Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

College basketball's ultimate focus on March Madness provides a calming escape from the life-and-death nature of college football — so it's a good thing that beginning Tuesday we have both to choose from.

The big picture: With Michigan State heading up the men's poll and Oregon on top of the women's, there are a slew of storylines to follow as the season kicks off.

Expand chart
Data: AP; Table: Axios Visuals
Men
  • The beginning of the end: The "one-and-done" era began in 2006 when the NBA implemented a controversial age eligibility rule. All signs point to that rule being changed back prior to the 2022 draft, restoring the legal right of 18-year-olds to declare out of high school. In other words, the sport you've come to know over the past decade-plus — the landscape you've grown so familiar with — might soon collapse into oblivion. Enjoy it while it lasts.
  • The Great Western Drought: It's been 23 years since a national champion emerged west of Lawrence, Kan. Heck, the Eastern Time Zone has produced 21 of the past 22 national titles! Will the drought continue? Gonzaga is probably the West's best bet.
  • Coaching carousel: Former NBA coaches Juwan Howard (Michigan), Jerry Stackhouse (Vanderbilt) and Fred Hoiberg (Nebraska) go back to school. Also: Mick Cronin (Cincy to UCLA), Eric Musselman (Nevada to Arkansas), Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech to Texas A&M), and many more switched jobs.
Expand chart
Data: NCAA; Table: Axios Visuals
Women
  • The year of Sabrina: Sabrina Ionescu averaged 19.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists last year, led Oregon to the Final Four and has 18 career triple-doubles — a record for both men and women. When she spurned the WNBA to return for her senior season, she instantly became the face of the sport. Next up: Becoming the first player, man or woman, to record 2,000 points, 1,000 boards and 1,000 assists in a career.
  • Pac-12 rising: With Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State all ranked in the preseason top 7 — and UCLA at No. 11 — the Pac-12 could become the first conference to ever have three No. 1 seeds. Even if they don't, this should be the most thrilling season in recent memory for a league that hasn't won a national title since 1992 (Stanford).
  • Changing of the guard: Oregon is No. 1 for the first time ever, while longtime power Tennessee isn't in the preseason Top 25 for the first time in 43 years. Meanwhile, No. 5 UConn remains a giant, but other top-tier programs have closed the gap that once existed between the Huskies and everyone else.

Go deeper: This decade's college hoops champs, ranked

Go deeper

The CIA's new license to cyberattack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2018 President Trump granted the Central Intelligence Agency expansive legal authorities to carry out covert actions in cyberspace, providing the agency with powers it has sought since the George W. Bush administration, former U.S. officials directly familiar with the matter told Yahoo News.

Why it matters: The CIA has conducted disruptive covert cyber operations against Iran and Russia since the signing of this presidential finding, said former officials.

1 hour ago - Technology

Tech hits the brakes on office reopenings

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech was the first industry to send its workers home when COVID-19 first hit the U.S., and it has been among the most cautious in bringing workers back. Even still, many companies are realizing that their reopening plans from as recently as a few weeks ago are now too optimistic.

Why it matters: Crafting reopening plans gave tech firms a chance to bolster their leadership and model the beginnings of a path back to normalcy for other office workers. Their decision to pause those plans is the latest sign that normalcy is likely to remain elusive in the U.S.

The existential threat to small business

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the game for U.S. businesses, pushing forward years-long shifts in workplaces, technology and buying habits and forcing small businesses to fight just to survive.

Why it matters: These changes are providing an almost insurmountable advantage to big companies, which are positioned to come out of the recession stronger and with greater market share than ever.