The age of the one-and-done has completely changed the college basketball world.
Powerhouse programs previously had to worry about recruiting a few players every year mostly for depth because it wasn’t likely that the star player(s) would leave until after their junior or senior campaigns. Now, those same programs are having to reload every year due to the mass exodus to the NBA draft by underclassmen.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari is the master of the one-and-done turnover. Since taking over the Wildcats in 2009, he has had 19 players drafted with 15 of them being first-round picks. He is able to recruit the biggest names in high school basketball, coach them for a year, and then is able to send them off to the NBA draft.
I can’t imagine how hard it is to mold a group of superstar teenagers into playing together as team. In the 2011-2012 season, Anthony Davis and the Kentucky Wildcats dominated the field and won the title with only two losses the entire season. The following season, Kentucky failed to make the NCAA tournament and lost in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris.
There seems to be only one inexperienced team to win the NCAA championship and that was the 2011-2012 Kentucky team. Going back all the way to the 2007-2008 Kansas Jayhawks, all but two championship teams have had at least seven juniors or seniors on the roster. Those Jayhawks and the 2008-2009 UNC Tarheels had ten or more upperclassmen. Yes, having the most talent will win you games, but veteran leadership seems to be the key to making it through March Madness and a winning championship. Not one player from those veteran-led championship teams was selected in the Top-10 of the NBA draft, proving that talent doesn’t always win championships. Not to say that those teams weren’t talented, but talent was not what led them to cutting down the nets.
Doug McDermott, Jimmer Fredette, and JJ Redick became popular college basketball players due to their incredible scoring abilities and their chase for the record books. All of them set various school and NCAA records and were four-year players. I have so much respect for these guys for giving up millions of dollars to play for the pride of their schools and taking another shot at the title.
As much as it pains me to see so much talent leave for the NBA after just one year, it’s hard to blame the athletes for leaving. Seven out of the last eight No. 1 overall picks in the draft have been freshmen. The one exception was Blake Griffin, who left college after his sophomore year.
I would love to have seen players like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving, etc. stay in college for at least three years. The coaching of Izzo, Self, Williams, Krzyzewski and others would allow players to develop their game and become more NBA ready. Instead, they are all drafted based off their upside and potential, which could be a disaster. I guess my opinion could be swayed if I was being offered millions of dollars, but as a fan, I love watching players grow and teams create incredible chemistry that takes them far in March.
There are always rumors of the NCAA changing the NBA age eligibility. Until they do, we are stuck in the era of the one-and-done.
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Rex Arbogast, AP Images.