One Night Stands Don't Pay

So Duke lost to Michigan State on Sunday night. Yeah, Duke - the team with the winningest head coach in NCAA history and quite possibly the best draft prospect since Kevin Durant, plus two other borderline top 5 picks.

As talented as this team was, they didn't have what it took to win it all. I think I know why. Allow me to explain.

In 2006, the NBA and its Players Association agreed to a new rule that kept players from being drafted directly out of high school. From that point on, to be eligible for the NBA Draft you needed to be at least 19 years old and out of high school for a year. They decided to implement this rule to hopefully improve the quality of play throughout the league, as players would have one more year of experience and maturity under their belts. By the league's logic, this uptick in quality would attract more people and increase revenue. The players understood that this would benefit them monetarily as well, even though it kept players from entering the league a year sooner.

It was a controversial decision that resulted in most players just going to college for just a year before declaring for the draft. With that, it was ultimately coined as the "one-and-done rule".

This rule has had a profound impact on not just the professional game, though. College basketball has increasingly suffered since the rule change. The rate of freshmen leaving school after a year to pursue the NBA Draft has been trending up. An NCAA article cited that 18 college freshmen were drafted in 2018 - almost 1 in every 3 players taken and tied with 2017 for the most freshmen drafted. A whopping eight of the first ten picks in the 2018 draft were freshmen. A freshman has also been the top pick in the draft every single year since 2010.

At the same time, less elite draft-worthy athletes are remaining with their teams through graduation. Just 11 seniors were drafted in 2018, down from 19 in 2017. Just 1.2% of men's basketball student-athletes are drafted into the NBA, and players are declaring for the draft quicker than ever.

The latest Commission on College Basketball report stated "one-and-done has played a significant role in corrupting and destabilizing college basketball, restricting the freedom of choice of players, and undermining the relationship of college basketball to the mission of higher education. Elite high school players with NBA prospects and no interest in a college degree should not be ‘forced’ to attend college, often for less than a year.”

Since 2006, there have only been TWO teams that have won the NCAA tournament that have been led by one or more one-and-done players: Kentucky in 2012 and Duke in 2015. This year's Final Four teams feature 0 one-and-done freshmen.

So, what's the point? What is the objective the NCAA is aiming to achieve under this current scenario?

If the objective is to win, the top teams in the country are constantly recruiting NBA-ready star freshmen talent who will inevitably fall short of the title before leaving the team for the pros.

If the objective is to advance your kids, well, the kids are not listening. There have been over 130 one-and-done athletes since 2006. Of them, 16 have made at least one All-Star team. The list features Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and more of the NBA's best players.

So am I surprised Duke lost? No, not at all.

Does it mean I think Zion Williamson will be a bust? No, not at all. He's unbelievable, but he was tired, and Michigan State had a more experienced team.

I'm not one with the one-and-done's, but it does appear that there may be hope on the horizon for a change in the system. There have been rumors about the NBA pulling back its age requirement by the 2022 draft so players can enter at 18 years old once again. Sure, they won't get the opportunity to experience college by making the immediate jump, but how much are these one-and-done guys experiencing as is? What could student-athletes possibly gain from one year of school?

How do you feel about this issue? Should elite basketball players be allowed to go straight to the pros from high school?

Would love to hear your feedback below.


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  • Fab five is the greatest college team ever assembled. @ me.

    Jesse Lamberton on

  • Some interesting points here. Experience was certainly the key for this year’s Final Four teams. With that being said, all 4 Elite Eight games were fantastic games. Looking forward to the games next weekend!

    John Karbowski on

  • I’m from Michigan huge fab 5 fan Go blue.

    Michael stout on

  • Rather than let guys go to the draft right out of high school I think maybe requiring at least two years of college ball could be valid. I think there’s validity to the growth and development that occurs at the college level.

    Michael Cumming on

  • The one and done situation for the NCAA seems to work well for NBA teams as student-athletes prove themselves against other collegiate players on a higher level than kids in high school.

    As to why the NCAA agreed – money, I assume. Had Zion went straight to the NBA, as he should have, the ratings wouldn’t be as high, and sponsorship dollars would dwindle.

    Teamwork pays off, as you point out, Mr. Steiner, in stating “This year’s Final Four teams feature 0 one-and-done freshmen.”

    Monte on

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