BOSTON — After two weeks of insanity — from buzzer-beaters to historic upsets to wild comebacks to Sister Jean — we’ve finally whittled down the Field of 68 teams to the four that will play for the national title next weekend.
On one side of the bracket, we have No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago squares off with No. 3-seed Michigan.
On the other, we have No. 1-seed Villanova and No. 1-seed Kansas.
And for those of use without a rooting interest in this event, the way this played out could not have been better given what the Elite Eight gave us.
We have one of college basketball’s best programs in Villanova, the best team in the country and a team looking to win their second national title in three years. We have one of college basketball’s blue-bloods in Kansas that is close enough to San Antonio that we can be assured of a packed house for at least one round of games. We have a massive national brand in Michigan that will surely send a big crowd to Texas. And we have the best story of the tournament in Loyola, just the fourth No. 11-seed to get to the Final Four.
But here’s what we don’t have: one-and-done freshmen and an abundance of first round NBA Draft talent.
Let’s start with the latter: The only player that is a lock to go in the first round of the NBA Draft is Mikal Bridges, a lottery pick wing from Villanova whenever he decides to head to the next level. He’s not the only guy that is going to play in the NBA — I’d guess at least three of his teammates, two or three Jayhawks and Moe Wagner from Michigan will join Bridges at the highest-level of the sport — but he is the only guy that I’d feel comfortable betting any kind of money on to get picked in the first 30 picks.
The one-and-done freshmen are also no longer around.
Villanova isn’t going to lose Jermaine Samuels or Collin Gillispie to the NBA. Marcus Garrett is the only freshman on the Kansas roster that has played the entire season — Silvio De Sousa joined in December — as Bill Self has decided to go the transfer route this year, and neither of them are ready to bounce to the NBA. Michigan, like Villanova, is a program that is predicated on continued development year over year. Loyola is Loyola.
And rest assured, they are always going to be stupid. The stats show us it’s a good thing to have first round picks, and those first round picks tend to be one-and-done freshmen. Duke won a national title in 2015 when their three best players were Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, a trio of one-and-done first round picks. Kentucky did it in 2012 with a team that had Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — the two-best players on the roster and the top two picks in the draft — on their team, along with a third one-and-done first rounder in Marquis Teague.
So, generally speaking, get out of my face with that nonsense.
But, more specifically, it’s especially dumb to fire up those takes this year.
Because essentially what you are saying is that Duke having a roster full of one-and-done first round picks is why this shot from Grayson Allen — which would have been one of the most memorable game-winners in the history of the NCAA tournament — happened to fall off the rim one way instead of the other way:
That shot not going down is why people that I generally think are very smart can unload their “evidence” that becoming a one-and-done factory does not lead to success in college hoops.
The fact of the matter is that using the results of the NCAA tournament to prove any kind of point just does not work. You’re basing your take on what happens in 40 minutes of basketball. The NCAA Tournament is madness because it is unpredictable. Literally anything can happen. It’s why this event is the absolute best way to determine a champion and a farce if you think that it’s going to determine who the best team in the sport is.
Anyone can beat anyone on any given night in college hoops, whether you’re a one-and-done factory facing off with Kansas in the Elite 8 or the nation’s No. 1 overall seed that rarely, if ever, loses an underclassmen to the draft getting bumped by No. 16-seed UMBC in the first round of the tournament.
Drawing sweeping conclusions beyond “it’s March, sh*t happens” is dumb.
The way to win the NCAA tournament is to make your team as good as you can possibly make it, hope that you get a good draw when the bracket is released and then pray that the bounces go your way.
For Duke, if one shot happens to fall through the net during the two seconds that it hangs on the rim, then all of those columns feigning outrage over one-and-done players would be feigning outrage over Bill Self’s inability to capitalize on one-and-done players and why his decision to try and build through the transfer market cost his team a shot at a national title.
There is more than one way to win a title.
Two of the last six champions did it with freshmen.
Two of the last seven, both UConn titles, did it with an all-american point guard that went into God mode for an entire month.
And maybe this year, Loyola will take home the title.
Then maybe everyone will try to find a 98-year old nun to attach to their program.
Because that would become the only way to win, right?