LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: RJ Davis #4 of the North Carolina Tar Heels speaks with the media during practice day for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Crypto.com Arena on March 27, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The runaway winner for ACC Player of the Year, Davis averaged 21.2 points and 3.5 assists per game last season while shooting 39.8% from 3. He was North Carolina’s first Associated Press All-American since 2017.

Davis’ freshman year came during the 2020-21 season played amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with players competing that year getting an additional year of eligibility. He has 2,088 career points to rank fifth on the school’s career record list. If he matches last season’s output (784 points), he would tie Tyler Hansbrough for the ACC career scoring record (2,872). I’m surprised from the standpoint of the Lakers being one of the most storied

franchises in American sports, led by one of the greatest players to ever play basketball. Had he made his decision shortly after meeting with Lakers executives and ownership, it would have been stunning to see him turn that down. But once he returned to the East Coast and the decision-making progress started to drag out until Sunday and then to Monday, it became less surprising to see him stay at UConn. It’s a lot harder to say “I’m leaving”

when you have to go into the practice facility — with jerseys of UConn legends on the walls and national championship trophies in the lobby — and tell it to the team you built to chase a third consecutive title. I would have been more surprised Friday or Saturday. But I’m less surprised now that I know he was offered a six-year, $70 million deal. Yes, it’s a substantial offer, but I’m less surprised given the Lakers didn’t put a massive, eight-

figure deal on the table. Still, it was an opportunity to coach one of the storied franchises in sports, a team that might be led by future Hall of Famers Davis and James next season. I’m also not sure how much higher Hurley can go at UConn after all of his success. But I think he can be authentic at UConn in ways he could not be in the NBA. Still, it’s the Lakers. Few have rejected an offer from a member of the Buss family, so it’s surprising. It

makes them real. Karaban withdrew from the NBA and returned to UConn for a shot at a run that has not been achieved since John Wooden’s UCLA squads in the 1960s and 1970s. Only a handful of teams have won back-to-back crowns, but UConn has a real shot. It appears, however, that Kansas has the best team in the country entering the season. And Alabama is also equipped for another Final Four run. Houston, North Carolina, Duke,

Iowa State and others are valid contenders. But Karaban, along with McNeeley, a top-10 recruit, and Mahaney, a Saint Mary’s transfer, could lead this program to a seventh national title in 26 years and extend an unprecedented run in recent men’s college basketball history.

A lot of folks have compared this to Krzyzewski’s decision to return to Duke after the Lakers offered him a massive deal 20 years ago, but Coach K came back to a different collegiate landscape. Every team in the country now has to rebuild each season because of the proliferation of the transfer portal. And the unknowns ahead with revenue sharing could also complicate that ambition. Hurley, right now, can walk into the home of any recruit in the country and tell him that he rejected both Kentucky and the Lakers in the same offseason.

But the revenue-sharing models of the future will favor the richest schools in the richest leagues. UConn has been a candidate for potential expansion efforts by power conferences in the past, and a move by the school in the years ahead could have implications for men’s basketball and the rest of the athletic department. If the school stays in the Big East, the Huskies could face disadvantages without the TV money those schools enjoy.

Hurley can continue to build winners off pedigree, legacy and reputation. The next decade could prove, however, that those elements mean less than they ever have, which could complicate Hurley’s reign.