Will End of CBB's One-and-Done Era Boost or Hurt March Madness' Future?

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2018

Marvin Bagley
Marvin BagleyAssociated Press

For the last 13 years, many offseason conversations have revolved around the best potential one-and-done college basketball players. At this point, however, the NBA appears likely to modify the rule in the near future.

Whether it's eliminating the rule, creating a baseball-like system as Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott suggested or something else, change is coming. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has acknowledged the current setup isn't ideal.

However, he also knows any adjustment will affect the college game.

"We realize that the whole issue of the one-and-done is that we don't operate in isolation, and where we choose to set with our players' association, the minimum age has a direct impact on college basketball as well," Silver said during All-Star Weekend, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.

Whichever path the NBA chooses, March Madness will be affected. That's unavoidable when a program could lose out on high school prospects the caliber of Derrick Rose or Anthony Davis.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who's built his career on attracting one-and-done players, recently presented the chief counterargument to change while on The Dan Patrick Show.

That's a prime example of overstating the significance, though.

In 2005, then-NBA Commissioner David Stern successfully created a benchmark for entry into the NBA: Players must be at least 19 years old and one or more years removed from high school graduation. The rule shuttled all elite basketball players to spending one season in college.

Since then, 65 one-and-done playersincluding 11 last yearhave been top-14 selections in the NBA draft. More than a handful of current college stars are expected to join that group in 2018.

However, it's unwise to suggest a majority of the one-and-done draftees would've gone straight to the Association. If they aren't in the lottery discussion, they'd likely go to college. 

There are of course exceptions. Some high school graduates would be tempted to make the leap to the NBA for financial reasons—supporting a family needing help. Others may be duped by agents into believing they'll go higher in the draft than they actually will.

Overall, we cannot know which players from this era would've skipped college, but many one-and-done talents needed the year between high school and the pros anyway.

Kevin Durant, Rose, Kevin Love, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Davis, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons are among the outliers. They all thrived at the college level, but that didn't always result in team success during the NCAA tournament. From that collection of stars, only Rose, Love and Davis helped their college squad reach the Final Four.

The only one-and-done lottery picks since 2006 who also celebrated a national title are Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky, 2012) and Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow (Duke, 2015).

Wall, Cousins and Kentucky bowed out in the Elite Eight of the 2010 tournament.
Wall, Cousins and Kentucky bowed out in the Elite Eight of the 2010 tournament.Kevin Rivoli/Associated Press

Additionally, the potential volume of high school-to-NBA players is often exaggerated. Consider that from 1995-2005, the 11-year stretch considered the "prep-to-pro generation," NBA teams selected only 39 players straight out of high school. That's an average of 3.5 picks per draft.

This does not account for the players who would unfortunately not get drafted at all. 

There would inevitably be more depressing tales like Lenny Cooke, who was once viewed as a better prospect than LeBron before going undrafted in 2002. His story is often brought up as a prime example of why the one-and-done rule was put into place.

The NCAA tournament would lose a bit of star power, and Calipari-level coaches would whiff on a few recruits. But unless the NBA creates a legitimate development system akin to minor league baseball—in other words, strengthening the G League by improving salaries—college basketball will remain the best option for a majority of top prospects.

College teams' facilities are excellent. Teams travel on charter flights. National networks televise or stream games every night. Players need exposure, and major-conference basketball in the United States provides it better than overseas or the G League.

If NBA teams ever manage to attract 40, 50 or 60 top high schoolers to a soccer-like academy program or can offer development slots in a well-paid G League, that's a far greater concern to the Big Dance than losing a handful of players.

Collin Sexton
Collin SextonMichael Chang/Getty Images

Let's pretend Marvin Bagley, Michael Porter Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Deandre Ayton and Collin Sextonthe top five players in the class of 2017, per 247Sportswent directly to the NBA. Porter's injury is an outlier, but Bagley and Ayton are the only players on a team considered to be a real NCAA tournament contender.

Would missing those five do all that much damage March Madness? Not substantially, no. Again, many of the best former players, from Durant to Wall to Davis to Simmons, had limited (or zero) team-related success in the tournament.

It's true, we'll never have an answer to how Maryland would've performed with Kevin Garnett or Ohio State with LeBron James. Who knows how many shots JR Smith would've taken? Future NBA "bust" Kwame Brown might've excelled in college.

But we'll always fall in love with Cinderella teams like George Mason or Stephen Curry's Davidson. Every once in a while, Connecticut, South Carolina or Syracuse will make an improbable run. Veteran teams will win championships, as Villanova and North Carolina did in the last two years.

Removing the one-and-done rule matters to the NCAA tournamentjust not as much as you might think.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.


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