Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Can you feel it? The tingle down your spine. Can you hear it? The sound of an F-18 overhead. Can you taste it? Winning. I'm not talking about how Charlie Sheen spends his weekends, but rather March Madness is upon us. Duh! All across the country, from office buildings to school campuses and beyond, we are getting ready to fill out our brackets.

The theme of this college basketball season has undoubtedly been parody. From underdog upsets to perennial powers unable to hold the number one ranking, the college pool has dried up faster than a pimple in a tanning bed. Last March, fans got to watch John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors blast onto the court and make havoc in the NCAA tournament, just to wave goodbye to them in June as all three set sail for the NBA after one college season.

Since the 2006 draft, the "one year out of high school" rule has been in place. This college basketball season we are feeling the residual affects of this "decision" more than ever before. Lindsay Lohan stayed out of court longer than a team was ranked #1 in the nation this season. College programs like Memphis and Kentucky have benefited from the top high school players coming to their program for only one season in recent years, but it's fools gold.

In 2008, Coach John Calipari led Memphis with freshman phenom Derek Rose to the National Championship game. All seemed well in Tiger land. Then, Rose left for the NBA, and then Calipari left for Kentucky, and now Memphis isn't ranked. Coach Calipari has since moved on to Kentucky where last season he coached another freshman superstar, John Wall. Wall with help from freshman big-man Demarcus Cousins led the Wildcats to a 35-3 regular season record, an SEC championship, along with an elite 8 appearance. After one season, Wall and Cousins left the Wildcats faster than you can do the "Dougie". This year they are 22-8 and have many question marks going into the tournament regarding their lack of experience.

More troubling than the one-year rule's impact on individual teams, is the repercussions it poses on the schools themselves. The "rent-a-player" mentality let's player's believe that academia is just a bump in the road to the NBA. We can't really blame this thought process however. Remember Senior year of high school. Once we found out that we got into the College of our choice, we put the car on cruise control and coasted to the finish line. It's the same with the one-year college athlete. Once school starts in late August, the internal clock of the athlete begins. They end up preparing more for the NBA draft in June then for the sociology exam in December. The rule has become an affront to the institution that provides room and board to these athletes.

Better alternatives are available.

A player can go straight from high school to the NBA or has to spend at least two years in college.

Did Kevin Durant and Derek Rose really need those six months playing college basketball to be successful in the NBA? And, the idea that a year in college makes you more mature than someone right out of high school is erroneous and unfounded. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James all came to the NBA straight from high school and are three of the most driven basketball players on the planet. If a Senior in high school thinks he's ready for the NBA, it should be his decision. If he fails, as anything in life, he is responsible for those choices. Even players who haven't lived up to their hype like Kwame Brown live better than 90% of us.

The other option, "the two-year rule", would allow players who need more time to develop to actually get time to...develop. The first year they will be able to focus entirely on academics and basketball. The second year, players can deal with preparing for the NBA draft and the hoopla that goes along with it. Imagine the product we would see consistently every year if star college players stayed in school for two years instead of one. It would also give the programs a chance to prepare for their departure and reload for the future. 

Being able to declare for the NBA draft right from high school or staying in college for at least two years seems the best of both worlds. If the rule doesn't change, fans of March Madness are likely to see more famine rather than feast in college basketball for years to come.

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