In the early hours of this morning, not long after the Syracuse Orangemen claimed their first national championship, Coach Jim Boeheim took time to pause in the hotel lobby and savor the moment. The 58-year-old wore Mardi Gras beads around his neck and still sported the commemorative white T-shirt and hat that quickly had been thrust on him moments after Syracuse's 81-78 victory over Kansas in the NCAA tournament final.
After 27 years at Syracuse, Boeheim had reached the pinnacle of his profession. "Tonight, he's probably the happiest person on Earth," said Boeheim's star freshman, Carmelo Anthony.
The questions waited while the celebration continued. Soon, the teams would be on planes home. And the speculation will start.
Will Roy go? As in Kansas Coach Roy Williams, without a national title in four Final Four appearances (including two losses in the title game) and soon to be courted by North Carolina, his alma mater.
Will 'Melo go? As in Syracuse's sensational Anthony, who seems a lock to be one of the top three picks in this June's NBA draft if he enters it.
And is this what parity in college basketball brings, where a young team can mature during the year and make a late run? Syracuse is the first team since Villanova in 1985 to win the national title after being unranked in the preseason, something no other team had done since 1975.
With only one senior in this season's rotation, forward Kueth Duany, the Orangemen will not sneak up on people next season. They will be a strong threat to become the first team to successfully defend its title since Duke in 1992. However, the outlook for Syracuse hinges mightily on Anthony, the forward from Baltimore whose stock rose with each tournament game.
Anthony tired in the second half of Monday's championship game, but there was no mistaking his talent, skill and basketball intuition. If not for the inability to maintain his energy level, Anthony likely would have had the first triple-double in championship game history. He finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
Anthony's success seems to have vaulted him near the top of the NBA draft. Will he go? Or will he buck the trend of young players leaving college early for professional riches? Anthony often talks about how much he enjoys being in college, but that might not be enough to keep him from going to the NBA.
After all, there is little room for Anthony to move up the draft board. And if he returns to Syracuse, Anthony -- and his team -- figure to take their opponents' best shot every night.
"I paid a physical toll the whole tournament, the whole season," said Anthony, who played much of the championship game with a slight back injury. "Everybody was beating me up."
Boeheim said he plans to talk to Anthony about the decision, but that it will be Anthony's call. He has until May 12 to decide.
Williams, on the other hand, probably will not have as long to make up his mind. It has been a week since North Carolina forced out coach Matt Doherty and, with the spring signing period for recruits starting Monday, Athletic Director Dick Baddour is expected to want to move quickly.
Three years ago, when Baddour pursued Williams, he allowed the coach a week to mull over the decision. Williams decided to stay in Kansas. Baddour has remained quiet about his search and Williams returned home with his team today. It appears that North Carolina has waited for Kansas's season to end and now will begin its pursuit.
After Monday's game ended, Williams and Boeheim engaged in a prolonged handshake, and Boeheim offered encouragement.
"I told him the same thing Bob Knight told me in 1987: 'You'll be back someday,' " said Boeheim, referring to when Indiana beat Syracuse for the title 16 years ago, also in New Orleans.
Left unsaid was one last question: Will Williams be back with the Jayhawks or the Tar Heels?