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A decade after the one-and-done rule, is college basketball better off?


It’s been a decade since J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison staged college basketball’s greatest Player of the Year race, which is notable today for one reason and one reason only: That was the final season that high school players were allowed to go straight to the NBA out of high school.

This is now the tenth iteration of the NBA Draft since the association incorporated the one-and-done rule, and while we can debate whether or not it has hurt college basketball, there is no equivocating the simple truth that it has changed the way the game is played.

First things first. When I say ‘the association’, I mean the NBA, because the most important thing to remember about this rule is that it exists entirely because the NBA was tired of having to guess on which high schooler would turn into Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James and which would end up being Kwame Brown, Darius Miles or Jonathan Bender. Owners were tired of spending money on kids that were never going to be worth what their contract said they had to be paid. Send them to campus for a year, watch the kids play against 22 and 23 year old men, put them in a more structured setting and figure it out from there.

They’d still end up guessing — for every Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook there are half a dozen Anthony Bennetts, Michael Beasleys and Greg Odens — but at least those guesses felt more educated; it’s hard to predict injuries, work ethic and affinity for narcotics.

The NCAA had no say in this rule.

It is not something that the NCAA wanted implemented.

And there are people that believe that the rule is bad for college basketball, that it has hurt the sport that so many grew up loving so much.

That’s partially true, particularly if you’re looking at this through the lens of an administrator or an educator. Ben Simmons cared about going to class about as much as I care about parliamentary elections in Albania. John Calipari can brag about his team’s GPA all he wants, even the most naïve member of Big Blue Nation understands he’s bringing kids to Lexington to be educated in how to be a professional basketball player.

Those guys aren’t “student”-athletes in any sense of the word, but is that really worse for the public perception of the state education in major college athletics than the fake classes that North Carolina funneled their athletes into?

Calipari was the first to figure this thing out, that embracing one-and-done culture and shoveling players off to the NBA as quickly as possible was the best way to ensure that the next crop of stars would arrive on campus the following fall. Once he won a national title with Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 1 and No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, the copycats came out in full force.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Anthony Davis (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ten years into the experiment, we’ve reached a point where Duke and Kentucky, the two biggest brands in the sport that are led by two of the most famous coaches in America, spend every spring and summer competing to land commitments from the next crop of 18-year old superstars. Kansas throws themselves into the mix for some of these kids, as has Arizona. Ohio State and Syracuse pick up one-and-dones from time-to-time, and there’s always a random Pac-12 school — UCLA, Cal, Washington — underperforming with a lottery pick on their roster.

The recruiting is year-round. The biggest programs in the country aren’t worried about filling two or three empty scholarships every year. They have to overhaul their roster every 12 months if they truly want to compete for league titles and trips to the Final Four.

It’s exhausting.

And here’s the catch: The best recruiting class in the country doesn’t guarantee a banner. UConn won two national titles in the last six years built around undersized, veteran point guards. The best NBA player on Louisville’s 2013 national title was … Gorgui Dieng? Montrezl Harrell? Russ Smith? Villanova’s 2016 national title team may not have had an NBA player on the roster. Duke’s 2010 title team had a bunch of seniors leading the way. North Carolina won it in 2009 with seniors Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green and juniors Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson leading the way. A veteran Kansas team beat one-and-done Derrick Rose and Memphis in 2008. Florida won their second straight title in 2007 when their three lottery picks all returned to school, and they beat an Ohio State team with Oden, Mike Conley and Daequean Cook on it to do so.

In other words, one-and-dones haven’t hurt the chances that programs can develop kids for three or four years and turn them into winners, but it has created a situation where the best young players in the world spend a winter playing on college campuses.

All-in-all, it’s hard to argue with the idea that the age limit has been a good thing for college basketball.

And there’s one way to prove it to you: Last year’s NCAA tournament ratings.

We’ve talked about it ad nauseam, but this year’s draft class is weak because the 2015 recruiting class was as bad as any class has been in a long time. The superstar freshman played on an LSU team that was totally irrelevant by February and that didn’t even play in the NIT. Brandon Ingram, the soon-to-be No. 2 pick in this draft, was out in the Sweet 16. Skal Labissiere was a bust, and he was gone before the end of the first weekend. Jaylen Brown didn’t make it past opening night. Henry Ellenson watched the NCAA tournament on TV.

The 2016 NCAA tournament was the closest thing we’re going to see to an NCAA tournament played with the one-and-done rule eliminated.

And, as a result, the amount of people that actually cared about the NCAA tournament plummeted.

Prior to the national title game, the ratings for the 2016 tournament were down 12% from the 2015 tournament. The ratings for the national title game were down more than 30% from the prior season, when a one-and-done laden Duke won a title over a Wisconsin team that beat a one-and-done laden, record-chasing Kentucky team.

The one-and-done rule is unfair to the elite basketball prospects across our country, taking away their ability to earn a living at 18 years old and limiting their career earnings potential by a year.

That bothers me.

I don’t think it’s right.

But you can’t complain about it anymore, because getting the next generation of NBA superstars on campus for seven months is better for college basketball than losing them to the league straight out of high school.

Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.