The sometimes difficult to grasp reality of college basketball is how finite its conclusion is. After months of endless games, scores and story lines, it all whittles down to the Final Four before abruptly ending.
There really is no preparation, no easing into the off-season. One day it's a distant thought, the next it is omnipresent. The news suddenly slows to a trickle, consisting of signed letters of intent and draft declarations. It's interesting to be sure, a foreshadowing of the future perhaps, only to suddenly twist and serve once more.
This sometimes unnerving roller coaster that is the off-season has reached a breaking point for two mid-major powers as of yesterday. San Diego State on the heels of the greatest season in program history must now deal with the reality that Kawhi Leonard, their star, will not be wearing an Aztecs uniform again. Yes, the final act of signing an agent has yet to be completed, but this is merely a formality, the sophomore will not be back. Xavier on the other hand will of course wait anxiously while star Tu Holloway mulls over his decision to keep his name in the draft or return for another season, but the undersized scoring machine is all but assured of being passed over should he remain in the pool. Holloway will be back and the Musketeers will be among the Atlantic-10 elite again.
Those two highlight our Mashups for the day, but there's plenty more after the jump.
Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Officially, Kawhi Leonard's college career is not over yet. But for all practical purposes, it is. The San Diego State sophomore forward declared for the June 23 NBA draft Thursday afternoon. Underclassmen can withdraw by May 8 and retain their collegiate eligibility if they don't hire an agent, and Leonard hasn't. Not yet. Leonard announced his intention to do that, probably by the next week. SDSU coach Steve Fisher met with Leonard and his family several times in recent weeks and gave his blessing to turn pro and turn pro now - not waiting for the May 8 deadline to pull his name back. "I went through all the facts I had from probable positions he could be drafted to the impact of a lockout, and everything in between," Fisher said, "and without reservation everyone feels as if Kawhi will be a first-round draft pick, which means guaranteed money for at least two years. With the guaranteed money that he's going to have, you can see reasons why he would go pro."
Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "Tu Holloway has entered his name in the NBA draft but has not hired an agent, ensuring the preservation of his college eligibility if he withdraws from consideration by the May 8 deadline. The Xavier point guard alluded to the June 23 draft at the men's basketball banquet Wednesday night but said he thought he would return to school for his senior season. Thursday, XU announced his intention to test the NBA draft waters. "I want to explore my options and gather as much information as I can to see what opportunities might exist for me," Holloway said in a release. "I've always had a dream to play in the NBA, and I want to see what the opportunities are and make the most well-informed decision about my future." This season Holloway led Xavier in scoring (19.7 points per game), assists (5.4) and free-throw accuracy (87 percent). He finished with two triple-doubles and was one rebound shy of a third. Holloway garnered Associated Press Third Team All-American honors and was voted Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year."
Chuck King of FAUOwlAccess.com: "Miami Dade College center Julien Sargent has chosen to play his college basketball at Florida Atlantic. "He is fully committed and will sign within the week," said Matt Eisele, Sargent's coach at Miami-Dade. Sargent, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound post player, is a defensive specialist who will add bulk to FAU's inside game. He averaged 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds this past season, though coaches said that average was closer to a double-double during the final 10 games of the season. Siena was among the multiple mid-major schools that recruited Sargent. Staying in Florida was a motivating factor for Sargent's choice of FAU. He played his high school basketball in Clearwater. "I think he wanted to try to stay within the state," Eisele said. "I think coach (Matt) McCall did a fantastic job recruiting, and (Sargent) was very impressed with the way they built the program." Sargent is the second player to commit to FAU for its 2011 recruiting class. On Wednesday Omari Grier, most recently of Maine Central Institute, pledged to take his talents to Boca Raton. Like Sargent, Grier expects to make it official by signing his Letter of Intent in the coming days."
Via Mercer Athletic Department Press Release: "Mercer University men's basketball head coach Bob Hoffman has announced the signing of Travis Smith to a National Letter of Intent to play for the Bears beginning in 2011-12. Smith is a junior college transfer who will have two years of eligibility remaining upon joining MU's program. "Travis is the type of player who has the ability to make all of those around him better on the offensive and defensive end by the intensity he displays on every possession," Hoffman said. "He will be a tremendous compliment to the young men we already have in the program." Smith - a 6-3, 190-lb. junior guard - joins the Bears by way of Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Fla., last season. Playing under GCCC head coach Jay Powell, Smith started all 30 games for the Commodores. He averaged a team-leading 14.5 points per game. He also booked 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, earning first team All-Panhandle Conference honors."
Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com: "Asked for the umpteenth time during the NCAA tournament if he would entertain other job offers after his repeat Cinderella run ended, Brad Stevens patiently tried to explain why he probably wouldn't. "Here's the point," the Butler coach said from the dais in Houston, "I think people always look at their job, and you hear people say this all the time, that the grass is greener somewhere else. Well, I think we recognize the grass is very green at Butler." And the media, ever cynical after years of being told a coach was staying only to watch him cash in on the greener grasses elsewhere, was forced to accept the startling fact that maybe this guy was the one -- the one who wasn't perpetually stretching for the next brass ring. Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart coached in this year's Final Four, an event programs like Missouri, Tennessee and Miami have never participated in. But it turns out the media was right: Stevens wasn't the one. He's one of three. Stevens, Shaka Smart and Chris Mooney, the season's "It Boys" whose names were on the lips of hiring athletic directors everywhere in the country, did the strangest thing in the past two weeks. They did nothing. Given the chance to follow one of the very tenets of college coaching -- thou shalt move on at the first opportunity -- the trio defied the norm, opting instead to stay right where they were."
Joe Biddle of The Tennessean: "If you can coach a mid-major basketball team to the Sweet Sixteen, odds are you can move to a major conference team and pad your bank account. But something is going on in the coaching profession. Big schools have pursued Butler Coach Brad Stevens ever since the Bulldogs took Duke to the final buzzer in last year's Final Four. Stevens isn't interested. Shaka Smart took Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four this year. Georgia Tech was interested. So was N.C. State. No dice. Smart got an eight-year extension. His salary rose from $350,000 to $1.2 million a year, not a bad gig in the Colonial Athletic Association. Chris Mooney's Richmond team made it to the Sweet Sixteen and offers were there. But the former Princeton player signed a new contract that runs through 2020-21. Harvard's Tommy Amaker recently turned thumbs down when Miami (Fla.) tried to hire him. Belmont's Rick Byrd noticed successful mid-major coaches are no longer jumping at the first carrot dangled in front of them. "I have been surprised. It seems a few years ago, every mid-major coach was taking advantage of their Sweet Sixteen (season). It seemed to be the magic spot - if you took your mid-major team to the Sweet Sixteen,'' Byrd said Wednesday."
Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated has a very interesting look back at the National Championship game to answer the question: did Butler just shoot horribly or did Connecticut play outstanding defense? The results might surprise you.