One can’t look ahead to college basketball’s postseason without thinking that the landscape of the sport has been irrevocably altered.
The FBI investigation into college basketball took another step forward last week, not with any new charges or arrests, but in information being made public through the great reporting of Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel and Pat Forde.
Things will never be the same. The NCAA has to do something to address the problem of agents funneling money to players or their families as college coaches with full knowledge look the other way or even help facilitate the transactions.
It could ruin this season’s NCAA Tournament, although there may not be enough time for any kind of action to be taken except by the schools themselves that showed up in the report. It could ruin next season’s.
That being said, college basketball has survived other scandals, most notably point shaving in 1951 and 1961, and continued to thrive. Problems must be addressed and solved, however.
Despite all that, the postseason is here, and while I don’t want to ignore or discount all of the problems, there are still great games ahead.
Here’s a look at the tournaments that start this week:
Feb. 26, March 1, 4
At campus sites
Favorite: Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles dominated the league for most of the winter but suffered some losses near the end.
Contenders: Lipscomb, Jacksonville, North Florida. Lipscomb just beat Gulf Coast in Fort Myers.
Long shot: Kennesaw State. Old friend Al Skinner needs his team to put together three good games.
Feb. 27, March 1-2, 4
First round at campus sites
Quarterfinals, semifinals at No. 1 seed
Final at highest remaining seed
Favorite: UNC Asheville.
Contenders: Winthrop, Radford. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey was supposed to be at UMass but changed his mind. He has a great chance to be in the NCAAs.
Long shot: Liberty. The Flames didn’t threaten for the regular-season title but swept Winthrop and won at Asheville.
Prediction: UNC Asheville. The Bulldogs did drop their season finale, but they are 13-1 at home, including a decisive victory over Winthrop last Thursday.
Feb. 28-March 4
At Madison Square Garden
Favorite: Michigan State. The Spartans have a great record but I can’t let go of the flaws. I’m not fully committed.
Contenders: Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan. The Boilers were the best team in the league for a long time.
Long shot: Penn State. The Nits have some great wins this season; just need to string together a few more.
Feb. 28, March 3, 6
At campus sites
Favorite: Wagner. The Seahawks were undefeated at home.
Contenders: Saint Francis of Pennsylvania, Mount St. Mary’s. The Frankies were the preseason favorite and have played better in the second half of the season.
Long shot: Robert Morris. The Colonials are better than their record.
Prediction: Mount St. Mary’s. Back-to-back titles for coach Jamion Christian, who rebuilt this team on the fly after losing five transfers.
OHIO VALLEY CONFERENCE
Feb. 28, March 1-3
At Evansville, Ind.
Favorite: Murray State. The Racers rallied past Belmont in the final week to get the top seed. They’re led by guard Jonathan Stark, a Tulane transfer who’s averaging 21.4 ppg.
Contenders: Belmont, Austin Peay, Tennessee State. Belmont beat Murray in the only meeting between the two.
Long shot: Tennessee Tech. The Techsters have fallen short in big games but have shown some flashes.
Feb. 27, March 1, 4, 7
At campus sites
Favorite: Bucknell. The Bison have dominated all season.
Contenders: Colgate, Navy, Lehigh. Colgate played Bucknell to a 1-point loss in Lewisburg, Pa.
Long shot: Boston University. Cedric Hankerson will have to carry the Terriers to a series of road wins.
COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
At North Charleston, S.C.
Favorite: Charleston. The Charlies finished second to Northeastern but they’ve beaten the Huskies twice, and although they aren’t playing in their home arena, they’re obviously really close to home.
Contenders: Northeastern, Hofstra. The Huskies have played above their heads all season, a credit to the man on the bench, Bill Coen.
Long shot: Delaware. The Blue Hens need a big three days from streaky shooter Ryan Daly.
Prediction: Northeastern. The Huskies beat Charleston in four overtimes.
Favorite: Northern Kentucky. The Norse (why confuse everyone? just be the Vikings) are exceptionally well-coached by John Brannen and have a great all-around player in Drew McDonald, who if he were 3 inches taller would be playing in the Big Ten.
Contenders: Wright State, Illinois Chicago. Wright had some unexpected success based on balanced scoring, and they are led by a fascinating player, freshman center Loudon Love, who at 6-9, 275, could be an offensive tackle and has a great basketball IQ.
Long shot: Oakland. The Grizzlies underachieved this season but have enough talent to still win this tournament.
Prediction: Northern Kentucky.
At Albany, N.Y.
Favorite: Rider. The Broncs (bad nickname) finished the season strongly, winning 11 of their last 12. The top seed traditionally has problems in this tournament.
Contenders: Canisius, Niagara, Iona. Canisius is an anointed Sully’s Court favorite, especially with star forward Jermaine Crumpton, the consummate mid-major player. Niagara has a knack for winning close games, and Iona can be dangerous because of its relentless offense.
Long shot: Siena. It’s been a down year for another Sully’s Court favorite, coach Jimmy Patsos, but his team is playing on its home court.
At St. Louis
Favorite: Loyola of Chicago. The Ramblers won their first regular-season conference crown since 1984-85, when they were in the the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Nothing is guaranteed here; very wide open.
Contenders: Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Drake. Southern Illinois, once a top-notch program, has been revived by fiery coach Barry Hinson.
Long shot: Northern Iowa. It’s been an off-year for this perennial contender, but the Panthers are still well-coached by Ben Jacobson. Plus they’ve beaten North Carolina State, SMU, and UNLV.
At Asheville, N.C.
Favorite: East Tennessee. Buccaneers coach Steve Forbes probably will be heading to a bigger job after this season, especially if his team wins this tournament.
Contenders: North Carolina Greensboro, Furman, Wofford. Greensboro surged to the top of the league in the final week, beating East Tennessee. Wofford has one of the great shooters in the country in Fletcher Magee.
Long shot: The Citadel.
Prediction: East Tennessee.
At Sioux Falls, S.D.
Favorite: South Dakota State. One of the best players you haven’t heard of is Mike Daum, who’s seventh in the country in scoring at 23.7 ppg.
Contender: South Dakota. The Coyotes hold a victory over South Dakota State.
Long shot: Denver. The Pioneers surged at the end of the season.
Prediction: South Dakota State.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE
At Las Vegas
Favorite: Gonzaga. The Zags didn’t have any landmark wins this season and don’t really have any stars, but they still dominated the league with a high-scoring, balanced offense.
Contenders: Saint Mary’s, BYU. I’m on record as doubting Saint Mary’s, but it does have talent.
Long shot: San Diego. The Toreros win by forcing teams to play a half-court game.
Prediction: Gonzaga.Joe Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan