The "elephant in the room" is an English idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed.
There are plenty of those in the sport of college basketball. It's a sport where people love to talk, chatter and even "hate" on each other privately, but rarely do those hard truths get discussed publicly in what is in many ways still a good ol' boys club.
So before the season gets started, let's take a look at seven elephants in the college hoops room ...
Kentucky has created a seismic shift in college basketball recruiting
With five first-round picks in this year's NBA draft, in addition to the past two rookies of the year, John Calipari and his staff are now in the process of adding the best -- or at least close to the best -- player at each position every year in recruiting. And there is very little any other school can do about it.
Not every top-level high school player wants to be part of an NBA factory, but to those who do, it is the destination school. While some may think this is similar to Cal's recruiting at Memphis and UMass prior to his arrival in Lexington, it is not. In truth, at Memphis he often took players from prep schools that had academic or even personal baggage. The players were talented and a tremendous program was rebuilt, but the Tigers weren't always picking from the top of the deck.
UK is different. Take freshman Brandon Knight, an outstanding student in high school who simply wants to play with the best talent and prep for the NBA. Oregon native Kyle Wiltjer, a top-50 high school talent in the class of 2011, committed to Kentucky sight unseen. One assistant told me that despite Wiltjer having never been to campus, he told his parents that other schools had great things to offer, but no one else allowed him to play with the best players in America. Kentucky was close to this level of recruiting under Rick Pitino and previously under Eddie Sutton, but the one-and-done rule, combined with the success of Cal's players in the NBA, seems to have changed the dynamic of blue-chip recruiting.
Seton Hall is more primed to win than St. John's
Here's what I believe: St. John's returning 10 seniors is overrated, while Seton Hall returning its top four scorers is underrated. Dick Vitale and others have predicted a Red Storm forming in the Big East. With Steve Lavin and his tremendous new staff taking over a once-storied program and having 10 seniors along for the initial ride, it's understandable to think of St. John's as a sleeper for Big East contention.
The problem with the premise that those same players were not collectively talented enough to overcome their shortcomings the past three seasons and it's pretty tough to have an about-face in just six months. In truth, only D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne are Big East-level players. And while some might point to Norm Roberts' coaching as the reason this program has been in a rut, the Johnnies were gutted and rebuilt with better students and decent athletes -- but players that frankly belonged at a lower level.
Seton Hall, on the other hand, was a win or two away from being in the NCAA tournament last season, despite one player being arrested for holding people at gun point a day after he was dismissed from the team, despite the obvious discontent with the coaching staff from the administration and despite the fact that the league was better last season. Those players -- such as Jeremy Hazell, Herb Pope, Jordan Theodore and Jeff Robinson -- fit well into new coach Kevin Willard's up-tempo style (which they played last season, but with poor shot selection and less attention to detail defensively). And Eniel Polynice brings tremendous experience after four years at Ole Miss. So it seems to me Seton Hall is much more likely to win this season than St. John's.
Duke has leapfrogged UNC in just one year
At this time last year, it seemed Duke had lost its mojo. Harrison Barnes had taken Coach K to the alter, only to leave before the wedding bells and run off with Roy Williams. North Carolina had beaten the Blue Devils four straight times in Cameron and had won two national titles in the Roy era. In comparison, Duke was starting to feel like Notre Dame football, more worthy of discussion than worthy of national title consideration.
Then something crazy happened. While Carolina fumbled and bumbled its way to a 5-11 record in the ACC, everything started clicking in Durham. Brian Zoubek figured it out, Coach K backed off a bit defensively and Duke used its size and newfound weapon to maul people in the paint at both ends. Rebounding and position defense became the staple of the eventual national champions.
Gone are the ghosts of VCU, LSU, West Virginia and Villanova, replaced by the image of yet another net surrounding Coach K's neck. And since that national title, Krzyzewski has retained both Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, won a world championship with Team USA and landed Austin Rivers, this year's Harrison Barnes. Now the questions are focused on Carolina, not Duke.
There is no fear factor with UCLA
Fact: In a historically bad season for the Pac-10, UCLA still managed to be bad.
Fact: UCLA lost two of its top three scorers.
Fact: Ben Howland got into deep discussions with DePaul about its coaching position.
Fact: Donny Daniels, Howland's right-hand man, left for the same position at Gonzaga.
Fact: Other Pac-10 teams do not hold UCLA's returning talent in nearly as high regard as some do nationally.
There is now a new president at UCLA who did not hire Howland and an expensive arena renovation underway, and those are two of the three things that every coach fears (the other being a new AD). There is quite a bit of unrest in Westwood. Josh Smith has lost some weight and is talented, and the Wear twins will be eligible next season, but there aren't any quick fixes for UCLA. The Bruins' lack of a quality point guard is still apparent, and unless Malcolm Lee can experience a total renaissance (25 percent from 3 and a 1.2/1 A/T ratio last season), UCLA has gone from a program with at least two pros on the floor at all times to not having anyone that scouts are drooling over. While no one doubts the coaching acumen of Howland, Pauley Pavilion is often half-full and there seems to be a real lull with this blueblood program. The entire Pac-10 knows the Bruins can be had.
Northwestern will be fine without Kevin Coble
Northwestern is still trying to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time ever and are having to deal with the loss of Kevin Coble once again. During a stellar freshman season, Coble left the team to be with his mom during her fight with breast cancer. After his return, Coble was NU's leading scorer and landed on the all-Big Ten second team during his junior season. But around this time last year, he sustained a season-ending foot injury.
He had one last season of eligibility, but he passed on the chance in order to simply be a student. Coble has a unique skill set that fits in well with the Princeton style that Bill Carmody employs, so this was seen nationally as a major blow to Northwestern's hopes.
Carmody has politely moved on, but most inside the Big Ten will tell you that Northwestern seemed kind of held back by Coble. He could score and was a good player, but his reputation as a bit of a soft defender and his lack of end-of-game aptitude should soften this blow quite a bit.
Said one Big Ten assistant: "Juice Thompson is their leader, John Shurna is their best player and Drew Crawford is going to be terrific. I think Jershon Cobb is an underrated recruit and you know what, I do not think they will miss Coble at all."
It's like Knight and day at Texas Tech
If you were in hibernation for the past 10 years and woke up to learn that Pat Knight was now a coach and Bob Knight was a TV analyst, you would at first chuckle. Then you assume that Pat, like his dad, would be tough on officials and that his teams would defend, rebound and take good shots within the confines of a well-executed offense. Well, one out of three isn't bad, I guess.
As one Big 12 head coach told me: "I love Pat, but no one goes to their games, they play no defense and they go one-on-one too much. It is almost like they are trying to do things the exact opposite of the way his dad's teams played at IU."
Last season, Texas Tech was last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, rebounding defense and 3-point field goals made. Additionally, the Red Raiders were 11th in field-goal percentage on offense and ninth on defense. In other words, Tech shoots too quick, plays fairly aggressive defensively and gets dominated on the boards. It's the opposite of what you'd think a Knight-coached team would be.
With a new AD and president -- and higher expectations with nearly everyone back -- Texas Tech needs to turn back the clock to the old man's style of defense and rebounding ... or there may not be a next season in Lubbock for Pat Knight.
Gonzaga is the Boise State of college basketball
Life is good at Gonzaga. Spend a day in Spokevegas and you will get it. The town loves its Zags, and the feeling is mutual. With a perfect new arena in terms of size and location, as well as a bigger place just down the road for big-time opponents, Gonzaga is living large. The program has a sizable budget, a tough nonconference schedule, a conference it can dominate, and television to broadcast and promote its success. Life is good.
But like Boise State football, two things are missing: an appearance on the biggest of stages (the Final Four) and success outside of Spokane by a former coach (sorry, Houston Nutt's one-year tenure at BSU doesn't count). Dan Monson never made it at Minnesota, though he is doing a nice job at Long Beach State and has not lost his incredible sense of humor. Bill Grier's star is fading after a wonderful first season at San Diego. Gonzaga seems to have a Boise-like effect on their coaches (think Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins). Their setup is so perfect, that it cannot be replicated outside of the Northwest. Ironically enough, Boise State's new basketball coach, Leon Rice, was a longtime assistant at Gonzaga.
Like Boise football, Gonzaga basketball is in sort of a weird spot. Everyone respects the Zags. They respect their coaches, their talent and their fans. But no one really thinks they could win the Big Ten, ACC or Big 12. So until they climb the ladder to a Final Four, there will always be this cute, cuddly puppy-type attention given to the Zags. Make a Butler-like leap to the biggest game of them all, though, and that cuddly feeling will no longer be so secretly comforting to opponents.
Doug Gottlieb is a college basketball analyst for ESPN and a contributor to ESPN.com. "The Doug Gottlieb Show" can be heard weekdays from 4-7 p.m. ET on ESPN Radio and ESPNRadio.com.