One-And-Done Or Die

Dana O’Neil, who I normally enjoy only slightly more than a root canal, has written an interesting piece explaining why fans (and opposing coaches) shouldn’t bemoan Kentucky for their tremendous success with one-and-done athletes.

She explains as follows:

You can fret over the bastardization of academics or denounce the death of college ideals until you are as purple as Frank Martin during a 15-point loss.

It won’t change a thing. Until the NBA decides that, like skilled carpenters or master craftsmen, basketball players don’t necessarily need to go to college, we will live in the age of the flyby.

Seriously, Dana?

In other words, don’t blame the people who have benefited from the rule. Blame the people in charge of making the rule.

O’Neil, with open disdain, describes Calipari as the game’s “P.T. Barnum.” A comparison that makes so much sense because P.T. Barnum was a coach in competitive sports that involved teaching and improving athletes as players and people. Oh, he wasn’t? My bad.

That aside, she goes on to make a few very valid points about the state and future of college basketball:

 The history of our world, the basketball world, is being rewritten before our eyes. This isn’t 1972. Bill Walton isn’t slinging hook shots in tube socks and short shorts.

 

… I realize that conventions don’t last. The construct of the rules dictate how the game is played, and one overriding rule from 1972 still applies: He who has the best players wins.

And why does Kentucky get the best players, Ms. O’Neil?

So Mom and Dad. You want your boy to succeed in his field of choice, the field being basketball? Well, tune in on June 28 and watch. UK is to basketball as MIT is to engineering.

I think that sums it up pretty nicely. If your goal is to play and succeed in the NBA, UK is the place to be right now. Don’t kid yourself. Getting to the NBA as fast as possible is most certainly the goal for every top prospect who isn’t lucky enough to have independently wealthy parents.

Kentucky coach John Calipari recruits the best players possible year in and year out because he can and talent equals wins. Unless the NBA changes the one-and-done rule, college coaches will have to adapt or die.

You can rest assured that the NBA will not be changing the rules any time soon. NBA GMs have benefited immensely from having an extra year to watch the top prospects compete against high level competition. The one-and-done rule has produced more players like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and John Wall than it has busts like Kwami Brown and Jonathan Bender.

Coach K has recruited and coached a couple of one-and-done players, so has Roy Williams. Rick Barnes and Thad Matta try to recruit as many as possible. They’re just not as successful at it as John Calipari.

In the end, I think that’s what rubs people the wrong way. It’s not that they give a crap about integrity or development. They just hate losing.

As long as they keep clinging to an outdated approach, they better get used to it.

Expectations and the Joyless Final Four

Get those smiles out now kids. It could get bumpy from here. (AP)

The date was March 27th, 2011.

My brother and I had just finished watching our 4th seeded Kentucky Wildcats knock off the 2nd seeded North Carolina Tarheels in thrilling fashion. As the realization that our beloved Wildcats were finally going back to the Final Four after 13 long years sank in, we screamed and jumped around like tweens at a Justin Bieber concert. Victory had never tasted much sweeter.

Flash forward to all but a year later and I’m sitting alone in my garage watching Kentucky dominate an over-matched Baylor team to reach their second straight Final Four. I had been confined to my “man cave” for poor behavior, as the weight of expectations had caused my scream-reflex to have a hairier trigger than most seasons.

As the minutes slowly ticked off the clock, there was no celebration in my solitary screen-room. There was only relief. This was expected, better yet, this was required.

With a roster stacked with at least 6 NBA players, Kentucky began this season as the 2nd rated team in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Tarheels who combined similar NBA talent with “experience”. As the year progressed, we saw Heels and Orangemen fall to the wayside, and the Wildcats emerged as the “clear favorite” to win the title.

In a season that saw Kentucky beat the Tarheels, the Jayhawks, and the Cardinals OOC, they went 16-0 in the SEC. Going undefeated in a major conference hadn’t happened for anyone since the 2003. It became increasingly clear that this group was truly a notch above everyone else.

This year’s Kentucky team is such an over-whelming favorite to win it all that anything less than a shiny new National Title banner hanging in Rupp Arena will be deemed a failure. The expectations are so great, that we have writers like ESPN’s Myron Medcalf openly suggesting that it’s title or bust for the Cats.

Anything short of a national title for Kentucky will equal failure.

Let that sink in for a minute… In a sport where 68 teams are given equal opportunity to win the title, the Kentucky Wildcats are the only squad that can’t lose at any point and have their season deemed a success. It’s not just that they have the best shot to win the title. It’s that they have to win the title.

For a fanbase that’s only 3 seasons removed from the NIT, this sort of talk is sweet honey with a side of vinegar. This is what we wanted. We wanted to be on top. We wanted these expectations. In these waning hours of the greatest ball of all, though, doubt and paranoia can ruin the party.

We start projecting amazing powers on apathetic players like Perry Jones III, who probably cares as much about winning a tournament game as he does his next MWIII session on the XBox. We start imagining the taunts we will receive from opposing fanbases if we lose. “Biggest choke of all time”, they’ll say and we’ll be forced to agree with them.

So, like the hottest girl in school, there really are no excuses for this team not to be the homecoming queen. It’s all or it’s nothing. It’s the elation of a title 14 years in the making or it’s questioning the one-and-done philosophy and whether our coach is capable of winning the big one.

The Final Four isn’t enough, not this season. In short, in a year where Kentucky fans may experience their 8th National Title, there will be no joy riding along the way.

The Year of the “Half-and-Done”

Move over, ‘Melo.

Derrick Rose?  Kevin Durant?  John Wall?  Next.

The days of the infamous “One-and-Done” college basketball player are behind us.  Welcome to the dawn of the “Half-and-Done-ers.”

Josh Selby donned #32 for Kansas literally dozens of times in his career

To the surprise of nobody, Kansas Freshman guard, Josh Selby, announced today – via Twitter – that he will forgo his sophomore, junior and senior seasons and enter this June’s NBA draft.  This on the heels of last week’s announcement out of Durham, NC which saw Duke guard, Kyrie Irving take the same step.

Due to the NBA’s age restriction, we have witnessed a host of talented players pass, briefly, through the ranks of amateurs for a full season while they placed their dreams of professional basketball on hold for one, often spectacular year.   It’s not a new phenomenon.

But most of these players PLAYED an entire season in college before heading off to richer pastures.  So, the announcements from Selby and Irving offer a rare glimpse at two young players who both missed significant portions of their one and only collegiate season.  Selby missed the first 9 games of the season awaiting the NCAA’s decision on his eligibility…and then 3 additional games later in the season due to a foot injury.  Irving missed the last 3 months of the regular season for the Blue Devils before returning in the NCAA Tournament.

On the bright side, he never had to learn how to spell "Krzyzewski"

 

In their short time on the court, each player made contributions to their team.  Irving was second on the team in points per game (17.5) and assists per game (4.3) while playing and was a significant factor for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad.  Selby, while never finding the stride he showed when he was so heavily recruited out of high school, showed flashes of the player he could be with impressive offensive numbers in several games for the Jayhawks.

 

But, both Selby and Irving – rivals.com’s No. 1 and 2 point guards, respectively, in the 2010 class – played partial seasons at best.  And, now that their time in college is done, they can move on to bigger (richer) and better (MUCH richer) things without leaving too much of an impact at all on the college game.

Here’s hoping they both get more of a chance to show the nation what they’re capable of at the next level.

 

An Unexpected Consequence of the One-and-Done Rule

On Wednesday, Rivals.com college basketball writer Steve Megargee published an article at the recruiting website titled, “Is Butler’s run proof that mid-majors are closing gap?” The article looks at the improbable Final Four runs by George Mason and Butler in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Megargee asks a simple question: Are mid-major college basketball programs catching the Big-6 ones who have seemingly limitless resources and talent?

Better yet, are two occurrences within five years of one another enough to consider the feat more than coincidence? Megargee sets some guidelines in determining who is and who is not a “mid-major” in the sport. He dismisses Gonzaga, Xavier, and Memphis for their continued success in the tournament as well as on the recruiting trail.

I accept that, as those teams clearly operate on a level above the rest of the non-Big 6 teams. Megargee even dismisses the Final Four runs of Marquette (2003) and Louisville (2005) who both played in a strong Conference USA and operated like Big-6 teams.
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Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

It's going to be a dramatic off-season in Lexington.

…The Kentucky basketball roster is shrinking by the second.

As many expected, Daniel Orton has declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, so he would have the option to return to UK should he not like what he hears. Talk to his father, though, and you’d be hard pressed to imagine Daniel being a Wildcat next Fall.

Larry Vaught of the Advocate Messenger interviewed Larry Orton, who had this to say:

“Daniel is going into the draft,”  his father, Larry Orton, said Wednesday.  ”He’s going into training. He’s going to drop his classes just in case he needs to come back (to UK), but the plan is for him to be in the draft.”

Someone should tell Larry that dropping courses this late in the semester is called “dropping out”. He continued:

“He has a lot of stuff people have not seen. If he had played more, he would have made DeMarcus look bad. I am not saying that because he is my son. It s just that I know what he can do. He’s very smart and very skilled.”

I’m pretty sure that Shaq wouldn’t make DeMarcus Cousins look bad, Larry. Put down the crack pipe.

To recap, not only is Daniel Orton leaving UK after averaging a staggering 3.4 points per game, but he’s also going to drop out of school and move to California to train for the draft. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Patrick Patterson can finish out their semesters, but Daniel is apparently too busy for that. Hello, scholarship reductions.

But wait… There’s more…

Kentucky Sports Radio is reporting that Darnell Dodson will also be entering the draft. Here’s what they had to say:

The second tidbit told to me was that Darnell Dodson would not be on the team next season. I looked into this for some time and cant get total confirmation, but all signs seemed to point to this being accurate. Then tonight, DraftExpress.com said that Demarcus Cousins told people in Columbus that Dodson was going to the NBA as well and that only four returning players would be on the UK roster.

It’s just laughable at this point. Between graduation and the draft, UK will likely lose Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe, Orton, Dodson, Stevenson, Krebs, and Harris. That’s nine players from a 13 player roster. That leaves Josh Harrelson, Darius Miller, John Hood and DeAndre Liggins as the only returning scholarship players with Stacey Poole and Enes Kanter as incoming freshmen.

Obviously, it’s not all gloom and doom for UK fans, as the Cats will likely sign as many as six more players. These signings should include #1 overall recruit Brandon Knight, as well as some combination of high school stars C.J. Leslie, Terrance Jones, Terrance Ross, Doron Lamb, Luke Cothron and Josh Selby. Based on Calipari’s track record, you’d have to think he signs at least 3 from that group.

Even in a best case scenario, though, the Cats will be looking at another year of a group of very talented but very young players holding the key to their season. This much turnover every year is not going to be sustainable moving forward.

Regardless, it’s going to be a Soap Opera Spring in Big Blue country.