Is One-and-Done On Its Last Legs?

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2011

God, let’s hope so.

Hopefully We're Putting This Era to Bed Soon

This site has been on record for a number of years fully in support of a two-and-done NBA rule that would have several corresponding effects.  A brief outline:

  • Here, we explain why having stars develop their marketability in UNC, Texas or UCLA uniforms rather than sitting the bench for a couple of years in the NBA is not only better for the individual player and NBA teams using the NCAA as its minor league, but also for the sport of college basketball.  Casual fans get more excited when they recognize the star players on the marquee teams (think: John Wall vs. Avery Bradley).
  • As we explained in this piece, college coaches who publicly support the preps-to-pros or MLB model (where a player can go pro either out of HS or three years later) are either being disingenuous to appear like they truly care about players’ best interests, or they’re forgetting just how frustrating and wasteful it was. After spending years recruiting elite players only to have them bail to the pros in late spring of their senior year, coaches were left scrambling to find last-minute replacements and having to explain to their fans why they had huge holes in their lineups the next year (see: Shaun Livingston, Gerald Green, JR Smith, et al).
  • And in this analysis, we showed that although having elite freshman talent might seem like the right thing to do, it probably won’t win you a championship in the current environment.  Depending on what Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Jeremy Lamb do this month, as few as five and as many as eight one-and-dones have played in the Final Four in the last five years, with Lamb the only player to have won a title (as a second banana behind a NPOY candidate, mind you).

As we approach the expiration of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and players at the end of June, we’ve anticipated that an extension of the one-and-done rule to two years would be a significant chip on the bargaining table.  A report last week from Yahoo! Sports suggests that “about two-thirds” of NBA owners want to see such a rule implemented in the new deal next season.  The players’ union is against it for obvious reasons, but as this PBT article outlines, if it comes down to a situation where major-dollar negotiations hinge on protecting its union-member veterans in exchange for requiring another year of college for future members, we know which outcome is the most likely.

 

Teams Like This Make the Sport Popular (AP)

What does it mean?  The game of college basketball is probably as popular as it’s ever been in terms of whole numbers, but among the all-important casual fans, it perhaps pales to what it was two decades ago when most players stayed a minimum of two years.  We can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked to some of these folks about college hoops only to have them shrug their shoulders with indifference and say something like,”I just don’t like having to learn the new good players every year.  There’s no continuity.”  We can argue just how truthful that statement might be, but the important part is that the perception exists. The possibility of another transcendent team like Michigan’s Fab Five (where fans got to know every single starter intimately for two solid seasons) simply hasn’t been possible in the last fifteen years; with the strong possibility of a two-and-done rule taking hold soon, college basketball fans will finally get back to the glory days of watching great teams develop over a longer and more natural period of time.  If you love the game (or even if you only like it), this should be something we can all get behind.

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Welcome, Dr. Emmert: Please Don’t Mess Up…

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2010

Yesterday on Seattle radio station KJR, NCAA president-elect Mark Emmert gave an interview with host Mitch Levy where he discussed his thoughts on some of the hot-button topics impacting collegiate sports.  Dr. Emmert, who will assume his post on November 1 of this year, is currently the president of the University of Washington and the former Fulbright winner is widely recognized as one of the savviest up-and-comers in the world of academic administration.  His rise up the ranks from an assistant professor (Northern Illinois) to Vice-Chancellor (Colorado) to Provost (Montana State) to Chancellor (UConn and LSU) to President at UW is impressive on its face, and his skill at political maneuvering and fund-raising should be obvious.  The concern we have, however, in all situations where administrators move from an academic to an athletic environment is whether such a transition will be seamless — in other words, will that person “get it?”  The danger in the application of ivory tower customs and norms to the world of athletics is that you can find yourself in troublesome spots if you haven’t gauged the environment correctly, such as when Emmert badly overreached in asking for public funding for a new Husky Stadium in the midst of a massive nationwide recession.  While that example represents a single misstep in a career full of home runs, it gives us pause when taken in concert with the following quote he made on the KJR radio broadcast.  In discussing the much-maligned one-and-done rule in college basketball, Emmert said:

I much prefer the baseball model, for example, that allows a young person if they want to go play professional baseball, they can do it right out of high school, but once they start college they’ve got to play for three years or until they’re 21.  I like that a good deal.  But what you have to also recognize is that rule isn’t an NCAA rule.  That’s a rule of the NBA. And it’s not the NBA itself, but the NBA Players Association. So to change that rule will require me and others working with the NBA, working with the players association.  We’ll be having those conversations, because I think it would be good for young people and good for basketball.

Emmert Seems a Smart Fellow, But the MLB Model is a Mistake

Before we get to our argument against this idea, let’s briefly touch on the reality of this proposition.  You hear this frequently stated among coaches, fans and pundits, but what all of these folks fail to recognize is that the NBA wants nothing to do with this on either the management or the players’ side.  Commissioner David Stern and his owners do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they are unmarketable, while players do not want untested teenagers who are virtually complete unknowns coming into their league because they take away veterans’ jobs.  The NCAA acts as a veritable minor league for the NBA, providing a competitive environment to fully vet and scout players for at least a year before some 80-year old owner throws sixteen million dollars and the viable future of a franchise at them.  Think of it this way — were Washington Wizards fans more excited about #1 pick Kwame Brown (who nobody outside of rural Georgia had ever seen play) or #1 pick John Wall (who was on national television about 4,000 times last year)?  As a point of fact, the NBA powers-that-be seem more interested in extending the one-and-done rule by another year than rolling it back in any way.  And why not? — it’s better for business.

Now, as to Emmert’s proposal itself, we’re going to explain why this is not a preferred option without regard for what the NBA wants or will agree to.  The remainder of this post represents pure advocacy for the college game and the college game only.  We see three compelling reasons that the NCAA should not bother to explore this MLB model possibility, as tempting as it sounds to an educator/administrator such as Emmert.

What Say You, UK Fans? One Year of Wall or None of McGrady?

  1. The NCAA Needs Marketable Stars Nearly as Much as the NBA Does.  This is the dirty little secret of college basketball in the 21st century.  The hardcore fans of the elite programs at Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, et al, aren’t going anywhere.  These folks would watch their teams play if they suited up four skinny 12-year olds and a rented donkey.  But the casual fan won’t.  The casual fan wants to see star power, and he wants to learn who the next big basketball talents will be through the crucible of the best postseason in all of sports, the NCAA Tournament.  When players like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, John Wall and many others are on college campuses building considerable buzz throughout the season and heading into March, this collective must-see component to the game takes on a much different meaning than when the player names are instead Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Adam Morrison and Tayshaun Prince.  All great collegians, but do you see the difference?   Who does Mr. Office Drone/Bracketeer tune in to watch more readily?  Furthermore, CBS/Turner Sports just signed a fourteen-year, $10.8B deal to broadcast the rights to the NCAA Tournament, in case you’d already forgotten, and there will be none-too-subtle pressure on the puppet-masters of the sport to ensure that the best possible product is placed on the floor.  For the maximum amount of interest to take hold, that product without question must include the top 18- and 19-year old basketball players in the world. 
  2. When High School Seniors Make Their Decisions, Coaches Bear the Brunt of It.  We talked about this back in June, and nothing has changed in the interim.  We saw what happened to recruiting from 1995-2005 when coaches had to compete not only against rival schools for the talents of a player, but also the siren call of the NBA.  Whether it was Kentucky and Tracy McGrady, Florida and Kwame Brown, Duke and Shaun Livingston, or North Carolina and JR Smith, the fans and (more directly) coaches of those programs where agonizingly forced to endure a late spring phone call to learn that, after many hours spent recruiting the player to their campuses, it was all for naught.  And those were the elite players!  Imagine the situations where the player was fully expected to go to college but still was lured away — Jackie Butler (Mississippi State), Ndubi Ebi (Arizona) and Louis Williams (Georgia) all come to mind.  How does a coach go about finding a suitable replacement for a star recruit so late into the signing period?  Short answer:  he can’t.  We certainly understand that it’s frustrating to a lot of people (coaches included) to have to lose a star player as a one-and-done, but to have spent the same amount of time recruiting him and not receive even a single season of his talents is far worse, isn’t it?  That’s what would happen if the MLB model were implemented — recruiting would once again become a two-phase process.   
  3. For Better or Worse, NCAA Basketball is the NBA’s Minor League.  It’s not the NBDL (although it has found a nice niche as a training ground for older players), and it’s not Europe (similarly).  Rather, college basketball remains the NBA’s minor league, and where the MLB example fails is that college baseball is not.  Each professional baseball franchise has several levels of minor league teams beneath it by which to develop its prospects, whether they come directly from high school or after three seasons of college.  This is a HUGE difference.  The reason is that, as Mark Stein notes in this article, the vast majority of prep-to-pros players during that ten-year period were nowhere near ready to impact the professional game on a regular basis, and there remains no true professional minor league in basketball available by which to develop them.  NCAA hoops is it.   The list of players who came right into the NBA and contributed immediately is much shorter (Dwight Howard, LeBron James) than the list of those who took a few years to develop (nearly everyone else, including superstars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal and Amare’ Stoudemire).  If Mark Emmert is worried about the players (and his quote above seems to imply that he is), then he needs to push for an environment that will foster player development for the next level, in much the same way as he would inspire any student with soaring dreams.  This tact dovetails nicely with what we described above that college basketball should be selling — Watch the greatest sporting spectacle on earth — the NCAA Tournament — where the stars of tomorrow are on stage today. 

We obviously recognize that there are no easy answers here.  Any model implemented will have someone complaining.  But beginning in November, it will be the obligation of Emmert to push the game of college basketball forward in popularity and interest.  After all, NCAA Tournament dollars fund nearly the entire operation there in Indianapolis.  The way to do this is not to push college hoops down a path that makes it even more like college baseball, a sport that nobody cares about in large part because there is no direct connection between those players and the pros; but instead,  Emmert should work with the NBA to pursue a model more like college football, an incredibly popular sport where everyone knows that today’s Heisman Trophy candidates are tomorrow’s NFL all-Pros. 

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Coach Animosity of 1-and-Done Rule Forgets How It Was…

Posted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2010

We ran across an interesting article from Fanhouse’s Brett McMurphy over the weekend that delved into the continuing discomfort that many college coaches have over the 1-and-done rule in light of an NBA Draft on Thursday night that will see anywhere from eight to ten freshmen selected among the lucky few.  We understand their complaint.  They want continuity in their programs.  They want to be able to plan ahead without having to wonder each and every offseason who is staying and who is leaving.  Most importantly, they want to be able to hang onto a stud for two or three seasons if it turns out he’s first round material.

The ideal, as proposed by Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and DePaul’s Oliver Purnell in the article, is that the NBA would adopt the existing MLB model.  If a player is good enough to go preps-to-pros, let him go; if he’s not, then he will not be eligible for the draft again until three (or at worst, two) years later.  Brey in particular echoed the popular cry amongst the coaching fraternity:

Let them go out after high school [to the NBA] if they’re special and see if we can get at least two years out of them [in college].  I think the baseball rule is the best rule given that we are academic institutions. I don’t know if we can get it to [three years in college], but could we at least get it to two years?  And I think two years on a college campus is going to help ‘em. He’s going to get an education. But the really special ones, let ‘em go after high school. Cut them lose. There’s a handful of them. Let’s at least get two years [before they leave for the NBA]. I’d love to get three years, but I don’t think we can. But let’s at least get two years.

This is the same kind of self-serving thinking (program continuity, fear of re-recruiting players, etc.) by coaches that inspired the NCAA to drastically reduce the amount of time that underclassmen had to “test the waters” this past May.  The result was that 28% more early entries (50) jumped headfirst into the draft pool this year even though there was no corresponding increase in the number of draft spots (60) available.  The problem is that if the NBA adopts a model similar to major league baseball (and there is no sign that Stern and company are even considering it), we’re only trading one set of problems for another.

The Completely Forgettable Jackie Butler

 The coaches are forgetting how it was before the 1-and-done rule was instituted.  From 2003-05 (the last three drafts prior to the rule going into effect), 23 high school seniors entered the NBA Draft directly out of the prep ranks.  Some you may have heard of — Lebron James and Dwight Howard, for example — while others are vague memories in the mind’s distant recesses — like James Lang and Jackie Butler.  Even though they never made it on campus, most of these players were recruited to play college basketball somewhere.  Resources were spent, trips were made, text messages were sent, and letters were delivered.  And yet, even though the majority signed to play for coaches like Izzo, Wright, Brey and Purnell, by spring of their senior years they began to see dollar signs in their eyes and bailed on the notion of playing college basketball.  Consider, by way of a few prominent examples:

  • 2003: Travis Outlaw (Mississippi State); Ndubi Ebi (Arizona) 
  • 2004: Shaun Livingston (Duke); Josh Smith (Indiana); JR Smith (UNC)
  • 2005: Martell Webster (Washington); Gerald Green (Oklahoma State); Louis Williams (Georgia)

Is that what the coaches want to go back to — spending 1-2 years recruiting star players and ultimately getting nothing but a thank-you call out of it as the players move on to NBA riches?  By 2005, an average of eight prep-to-pro players were coming out each season.  That was with no restriction on draft eligibility once you got to college — a fence-sitting player could still leave after one year of college if he chose to do so (see: Carmelo Anthony).  What happens if the coaches get what they want and players are forced into choosing zero years or three years of college under the MLB model?  Our best guess is that roughly the top twenty draft prospects would go into the draft each season and the coaches who recruited, caressed, and whispered sweet-nothings at them would be screaming bloody murder that something else needs to be done to protect their interests.  And that doesn’t even address what would happen to the quality of play of college basketball when the very best players are barely even first-round worthy.     

Of course, none of this debate from the NCAA side matters a whit, because the NBA is going to do only what it thinks will help sell its product in the best possible way.  And from our reading of the tea leaves with David Stern over the past five years, we think that if anything, he wants 1-and-done to become 2-and-done, which will have the corollary effect of giving the coaches more continuity anyway. 

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Kyrie Irving to Duke?

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2009

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog is reporting tonight that Kyrie Irving, the #9 rated player in the class of 2010 and considered a player with huge upside in the mold of Chris Paul or Deron Williams, has committed to Duke.  The 6’2, 175-lb scoring point guard from Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick just returned from a recent weekend at Kentucky for its Big Blue Madness event, but he has reportedly been leaning toward Duke for some time.

Irving tonight denied this report, as he stated below on Twitter:

kyrie irving tweets

We know Zagoria doesn’t go around making things up, though, and he cited three separate confirmations from assistant coaches at rival schools who claim that Irving’s recruitment is over because Duke has locked him up.  We’ll go with Zagoria on this one, as it’s more fun to speculate anyway, but we’ve been saying for a while that if Duke has plans on becoming Duke again, players like Irving and forward Harrison Barnes are must-gets.

Since Luol Deng arrived on campus as the #2 player (Rivals.com) in the class of 2003, the top ten players that Duke has signed are Kyle Singler (#5 in 2007), Josh McRoberts (#2 in 2005) and Shaun Livingston (#2 in 2004, but went NBA), while Greg Paulus (#11 in 2005) and Gerald Henderson (#11 in 2006) were near-misses.  Of that group, none have had the game-changing NBA-quality ability that earlier-era Dookies such as Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Jason Williams shared, and not coincidentally, Duke hasn’t sniffed the Final Four since Deng left campus.

Assuming Irving has already committed to Coach K and he manages to lure Barnes to Durham as well (Barnes is expected there this weekend), the 2010-11 Blue Devils could be shaping up as a nasty team, with the following starting lineup:

  • PG – Kyrie Irving, Fr.
  • SG – Seth Curry, So.
  • SF – Kyle Singler, Sr.
  • PF – Harrison Barnes, Fr.
  • C – Ryan Kelly, So./Mason or Miles Plumlee, So./Jr.

The weak spot is at the center position, but we’re assuming one of the three-headed monster of Kelly/Plumlee/Plumlee will have stepped up by then.  Still, that’s a very powerful projected lineup, and one that with tonight’s news should be sending shivers up and down the Atlantic seaboard for fear that Duke is one step closer to becoming a powerhouse again.

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Adidas Plays “What If. . .”

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2009

Adidas has just released a new series of commercials featuring several prep-to-pro stars pretending that they went to various schools.The ads themselves are fairly interesting, but I would be more interested in your thoughts on where these guys (and other prep-to-pros) would have actually gone and what impact they would have had on those programs. Would they have led their schools to multiple championships or would they fail to live up to expectations? Would Tracy McGrady win a round in the NCAA tournament? I know that CNNSI used to do a feature like this making an imaginary NCAA tournament, but I can’t find the link right now.

First, here are the commercials:




Personally I would have liked the videos to feature the guys either doing a big press conference where they announce which school they will be going to or some sort of dream sequence where Dwight Howard is dominating some mediocre college center (Brian Zoubek?).

After the jump we have a list of prep-to-pros since 1995. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on where they would have gone and what impact they would have had. Leave you thoughts in the comment section and your reasoning for the argument.
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