Brian Rauf answers your biggest college basketball questions of the week in a brand new College Hoops Mailbag.

Welcome into another College Hoops Mailbag, where we answer all of your biggest questions from around the college basketball world — and whatever else — from the past week!

We do get to look ahead to the Final Four in this column, but most of your questions centered around the big topics of the week including Duke’s Jalen Johnson opting out of the remainder of the season and Boston College’s decision to fire Jim Christian.

If you’re interested in the Boston College search in particular, I broke down the top candidates for the job and who is most likely to replace Christian. If you’re interested in trying to figure out which coaches will be the next to be fired, you’re in luck! Because that’s where we start this mailbag.

We post these mailbags every Wednesday throughout the course of the season, so make sure you join the conversation on Twitter at @brauf33. Thanks as always to those who contributed this week.

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Archie Miller at Indiana is the most obvious and most high-profile of the coaches currently on the hot seat, but we’ll see if the Hoosiers actually fire him. If they find their way into the NCAA Tournament, it seems like he’ll be safe.

The main power-conference coaches I’m keeping my eye on are Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski and Northwestern’s Chris Collins. Both have struggled mightily this season but also have no tangible recent success to fall back on.

South Carolina’s Frank Martin and Iowa State’s Steve Prohm are two more to monitor as well. The Gamecocks haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since their 2017 Final Four appearance and the Cyclones have fallen off a cliff in recent years under Prohm.

This was tweeted at me late in the second half of Providence’s loss to UConn on Tuesday night, so I’m sure there was some significant frustration here. But the bottom line is Cooley isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He just led the Friars to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances and would’ve had them back in the Big Dance last year before it was canceled. I know he hasn’t had the top-end success some Providence fans would like but he has made them a consistent winner, which is not a given at Providence.

OK, so, Gonzaga and Baylor are obviously there, and I shouldn’t have to explain either to you.

And I know it’s somewhat chalky, but I think Michigan and Illinois will be the other two as of right now. Michigan has been as consistent as anyone outside those top two and can win games on either end of the court. Illinois, meanwhile, has perhaps the best duo in the country in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. When the Illini are clicking, they can play with anyone, including Gonzaga and Baylor. They just don’t always play with focus and intensity, but that shouldn’t be a problem in the NCAA Tournament.

If I’m picking a dark horse (or something of a dark horse), I’m going with Florida State. They’re big, long, athletic, deep, and play excellent defense — the same reasons they’ve made long runs in the past.

No. Duke needs to win the ACC Tournament and get the conference’s auto-bid if they’re going to be in the NCAA Tournament.

Because the ACC is down, the opportunities for the kinds of wins they need to offset those bad losses aren’t be there. Normally, the ACC is full of those, but not this year. It’s auto-bid or bust for the Blue Devils.

This is referring to Duke’s Jalen Johnson’s decision to opt out of the remainder of the season. In my opinion, what makes this so polarizing is that there are two obvious thought processes.

On one hand, Johnson has been dealing with a somewhat significant foot injury and has seen his playing time decrease recently. Duke isn’t in NCAA Tournament contention so he’s protecting his draft stock and giving himself more time to get healthy.

On the other, Duke isn’t eliminated yet and, even if Johnson is hurt, he can help his teammates from the sidelines. There are also the reports that he and his “camp” have had off-court issues with the Duke program all season.

I look at it more as quitting than opting out, because he’s not leaving due to COVID concerns. Does he have valid reasons to leave? Absolutely! But there are much better ways to go about protecting yourself than straight up leaving with a handful of games left.

I hope he does! He’s certainly worthy of a third-team nod, right? If you haven’t been following the Billikens, the 6-3 guard is averaging 15.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. But, unfortunately, I think he’ll have to settle for basically all the A-10 awards with Saint Louis dropping out of the top 25 a couple of weeks ago.

Brian Rauf
Brian Rauf

Heat Check CBB Lead National Writer