Chatter From the Fourth Estate: NCAA 68

Posted by rtmsf on April 23rd, 2010

If you’re like us today, you’re probably feeling a little bit like you do when you realize that the blue lights in your rear view mirror weren’t intended for you even though you were about +15 over the speed limit.  As the friendly patrolman roars by on your left, that adrenaline-fueled fear of getting a ticket (or worse) melts into a somewhat euphoric state of well-being as you realize that you’ve dodged a terribly unpleasant situation.  We all spent the last two months lying hogtied on the tracks watching the 96-team locomotive steaming toward us, and the surprising (shocking?) news that the NCAA will instead move to only a 68-team scenario feels like Clint Eastwood or Rambo or freakin’ Michael Cera stepped in at the last moment to save the day.  Perspective is everything.

NCAA HQ Can Cancel That Security Detail Now

Yet imagine for a moment if we’d never heard about the 96-team debacle from the inner circles of the NCAA.  Without that particularly bilious perspective to abhor, excoriate, lambaste and dread for months leading up to today, the news that the NCAA was expanding to 68 teams would probably have been met with complete and utter derision across the board.  Four play-in games, pfshaw!  Yet when considered against the alternative, today’s news was met with guarded optimism and in some cases downright celebration.  Was this a brilliant strategem of managing expectations pulled off on us, the unsuspecting public, by the cunning NCAA (probably not), or simply a realization that the organization was treading ever so closely to killing off the goose that laid the golden egg (more likely)?  Either way, the decision is a reasonable and defensible one that we can all live with, so let’s get to the business of reviewing it now and analyzing it to death in coming weeks.

Here’s what some of the best in the business have to say…

Luke Winn, CNNSI – More importantly, it represents a major victory for college basketball. The NCAA did the right thing. While I’d prefer a pure, 64-team format without play-in games, 68 teams is immensely more palatable than 96. The sanctity of the NCAA tournament has been preserved for the time being, and that’s something to celebrate, even if Jim Isch, the NCAA’s interim president, admitted that 68 wasn’t guaranteed to be the format for the entire length of the new TV deal. […]  Public reaction had to have played at least some role in them settling on 68 rather than 96. The public’s response to the 96 idea was overwhelmingly negative, and I wonder if Isch, Shaheen, CBS and Turner didn’t want to be regarded as the villains who ruined college sports’ crown jewel.  […]  Eventually, we’ll get back to worrying about how Isch left the expansion door open by saying two words: “for now.” But for now, at least, we can rejoice. The NCAA tournament has been saved.

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News – Turns out, they were listening. Nobody came out and said the public’s revulsion at the prospect of a 96-team field was a factor in settling on 68, but if you’d loved the idea like chocolate-chip cookies, we’d be talking about a far different NCAA Tournament next March.  It wasn’t at the start of negotiations that someone with CBS/Turner suggested a 68-team tournament would be workable with the dollar amounts being discussed. That came after the general public declared 96 teams to be a product no more appealing than the XFL.  […]  How should a 68-team tournament work?  That’s fairly obvious. Although it might be most fair to have the teams at the bottom of the field play for the right to be No. 16 seeds, it’s hard to imagine anyone at CBS or Turner Sports, the networks that just agreed to pay roughly $740 million annually to televise the tournament, being thrilled about showing four games that this year might have involved such matchups as Robert Morris-Winthrop or Morgan State-East Tennessee State.  The solution would be to have the last eightat-large teams play for the right to be seeded into the middle of the field—as No. 12s or No. 11s. This season, that might have meant Virginia Tech-Minnesota and Illinois-Florida.  People would watch those games. CBS and Turner saved us from the dread of a 96-team tournament. They deserve something for their money.

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That’s Debatable: Whither the 1-and-Done Rule?

Posted by rtmsf on November 17th, 2009


Recently Buzz Bissinger wrote an op-ed in the NYT about the 1-and-Done Rule in college basketball.  He feels that he has been duped by David Stern and the NBA for selling him on warm and fuzzies like player maturity and higher education when, in reality, the NBA just wanted the free marketing and player development that college hoops provides.  John Gasaway at Basketball Prospectus responded to his piece by saying that the NBA age-limit rule was always about the gift-wrapped marketing of college stars like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose for the NBA, and that’s all it was ever about.  Well, duh, but it brings us to this week’s topic, as the debate rages on among the hoops cognoscenti.   

This week’s topic: What should be done, if anything, about the 1-and-Done Rule?

come on guys

nvr1983 – editor/contributor, RTC.

I am torn on this issue. As much as I love seeing the 1-and-Dones in a college uniform, I do miss the continuity of college basketball from the early 1990s. It used to be fun to watch players develop from talented but inconsistent freshmen into steady seniors. Players always left early, but it was usually after their junior year and even then it was typically only great NBA prospects, not borderline NBA guys who are hoping they can dupe some NBA team into giving them a $2-3 million contract, which based on what I’ve seen from NBA players in the news lately should last them all of a year.  From a political and legal perspective I think the rule is a travesty as there is not a good reason for a player to have to spend one year in college particularly at an age that they can vote (sometimes making horrible decisions) and go to war (and potentially die). Still it is the NBA’s product so they can decide what to do, but I think they should either go all-in (4 years of college) or have a laissez-faire approach (let the NBA teams decide who they want).

john stevens – editor/contributor, RTC.

The statistics in the Bissinger piece show that the One Year Rule that keeps high school prep stars from directly entering the NBA draft has had no real positive effects for the kids themselves, but it does help the colleges (a year of service by star players) and the NBA (a year of free marketing of these possible eventual stars).  If we really want to make rules in the kids’ best interests, I think you have to either: 1) let them play straight out of high school if they want to take that risk, or 2) if they enroll in college, have them stay a minimum of three years.  Staying three years will help develop “mid-level” players that need the time in college to improve, and it will result in more college degrees for these kids, since some players do fulfill all the requirements for graduation within three years.  If unfinished, players who complete the three years would then find it easier to finish degrees after or even during their professional careers, or realize how much they love the college experience and stay for the fourth year in order to win a title, finish a degree, or both.

zach hayes – editor/contributor, RTC.

For the college game? It’s tremendous. For the kids involved? I’d be more than a little bit ticked off if I were in their shoes. But since I’m not, and a college basketball fan through and through, I love the rule where every high school player must spend a year in the college ranks. Why wouldn’t I? We never would have been able to see Kevin Durant work his magic at Texas, or Michael Beasley shatter Kansas State and Big 12 records, or Kevin Love lead UCLA to another Final Four. What fan of our game isn’t excited to see John Wall or Derrick Favors toe the hardwood this season in the intense atmosphere of college basketball? While I truly feel that high school prospects should be able to enter the NBA Draft without going to school (it’s fair, admit it), let’s just say I’m not complaining. The college game thrives when the ultra-hyped high school seniors shine on the collegiate stage, even for one year. And any rule that helps college basketball I’m all in for. The riches of the NBA can wait.

rtmsf – editor/contributor, RTC.

After KG opened the preps-to-pros floodgates in 1995, every borderline prospect with a broken jumper and a lack of sense of the incredible skill level required for the NBA were coming out.  But even beyond the HS stars, it began infecting the college game to the point where bench players on not very good teams thought they too were ready for the L.  A free market dictates that a person has a right-to-work, but the NBA has never been a truly free market (otherwise, teams could simply sign players at any time without regard to age, salary cap or the equitable distribution of talent known as the draft).  The NBA sets the rules for its employees, and David Stern has decided he’d rather have marketable stars who are further along the development curve than the raw products they were once getting.  I can buy and support that line of thinking, but it also needs to go one step further.  The rule needs to expand to two years (age 20).  The way it’s currently set up is just too disruptive for the schools involved with these players, and the development between Y1 and Y2 of college is often substantial (Blake Griffin,anyone?).

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