There has been speculation about enforcing college basketball players to complete a minimum of two years before entering the NBA draft.
After watching the NCAA tournament unfold in it's typical twisted and bracket-busting fashion, I came to the not-so-crazy conclusion that college basketball is very possibly the most fun sport to watch in the midst of competition. Nothing beats it. It’s electrifying, suspenseful, and engaging, and I always find myself always rooting for a certain team (regardless of their seed) in according to which style of play attracts me the most. You don’t have to be a fan of any team to immerse in the tournament experience.
For example, I fell in love with Dayton University, who crafted the magical run of the tournament before finally being kicked out by Florida. Dayton played with a swagger that was extremely likable to the neutral eye. There is something quite special about matching the same level of energy as the players on the court just by watching them play.
After all the fun, the cruelness of the the process sinks in when, after the NCAA basketball season ends, the best college players enter the NBA draft after one year-- as so called “one-and-dones.” It’s a trend that has been developing for the past few years, especially now that the direct skip from high-school to college is permanently unavailable. Players don’t want to continue playing in college when they know they are capable of earning a big paycheck in the pros. And in fairness-- Why should they? They’re playing for their future, are they not?
In turn, college basketball fans view the NBA as the “corrupter” of the collegiate system. As a result of the widespread concerns over this dilemma, Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly entertained the idea of implementing a two-year requirement for college athletes, which could be set in motion within the next couple years (that is, if he goes forward with the idea). Clearly, this would help basketball programs because it would give coaches more than one year to work with the roster, and it would surely influence countless athletes to stay at college all four years. Once they complete two years, finishing all four wouldn’t be so much of a burden.
Even Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings chimed in, saying that college players should be paid in order to significantly increase the likelihood of players staying put. While that seems to completely contradict the purity of what college basketball (or any college sport for that matter) stands for, it also implies that people, even athletes from other sports, are concerned about the current conditions of “one-and-done” type of seasons inducted by talented college freshman.
Until an official rule is set in stone, there is no realistic way to prevent universities from losing their best players after one year. While that is true, very few people have yet to recognize the positives aspects that come from the everlasting rebuilding process. There are, despite common belief, several reasons to believe that not implementing a two-year requirement could actually be the best decision the NBA could make in interest of the NCAA.
1. Look how well college basketball is doing now! Changing limits and rules when the system is already experiencing significant success is always risky.
2. Reloading teams every year with new talent to replace the old is a big part of the anticipation. There is what I call a “player recycling”, and that makes every upcoming season exciting and less predictable because any team can make a deep run with some new faces. There is always unknown territory that gets trampled on, and that’s what makes college basketball, college basketball.
3. Most teams have an equal shot at the grand prize. If star freshman from the previous year leave for the NBA, then several teams have chances to lure in the best high school talent the following year. And that’s exactly what happens, which gives a variety of teams new depth and upgraded firepower. Every team has the chance to improve and rarely does any team enter the season as favorites, even the previous winner, for that very reason.
4. It allows non draft-bound freshman to shine the following year. Ah, yes! How about them, the freshmen who actually decided not to enter the NBA draft, in hopes they could secure a larger role with the team the next year? Those players are very undervalued, and often are hidden gems. Think Jeremy Lamb to Kemba Walker at UCONN a couple years ago, when Kemba, who was an automatic one-and-done star, entered the draft. Lamb was not quite as ready, but the next year he had far more leeway to showcase his skills. Ultimately, he became a bigger part of the offense which boosted his draft stock the following year.
5. The game remains speedy and transitional. Instead of regrouping and re-calibrating with the same roster, a new slate of players forces the coach to continually adjust his gameplan-- one that clicks according to the group of guys he has. That keeps basketball quick and encourages smart tactical changes, which are both good qualities in a college basketball game.
6. Quicker development is encouraged. For players who plan to leave after their freshman year, they are forced to develop their own skills within a shorter time span, but in the long run, it improves their self-motivation and self-disciplinary skills that are required at the professional level. So while everything is speeded up, there are definite overlooked benefits for who need to prove themselves immediately.
7. March Madness is even more “mad”. There is far more at stake for the one-and-dones. They know they’ll have one shot to win the title, which therefore intensifies the games and makes each one more valuable than the next. There are no second chances, and there’s no thinking about “how to improve next year”. Every game is a fight to the death because each one is potentially the last for freshmen standouts. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the intensity derived from this emotional mindset translates into outstandingly entertaining basketball games.
Freshmen leaving after one year is actually what makes everything so awesomely dramatic. There is a high sense of urgency, and the games are vital for every program. There is no “future” involved. There is only the now. It’s all or nothing for every team. There’s no intentional tanking, there’s no thinking about what happens next, there’s no long term strategies; what you see is exactly what you get. In the end, that’s why people love it. Taking all of that away by adding a two-year requirement may give prospects more time to develop, which is what the NBA wants, but as we have seen, prospects have developed just fine after leaving for the NBA early.
What really gets taken away with the two-year requirement is the essence of college basketball. And that's not the NBA's right to do.
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