The buildup to the next season of college basketball starts after the national championship game each year.
March is mad in college basketball, but the month after the title game raises and ruins programs. That's the month of transfers, coaching changes, new recruits in the late signing period, and more transfers. Everything can shift as April turns to May.
We're still waiting for final NBA draft decisions from key players -- the prospects without agents must withdraw by May 24 if they intend to stay in school -- but the past month offered our best preview of 2017-18 as programs began to add and subtract in the critical month.
So which teams improved and which teams are in turmoil?
Teams that thrived
John Calipari is the buddy you no longer invite on group trips to Las Vegas because you hate to come back broke while he gloats about another big weekend at the blackjack table. Last month, the Wildcats, for once in Calipari's tenure, had approached "rebuilding year" status. Yes, it's a relative term for the powerhouse. But after De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo departed for the NBA, Hamidou Diallo entered the draft without hiring an agent, and multiple veterans graduated, Kentucky's future seemed to rely on the maturation of another group of outstanding freshmen. Yet Calipari's best teams have thrived with a balance of youthful star power and experienced contributors. The Wildcats lack the former.
And then, five-star talent Kevin Knox picked Kentucky on Saturday, over Duke, North Carolina, Florida State and Missouri. A surprise? No. A reminder? Yes. Calipari rolled out of bed, constructed another top-rated recruiting class with five McDonald's All-Americans, and enhanced a squad that will likely enter 2017-18 as the top-ranked team in America. Oh, one more note: Mohamed Bamba, the 7-footer ranked third in the 2017 class by ESPN.com, might pick the Wildcats, too.
Pitt grad transfer Cameron Johnson (11.9 PPG, 42 percent from the 3-point line) visited Kentucky last month. He'd add range and experience.
Just when it appeared Calipari would endure perhaps his most difficult reset, he made a few moves in April (and early May with Knox) to temper any concern of a decline. The roster is not set yet, but the Wildcats have another intriguing beast in Lexington.
So how did Kentucky navigate another uncertain, disruptive April? With the same ease the program has enjoyed since Calipari arrived in 2009. This young team has as much talent as any program in the country.
Michigan State Spartans
This past season, Miles Bridges averaged 16.9 PPG and 8.3 RPG. The 6-foot-7 forward also made 39 percent of his 3-pointers and 55 percent of his shots inside the arc. Those money-making numbers would lead to a one-and-done experience for most freshmen. Last month, however, Bridges told the crowd gathered in East Lansing that he will return. He said, "I got some unfinished business here." With five-star standout Jaren Jackson in the mix and a young Nick Ward-backed nucleus returning, Tom Izzo's program looks top-10 good right now.
Andy Enfield's squad skated through April and exited as a national title contender. Bennie Boatwright entered the NBA draft but decided to return to school. Chimezie Metu and Elijah Stewart never tested the waters. Jordan McLaughlin and De'Anthony Melton also came back to help their teammates chase the Pac-12 crown. That means USC returns its top five scorers from an NCAA tournament squad. Plus, Shaqquan Aaron, who has not hired an agent, could withdraw from the draft. It gets better for the Trojans. Derryck Thornton, the former Duke point guard who couldn't find his mojo in Durham, is eligible for the 2017-18 season. And five-star recruit Charles O'Bannon Jr., a 6-foot-6 small forward, will also join the program. This is the most decorated squad on the West Coast.
Devonte' Graham, who will team with now-eligible Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (No. 10 recruit in the 2015 class per ESPN.com), returns for his senior season, which could include Big 12 Player of the Year honors. He'll lead a squad that lost Wooden Award winner Frank Mason III, likely NBA lottery pick Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg Jr. (transferred) and veteran Landen Lucas. But the squad will add Billy Preston, a five-star power forward. And if Svi Mykhailiuk, who has not signed with an agent, withdraws from the NBA draft, Kansas will enter 2017-18 with the nation's top backcourt. Oh, Bill Self also scored top marks on the transfer market, luring Charlie Moore from Cal and Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson from Memphis. The Jayhawks lost in the Elite Eight, but they sailed through April and into May, improving their roster for the upcoming season and beyond.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Last month, Joel Berry withdrew from the NBA draft only weeks after leading North Carolina to Roy Williams' third national championship. The NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player deserves a spot on a short list of preseason Wooden Award candidates. Theo Pinson is back, too. Five-star wing Jalek Felton, Luke Maye and a fleet of young contributors who will earn more playing time next season should ensure that a UNC squad that lost Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks will stay in the ACC and national title races.
John Beilein's reputation as the nation's most underrated talent developer persists as Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson weigh their futures at the 2017 NBA draft combine this week. Both entered the draft without representation, so they can return to Ann Arbor if they choose. But there's also a chance that NBA execs' growing interest in both players will continue and the duo will leave Chicago with first-round guarantees. It's difficult to assess the Wolverines until we know where Wilson and Wagner stand after this week.
Shaka Smart's tumultuous second season (11-22) was filled with problems. Tevin Mack, his leading scorer, left the program in February after his second suspension for violation of team rules. Freshman Jarrett Allen, a projected first-round pick, entered the NBA draft and signed with an agent. But what will Andrew Jones (11.4 PPG, 78 percent from the free throw line) do about the draft? Smart's 2017 recruiting class is ranked eighth by ESPN.com. If Jones returns, the Longhorns would have a proven talent in a critical season for Smart. But a strong showing at the combine this week could change his and UT's futures.
Most players in Caleb Swanigan's position would turn pro. He entered the draft after averaging 18.5 PPG and 12.5 RPG. He also made 45 percent of his 3-pointers. But he isn't a first-round lock. And he hasn't hired an agent, although his father, reputable agent Roosevelt Barnes, could represent him. It would make sense if Swanigan stayed in the draft. But if he comes back, he will elevate Purdue into the national title conversation and claim every preseason national Player of the Year award.
Teams trying to find their footing
Last month, Tubby Smith's first season at Memphis ended in a tailspin, as brothers Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson both transferred during a mass exodus of players from Memphis. In all, six players left the school, including the top three scorers from last season. Athletic director Tom Bowen released a statement that stated he's "extremely optimistic about the future of our program." OK. A postseason statement midway through a nosedive after one year is never a good sign for any coach. Smith knows the game. And he knows he has to win in 2017-18. He just lost the bulk of his team. And junior college prospects such as Kareem Brewton will not quiet an agitated fan base that isn't shy about voicing its frustration. Smith's first April in Memphis could be his last.
In April, Dana Altman led his squad to the Final Four. By the end of the month, however, he'd lost the key pieces from that run. Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey all entered the NBA draft and signed with agents. Then, Casey Benson and Kavell Bigby-Williams decided to transfer. And Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis both graduated. New Mexico transfer Elijah Brown arrives as a grad transfer. That helps. Payton Pritchard could blossom into a star, and incoming star Troy Brown Jr. is ranked 14th in the 2017 class per ESPN.com. Altman still has talent. Just nothing comparable to the group that reached the Final Four after a 78-year drought.
California Golden Bears
Cuonzo Martin's departure helped Wyking Jones get his first head-coaching job. The former Louisville and Cal assistant continues to make his pitch to recruits in the post-Martin era. But he's starting from scratch. Jabari Bird, the team's leading scorer last season, graduated. Ivan Rabb entered the NBA draft and signed with an agent. And freshman Charlie Moore transferred to Kansas. The Bears lost their top three scorers from last season. But Jones signed multiple four-star prospects. Still, he'll need time to fully reboot in Berkeley.