski on the other, with Roy Williams in the middle although leaning towards the Duke end of things. Williams recruits players who could potentially leave after a year and occasionally do, but seems to shoot for a level of character that doesn't automatically default to leaving early. Or perhaps he just offers enough in coaching and experience that they don't want to. On the other hand, the last player I can think of who Krzyzewski recruited that could have potentially been a one-and-done was Elton Brand; the default tenure as I understand it in Durham is three years, with encouraged summer enrollment before your freshman year to make getting a degree in that time feasible. Those who have left prior to that have mostly appeared to come as a shock. Recently that's been McRoberts and Randolph, but I remember Krzyzewski being quite annoyed at the departures of Avery and Maggette in the 1999 class that marked a change in Duke's recruiting and playing philosophy. Me, I'm happy that UNC is in the middle, naturally.

More interesting than the players however, is the coaching movements. Wake Forest fired Dino Gaudio, saying:

"This was not a decision based upon a one-year performance. We can put up with a disappointment. We have disappointments all the time. But there is a pattern here that needed to be addressed, a 3-year pattern that needed to be addressed."

That three-year pattern was a 61-33 record, 27-21 in the ACC and two tournament appearances. Compare that to 59-39 (21-27) for Skip Prosser's last three years, or 58-39 (22-26) for Dave Odom's last three. Recruiting seemed to be going well, even with losing sophomore Al-Farouq Aminu, but apparently the postseason is what the athletic director had a problem with. My question is, who exactly is going to be lining up to take this job? The last three people to hold it have left abruptly, died prematurely, and been fired, respectively. Two out of three NCAA tournament appearances and keeping a team together after a tragic loss isn't considered success. All while playing for a small school who has to compete with Duke and Carolina year after year. This looks to be the N.C. State hiring fiasco all over again. The fans expectations are a little lower, but the only two guys on that list I could see considering it are Gregg Marshall and Brad Brownell. This is supposed to be a saavy move? And all you coaches clamoring for the NCAA tournament to expand to 96 to help your job security? This is your future. Tournament appearance can't save your job now let alone once they've been watered down to participation awards.

Then there was Oliver Purnell leaving Clemson for Depaul, the latest in a string of coaches to abandon higher profile jobs (Odom at Wake, Smith at Kentucky, Sendek at State) for rebuilding efforts where they'll be appreciated. The thing is, unlike Sendek and Smith, Purnell was loved by the fanbase. Nor do I think it was simply a matter of Clemson being "a football school" who can't retain a basketbal coach. That's a crock explanation when it's applied to football coaches at UNC, and it's equally poor here. Maybe there were a lot of problems with the administration, or maybe a man can only live in rural South Carolina for so long. Either way, this is going to be a pretty big setback for the Tigers, as Purnell was a good coach who did yeoman's job of making that program respectable. 

The end result is a pretty depleted ACC for next season. And don't believe the hype about a Duke repeat. Even if Singler stays, and that's doubtful, this was a thin team playing an unconventional style that only worked because of the specific players involved. (Don't believe me? A key offensive move was a 7'1" center ignoring a putback in favor of a three-pointer.) Take away their primary perimeter scorer (Scheyer) and the most hyperspecific post player in all of college basketball (Zoubek, who wasn't a part of the offense outside of rebounding) and you're going to have to come up with a new offense, not just snap the Plumlees and some freshmen into the empty spaces. Duke doesn't make it out of the Sweet Sixteen next year.

So where does that leave UNC? That primarily depends on who they have on the floor. Through most of the season until the NIT, the rumors were flying fast and furious. The most outrageous one neatly encapsulated all of them, actually, and said Davis would go pro, Drew and McDonald would transfer, and Will Graves would be encouraged to graduate. Taking them in reverse, Graves being asked to leave is just ridiculous. He's already been suspended from the team once; if Williams didn't want him he doesn't have to play him. Graves was often the lone perimeter threat, and he's with the team through the remainder of his eligibility. The McDonald transfer rumors are remnants from the early season, when he wasn't getting any playing time and fans assumed he never would. Instead, he played his way into the lineup and only improved as the season went on. Davis, of course, is the big mystery, no matter what they may be saying on Twitter.

And then there's Larry Drew. I was out drinking with one of the UCLA bloggers recently, and the first words out of his mouth were asking about him transferring. And it's a fair question, since of anyone Carolina fans have been the hardest on him as the team floundered. Some it was for the sin of not being Ty Lawson, some for turnovers that were more the fault of the guy on the other end of the pass, and some was probably deserved. But he played through the NIT with more heart than I've seen from almost everyone else on the team, won games single-handedly, and generally made the statement that the critics were wrong. Will he leave? I have no idea, but I'd rather him stay.