Duke. Kentucky. Kansas. Such rich histories for every single one of them, but in recent years, the tide has been changing from the traditional ways of winning. Up until the 2000’s, elite basketball players had the option to skip college and jump from high school directly to the NBA. This changed in 2006 when a rule was put into play that stated an athlete in high school had to go to college for at least one year before entering the NBA Draft. Little did the NCAA know that with this rule would change the landscape of college basketball over the next decade.
Imagine these scenarios for a second: Duke, with Kyrie Irving, Jabari Parker, and Jahlil Okafor. Kentucky, with Demarcus Cousins, Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Davis, and Brandon Knight. And Kansas, with Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Ben McLemore. These teams would have been reality if each of these athletes would have stayed for all four years in college. It would not just be exciting, it would make the NCAA Tournament the top sporting event in the world! “One-and-done’s” are necessary for elite players to get to the highest level (and get paid large sums of money) as soon as possible, but are “one-and-done’s” bad for the college game?
To the college teams who have perfected the art of the “one-and-done” recruit, there are schools that still do it the old-fashioned way. In recent years, schools like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Villanova, and UConn have all made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament with players that had been with the program for multiple years. Both techniques, “one-and-done’s” and multiple-year players, have worked in previous years, so it is hard to say which is better.
Since 2010, it has been a mix of both types of players on teams who have made it to the national title game. Schools like Michigan, Wisconsin, UConn, Louisville, and Butler twice, have all made appearances in the big game, only to have their counterparts be power-houses full of talented “one-and-done’s.” Aside from Kentucky and Duke, who have won three combined titles since 2010, the other three winners have been from UConn twice and Louisville. Both of these schools who have rich histories of players staying for multiple years.
I don’t think one can make a claim for whether or not “one-and-done’s” are good for the sport. One idea fun to imagine is what college basketball would have looked like from the early 90’s to mid-2000’s had the current rule we have now, been implemented during this time span. Talk about an exciting college game! Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. All of these players, at one point, were the best at their positions in the NBA. Some of them could arguably be one of the best at their position ever. Garnett at the four, Kobe at the two, and LeBron at the three. That would have made whichever college team that would have landed them, potential favorites to win the NCAA Tournament for the one year they were on campus.
There are fans who love “one-and-done’s” and there are fans who would rather see players stay at a school for multiple years, trying to win their favorite team a championship. Love it or hate it, it is a part of our game, and it is here to stay. Recent history has shown that schools can win a championship no matter which recruiting strategy they take.