ATLANTA — The last note of “One Shining Moment” had yet to reach the people in the cheap seats at the Georgia Dome when college basketball started doing what it does so well — looking ahead to next season.
Louisville’s 82-76 victory over Michigan on Monday night is going to go down as one of the best men’s national championship games. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino won his second title, the other coming at hated in-state rival Kentucky in 1996, to cap an amazing day that started with him being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
But enough reminiscing.
What’s 2013-14 going to bring?
Change will be the key word, with a bunch of schools moving from one conference to another. Louisville will be among those, going from the Big East, which the Cardinals won the last two seasons, to the American Athletic Conference for one season before heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference the season after that.
It’ll be a trick to keep track of it all.
And remember when all we worried about was which players were coming back?
Well we still will, especially with Louisville and Michigan having so many quality young players.
The Wolverines were the youngest team in the NCAA tournament field of 68, and Louisville had one senior (those are players who stay in school four years) in its rotation.
Within minutes of the gut-wrenching loss in Michigan’s first national championship game in 20 years, the questions started about returning to school or applying for early entry for the NBA draft.
“Right now I’ll be back,” said Michigan freshman forward Glenn Robinson III, whose father left Purdue a year early to start a long NBA career. “We’ll talk about that whenever I need to but you know this isn’t the time to talk about that right now. It’s about all these guys in the locker room that played their hearts out tonight.”
Sophomore guard Trey Burke, The Associated Press’ national player of the year, faced the same interest.
“Honestly I’m not thinking about it right now,” he said. “This game hurts so much, that’s something that I’ll just talk over with my coaching staff, my parents really over the next couple of weeks. I’ll make a decision from there.
“Thanks for being interested. It’s not on my mind right now really.”
Just because the Cardinals had pieces of net in their hats didn’t mean they would escape the question.
“I want to encourage all my guys to put their name in the draft, just get the experience of trying out, whether they do it or not, not get an agent,” Pitino said. “Guys like Russ (Smith), Chane (Behanan), Gorgui (Dieng).
“I want them to learn the experience. Probably two of them will come back, one may go. They deserve the experience the amount they worked.”
With the dismissal of Rutgers coach Mike Rice, after videotapes of practices were released in which he shoved and threw basketballs at players, Final Four weekend was relatively free of coaching controversy.
“Coach (John) Beilein, he’s a great coach,” said Michigan freshman Spike Albrecht who had a 17-point first half against Louisville. “He works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen to get you ready for games, to prepare you, whether it’s film or scouting report, any of that.
“The reason why I respect Coach Beilein so much is he’s even a better person. That says a lot about him.”
There have already been about 30 coaching changes for next season. If the average is hit there will still be another 15 to 20 moves.
Pitino and Beilein won’t be among them. And moments after Michigan beat Syracuse, 68-year-old Orange coach Jim Boeheim testily told a reporter that he plans to be back.
“My tenure in coaching, I’ve never seen, the amount of games I coached in this tournament, I’ve never seen such brilliance from the guys on the sidelines that I coached against,” Pitino said. “Some of the guys, like Dana (Altman) from Oregon, Larry Eustachy (of Colorado State), from our first game (North Carolina) A&T (coach Cy Alexander), tonight the coach was phenomenal, phenomenal. I’ve never been around this type of coaching excellence in my coaching tenure. I’m proud to be part of this fraternity.”
Beilein was ready to talk about the future.
“We looked at the schedule. We have two weeks till exams, which means I think we have about two or four hours of practice we can even get in. We’ll probably use that,” said Beilein who was in his first Final Four. “No, I think that we’ll practice later on this week just those two hours I think is all we can go. I wouldn’t be surprised if our seniors come by and want to help the young guys.
“I doubt if we’ll be doing anything tomorrow. But maybe Wednesday or Thursday we’ll do something. We’ll all walk out there and we can’t wait to coach them again.”
And college basketball fans can’t wait to talk about them again.
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