The NCAA is a complicated matter, one that pretty much no one understands. They run the same way a government entity would run, basically implying that College sports can’t sustain itself without a committee of older adults telling players what they can and can’t do. Almost all sports under the NCAA umbrella are strictly enforced for everything from paid autograph signings to a free sandwich. This strict style of no payment has sent the best players in college basketball to the NBA after one year, defining that player as a “One-and-Done” player.
In recent years, the lottery picks for the most part have been one and done players. Look at the 2016 draft with Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray and Marquese Chriss, all one and done players and taken in that order. In 2015, there were eight one and done guys in the top 13 picks.
This type of coaching has plagued two schools harder than most in Duke and Kentucky. Coach K and Coach Calipari are notorious for bringing in the best talent out of high school and ensuring that they are top picks in the NBA draft. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of schools would bring in a talent like Anthony Davis knowing he would leave in a year, but few schools have the promise and understanding that Duke and Kentucky share for this method.
There is a down side to this method that many people don’t think about, and to joggle your memory look at the 2015 mens NCAA title game against Duke and Wisconsin. Kentucky was supposed to be the team that year, going undefeated the entire season until the final four where they lost to Wisconsin. Wisconsin had a team of seniors that they built from the ground up including Frank Kaminsky and Sam Decker. The team was a one seed, but somehow seemed inferior due to what their greatest strength was; four year players. Duke came in with a roster of Freshman, including Okafor and Allen, and beat Wisconsin by five. After the game, you couldn’t help but feel bad for a team that prepared four years for this finish to fall to a group of people who just met months before.
It makes you wonder, with all the success Kentucky and Duke have had, if they are ever able to become “legit” programs again. Coach K and Coach Cal have done everything in their powers to create a path to the NBA, and by doing so have created an identity in mens basketball for what their programs are. Although it’s tough to imagine a tournament without these coaching greats, it’s harder to ever imagine a team of four seniors trotting out there for Duke.
The NBA has been tossing around the idea of doing a two year maximum in college, with the chance of players leaving high school directly to jin the NBA G-League. Although I enjoy the thought of kids being able to be paid for their talents, but even this decision will diminish what the current product is.
It’s a story old as time, someone finds a way to beat everyone else at their game and it turns into their downfall. Will the NCAA find a way to make Duke and Kentucky’s dominance a thing of the past? Probably. If the NCAA is around for that much longer.