[caption id="attachment_290321" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Incredibly, it was just four days ago that the decision was made to cancel the NCAA Tournament, even if it in fact feels like a lifetime. Yet it also feels like just now, 96 hours later is the first time that we're really coming to grips with the reality that there will be no March Madness. Obviously there are much more pressing issues at play in the world right now, but it remains a bummer that there will be no Big Dance, in a season where it appeared to be as wide-open as ever.
However, while the cancellation of the tournament it also means that college basketball coaches have a loooooooot of time on their hands... and woah buddy are they looking for a way to pass it. You can't believe how many guys picked up their phones this weekend, just looking for something to do, and someone to talk to.
Well thankfully, I'm here (anyone who listens to my podcast knows that I talk a lot - some might say too much). And the one thing that I realized in talking to a number of coaches around the industry was just how much this Coronavirus has impacted the entire sport as a whole. It isn't just the NCAA Tournament, but everything from the coaching carousel to the NBA Draft process, and transfer and high school recruiting.
So after many phone conversations this weekend, I decided to write it all down.
Here are all the ways college basketball has been, and will continue to be, impacted by the Coronavirus.
The Coaching Carousel
Make no mistake: I'm not saying that coaches won't get fired, and new ones won't get hired (see: Pitino, Rick). A few jobs opened before the outbreak hit (Loyola Marymount, Air Force, Wyoming) and a few others have somewhat surprisingly opened since (most notably Samford on Monday). But there is a real question over just how many jobs will open, especially the power conference schools (Texas, Wake Forest and Boston College) that create the frenzy in the market.
The reasons why are all relatively straightforward, and basically all Corona related.
The first is very simply this: To fire a head coach you have to, you know, eventually go hire a replacement. And it's really hard to go hire a replacement if you can't travel to meet with any potential candidates. Not to mention, for the schools like Texas or Wake Forest who are hoping to poach a coach from another job, it's fair to wonder how many guys who already have good jobs are willing to leave them in such uncertain times. Remember, when coaches switch jobs they have to go through all the non-sense you do as well, ranging from selling a house, to getting their kids settled in schools and things like that. Well, with no idea when things will return to normal, who really wants to take on that burden? Some guys will (especially those currently unemployed and in the media, or assistants looking to move up the ladder). But if you already have a good job, is it really worth taking on all that extra stuff?
Beyond that, there are the players. Remember that virtually all players, at all schools aren't on campus right now. Does a coach really want to leave a job for a new one when he might not be able to meet with his new players for months? Worse, does he want to go to a job where he might not be able to upgrade his roster for months? Remember, on-campus recruiting isn't allowed until at least April 15th (if not longer) making it really difficult to navigate the transfer or high school markets right now. From an administrator's perspective, does he or she really want to fire a coach when it's hard to get in contact with the players, and with the reality that it could be weeks - if not months - before you hire a new coach? You think other coaches won't be reaching out to your players (or their intermediaries) trying to convince them to transfer with so much uncertainty?
Then there is one variable as well, that one savvy assistant coach mentioned to me: The boosters. The boosters are the lifeblood of the coaching carousel, as the group that pays the big bills to get rid of bad coaches. Well, with the stock market down and so much economic uncertainty, you think those same boosters will be willing to pony up the millions of dollars it will take to buy these coaches out of their contracts? The answer is probably a "yes" for some. But probably not as many as a few weeks ago.
In the end, unless your AD really
hates your coach, or is really
positive he or she already knows who the next guy will be, don't expect to see too much movement on the coaching carousel.
[caption id="attachment_259910" align="aligncenter" width="2912"] (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images North America)
The NBA Draft Process
There really is no other way to put it: More than any other element of college basketball, this Coronavirus really will shake up how this draft process looks going forward. To be blunt, with so much uncertainty it's really unfair to even speculate how it could look in a few weeks or months.
Look, the bottom line is that the best players are of course going to declare, the Anthony Edwards's and Obi Toppin's of the world. If we're being perfectly honest, many of the best players have already been aligned with agents for months (if not years) and the plan to go pro was in motion long before the Coronavirus hit.
At the same time, even for those who will declare, what exactly are they declaring for? They can't travel to the traditional places that players use to workout pre-draft (Los Angeles, Miami etc.) and even if they can get there, the whole process is screwed up. Like everything else there is a rhythm to the draft process - you declare, spend a few weeks on campus finishing up the semester, start workouts, go to the combine, start traveling to workout for teams individually, then get drafted. Well, that rhythm
has been totally thrown off by all this Coronavirus stuff. If the NBA doesn't even know if or when the season will start up again, how could they possibly know what the heck they are going to do about the draft? Assuming they want to wait until the season is done (if there is a season), we could legit be talking about an NBA Draft that doesn't happen until late July, early August, or honestly who knows?
Weirdly, I actually think this could be a bit of a boon for college basketball next year.
For starters, there are always a few players who use the actual NCAA Tournament to enhance their draft stock (think, Villanova's Donte DiVencenzio, who went from "not even considered draftable" to "first round pick" after the Wildcats' title run two years ago) and it goes without saying that those guys simply won't have the chance to do that this year.
Beyond that however, with just so much uncertainty about the whole process - when it will begin, what it will look like etc., it seems that there is a reasonable chance that some kids who may have been on the fence will just say "screw it" come back, and declare when the process is a bit more certain.
The Transfer Market
Now a couple days removed from the regular season, it doesn't appear as though the transfer market has slowed down one bit. Kids are still entering the portal at an insane rate, but like the NBA Draft, the question has to be asked: What exactly are they entering?
What I mean by that is very simply this: The NCAA has limited any on-campus recruiting until at least April 15th, meaning that players can't visit campuses for at least a month (and the way things are going it feels like it may be longer than that). So while schools can still reach out to kids (or their intermediaries), everything has to be done by phone. Meaning that other than having your phone blown up for the next few weeks, entering the portal really serves no purpose.
With that however, I do think we're in for a wild, unprecedented off-season in the portal. The same number of kids will enter, and once on-campus recruiting restrictions are limited, it's going to be a free-for-all to get kids to campus, and get them committed.
It will also be interesting to see how the (potential) delay of the NBA Draft process plays into this, since so many transfers at the high-major level are recruited to fill a void from a player who has declared and stayed in the draft. The deadline to remain in the draft is usually around late May, meaning that the transfer process usually wraps up in earnest by the first week in June.
Well, if the draft process plays out into June or July, can you imagine what that will mean for the transfer portal, and just general roster construction in college basketball for 2020-2021? I mean we might literally have coaches trying to plug holes on their rosters well into late July or early August.
The transfer market is always the "Wild, wild, West" and it's about to get wilder.
[caption id="attachment_265342" align="aligncenter" width="670"]
(Photo circa. 2017 via Twitter.com/@ncalpremierball)[/caption]
Recruiting for High School Seniors
Look, we all know that by now virtually all of the best high school basketball players in the country have already committed to colleges. And even the ones who haven't committed have basically taken all their visits. For the few elite players remaining - the Jalen Green's, Greg Brown's, Ziaire Williams's and Josh Christopher's - there really is nothing to learn about these schools that they don't already know.
So in theory, this Coronavirus shouldn't really impact those kids all that much.
Well, except for one thing: Let's never forget that the elite players are no longer committing to colleges because of a love for "Old State U" but instead, for the spot that puts them in the best position to get to the NBA as quickly as possible. Well again, how will they really know what "the best position is" until we figure out which players are leaving for the NBA Draft?
While some players like Greg Brown have already come out and said a decision is "coming soon"
don't be surprised if some other elite high school players wait until late in the spring to make their announcements.
Recruiting for high school underclassmen
Finally, let's talk about the kids that are still just freshmen, sophomores and juniors in high school. While again, there are bigger issues at play with this Corona epidemic than sports, this whole situation couldn't have come at a worse possible time for them.
The bottom-line is that the April recruiting period is the time where hundreds of players - literally hundreds - begin to establish themselves, and their college recruitments. For the unknown players it's a chance to create a name for yourself in hopes that by the summer periods in July you're a known commodity, and for the better players it's a chance to catch the eye of the best schools and increase your offer list.
Well unfortunately, the April recruiting periods have been cancelled, meaning that for many players, the first chance to be seen by coaches this spring no longer exists. It also could delay the normal run of unofficial visits to campus in the spring (mostly May) and in general, just slow down the whole recruiting process for the class of 2021.
Like everything else in college basketball, this is a major blow to these kids.
And the impact of it will be felt in the months, if not years, ahead.