Here are some major decisions from the past few weeks that will have a significant impact on the 2019-20 men's college basketball season:
1. Texas Tech extends Chris Beard through 2024-25:
In a monster move, the Red Raiders signed their coach to a new six-year deal through 2024-25. There is no question that Beard was the hottest coaching commodity this offseason and could have landed in a number of spots. He also will continue to be coveted. But with this deal, Texas Tech makes clear that it isn't planning on leaving its newfound spot in the landscape of college basketball. The school firmly believes — rightly so — that Beard can keep his team in contention with Kansas near the top of the Big 12 on a regular basis. Do that, and the Red Raiders will be a national program. Beard’s deal will scare off some future suitors, and though it won’t mean he will stay forever in Lubbock, the contract is strong enough to possibly build the type of stability and credibility the Red Raiders need to stay relevant.
2. Excitement continues due to Nebraska hiring Fred Hoiberg
I will be the first to admit I didn’t think Hoiberg would come to Nebraska — despite the ties to the state, school and city — or that the Huskers would be able to land him. I was wrong. He signed a seven-year deal. And as he said in our Skype session this week, the fit was just right. He said 15,000 season tickets are sold out. Recruits are now coming. The staff is stellar with the return of the popular former head coach Doc Sadler and another former head coach in Bobby Lutz. Climbing up in the Big Ten won't easy for a program that isn’t a regular in the conference's upper half, but Hoiberg has the chops, the experience, and the staff to get it done. No one has ever doubted the fan support. The facilities are now top-notch.
3. Illinois gets NCAA bid-type Big Ten schedule with MSU, Michigan, Maryland, Iowa, Purdue all twice
The Illini have a potential NCAA tournament team. The return of Ayo Dosunmu, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Trent Frazier and Andres Feliz should push the Illini into the upper half of the Big Ten. But scheduling means everything in a league where only play some teams twice and others once. And the Illini will have an overflow of high-quality, power-rating games within the league. The schedule is daunting, but that’s exactly what the Illini want and need to ensure a bid.
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4. Penn State’s Mike Watkins withdraws from draft
Watkins should be a double-double player next season. He could do at Penn State what Jordan Murphy did for Minnesota. If Lamar Stevens returns too, the Nittany Lions will have one of the toughest tandems in the Big Ten.
5. Utah Valley hired Mark Madsen
I love, love this hire. Madsen, the former Stanford star and Lakers player and coach, is now back in college basketball. He replaces Mark Pope, who took over for Dave Rose at BYU. Madsen brings tremendous energy to everything he does. It should only be a matter of time before he rises even higher in the profession.
6. Valparaiso transfer big man Derrik Smits chooses Butler
The Bulldogs desperately needed another big after Joey Brunk decided to leave for Indiana. Smits can immediately help be a factor in the Big East, where having a major threat inside can create separation.
7. UC Irvine grad transfer Max Hazzard chooses Arizona
Hazzard led the Anteaters to an upset over Kansas State in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament. He wanted to go up a level, so Max joined his brother Jacob in the desert. His arrival at Arizona, along with one of the top recruiting classes in the country, immediately elevates the Wildcats for next season in their quest to get back into the NCAA tournament.
8. AAC-SEC Challenge announced
The American needs to continue to grow the brand of a league that should consistently get three or four bids in the NCAA tournament. Locking in with the SEC in a mini-challenge (four teams that aren’t in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge will participate with four in the AAC) is critical. The matchups are still unknown, as are the teams involved on the American side (the SEC four will be announced once the SEC-Big 12 challenge is set). But any games with the SEC is a plus for the AAC.
9. DePaul picks up Kansas transfer Charlie Moore
DePaul needed another scoring guard and Moore was in search of a second fresh start. Moore averaged a dozen points for Cal as a freshman. He transferred to Kansas, but he couldn’t get on the floor in any consistent manner, let alone make shots at a high rate, averaging just under three points per game. Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and at times Lagerald Vick were all options ahead of Moore. But Moore didn’t forget how to play the game. He still has the skills to be effective. The hope is that he will find his stroke again in his hometown of Chicago.
10. TCU coach Jamie Dixon hires away LSU assistant Tony Benford
Benford was the interim coach at LSU while Will Wade was suspended. He handled himself exceptionally well during a tense, tough time and gives Dixon an experienced coach. But more importantly, Benford has known Texas recruiting as well as anyone, having played at Texas Tech and recruited the state for decades. In a Big 12 conference that's even more competitive thanks to the rise of Texas Tech, Dixon needed a top assistant with strong ties in the state.
11. DII and DIII title games will also be in Atlanta in 2020
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This also occurred in 2013 and was a success. Having all three levels of college basketball in one spot over the same weekend brings together the entire sport. This should create a frenzied atmosphere in Atlanta with eight fan bases (one for each Final Four team and two each for DII and DIII) converging on downtown. Not every Final Four city can accommodate this much activity, but it should be done when it’s plausible.