Wolff: Time To Put The One-And-Done Debate To Rest
Following NCAA President, Mark Emmert's, halftime interview with Jim Nantz on Sunday, the engine was revved up again. The catalyst for the debate not worth debating: the never ending saga of the one-and-done in college basketball. A topic that has been thought provoking enough that Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari has had to continuously defend his means. Regarding John Calipari's usage of the one-and-done, Emmert defended the 53 year old coach saying, "Any coach who's using the rules and operating inside the rules to provide them with a competitive advantage is certainly within their prerogative." On his Final Four squad, the Kentucky coach has six freshman players, including player of the year candidate, Anthony Davis. Those six clocked 4,014 minutes played in the 36 games prior to their victory over Baylor, three hundred minutes more than last year's freshman class. In the interview on CBS, Emmert expressed his desire to amend the rule to at least make it a two-and-done rule, stating the current system is "a travesty of the whole notion of student as athlete." The question becomes, does implementing a recyclable, one-and-done system give the team a better chance to win a National Championship?
With the exception of the 2010-2011 UConn Huskies championship team (3), the three prior winners, Duke, UNC, and Kansas did not start any freshman in the National Championship game. Kentucky will plan to start three coming into their next test against the Louisville Cardinals in New Orleans. The trend has always seemed to be the more experienced teams have come out on top after a month of madness. There's no way around the facts. Now, there's an obvious method of the former Memphis coach's madness: use the prestige of Kentucky to lure in recruits to a school sponsored by Nike, allow them to team up with their friends from high school all-star games, put the team in contention and collect that $175,000 bonus for reaching the Final Four. With today's win, Coach Cal has raked in $350K just from reaching the Final FOur over the past two seasons, which is a little less than half of Jeremy Lin's salary. The chances of the NBA and the NBA Players Association to sit down and negotiate with Emmert and the NCAA regarding changing the rules seems to be impossible. The one-and-done rule has allowed the NBA to take advantage of young mega-stars and secure their longevity in the league such as the past five first overall draft selections. After all, NBADraft.net's mock draft does not have a senior being selected until North Carolina's Tyler Zeller at 17th overall.
Calipari's taking his own calculated risk by recycling the most talented high school players and tossing them over to the NBA following a winning season. Can we forget that Calipari's been doing this for years, yet has NEVER won a title? Absolutely not. There's a definite correlation between the two, but this year, the Wildcats head coach finds himself as the whopping favorite. ESPN calculated that about a third of all brackets filled out on their site selected Kentucky as the champion. With top player, Anthony Davis, some see it as a given that Kentucky will win their next two and finish off the season hoisting the championship trophy.
In a fan's perspective, why not allow these coaches to dump their stars for the big leagues after one season? If you're a Kentucky fan, it's a win-win scenario. You are in-it to win-it year in and year out and you get a fresh bunch of five star talents every year when the others embark on a pro career. For the fan of major school who develops their kids, you get to watch guys like Tyler Zeller grace the court for four years and then get to see them beat a school like Kentucky in the finals and laugh in those freshman's faces. That was not just a prediction of the remainder of this tournament. Of course the other perspective comes from the player. Take Perry Jones III, who most likely just finished his career at Baylor today, but will be looking at the money as the incentive to go pro. Jones grew up as a kid sleeping on the floors in hotel rooms due to his family's financial issues. Can't really force a guy like Jones to stay for a third season. Family comes first. What it boils down to is that the debate we keep arguing about will never be put to rest. With stories like Jones', the NCAA will never be able to enslave a kid in a university when his eyes are set on a $25M contract from an NBA team. Darren Heitner, Sports and Entertainment Attorney and Founder of SportsAgentBlog.com told me "The age of the player makes no difference to the agent; however, the best talent typically leaves school early." He went on to say, "Over the past 6 years, roughly 80% of players taken in the 1st round have been underclassmen and international players. Thus, it is likely that the most sought after players by agents will be underclassmen." With slim odds for a drastic rule change, let's we just sit back and watch these freshman lose to the players who have paid their dues and aren't searching for the money, but are there for the education.