While the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season has been over for seemingly an eternity now, the 2018-19 college basketball season has marched on into April. The Final Four is set as Michigan State, Texas Tech, Auburn and Virginia have made their way to center stage. Yes, that’s right. Virginia.
Maybe you boycotted the NCAA Tournament ever since Syracuse was bounced in the first round, but noted Blue Blood programs
Gonzaga Kentucky and Duke were jettisoned from the Elite Eight within mere hours of each other on Sunday night, leaving zero one-and-done prospects remaining in the tournament.
In turn, this brought about college basketball’s latest tradition of refuting the notion that one-and-done talents can carry their respective teams to a National Championship. At least, that’s what seems to happen every year when Duke and Kentucky drop out of the tournament.
Wait a minute though. Haven’t those teams already proven the exact opposite?
Kentucky won the national title in 2012 with a roster chock-full of one-and-done players. Duke mirrored that same effort in 2015 with one-and-dones. While each of those teams had exactly one senior that was an important leader, those teams were by and large fueled by freshmen.
Syracuse fans were also quick to point out Carmelo Anthony’s title run in 2003. Now maybe that doesn’t give as much credence to the argument as 2012 Kentucky and 2015 Duke given the other freshmen on that 2003 Syracuse team (Gerry McNamara and Billy Edelin) were not one-and-dones, Hakim Warrick, Josh Pace and Craig Forth were sophomores, Jeremy McNeil served an important backup center role as a junior and Kueth Duany was a senior captain. Maybe it isn’t as relevant in today’s discussion because Carmelo led Syracuse to a national title before one-and-done was a term and before the NBA implemented the rule starting with the 2006 NBA Draft.
Regardless, I’m not even sure why we have this conversation every year.
There will be a lot of talk today referencing the 2012 Kentucky & 2015 Duke teams as One-and-Done squads who won national titles.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 1, 2019
When you hear that, remember that these guys WERE NOT One-and-Done's:
Now maybe this isn’t what Rothstein is trying to say. (then again do we ever know what Rothstein is trying to say?)
But because those teams — with mostly one-and-done guys — had one senior and a pair of sophomores they should be discredited for winning a title with one-and-dones?
If that’s the case, no sh*t. You’d be better served waiting for Godot than for a division I college basketball team to roll out a roster of exclusively freshmen. But maybe then and only then could the narrative be refuted.
My favorite part of the Final Four each year is that everyone takes the four remaining teams and turns them into IRREFUTABLE PROOF that whatever it is they represent has been proven the correct way to do college basketball once and for all.— Sean Keeley (@SeanKeeleyIsMe) April 1, 2019
Yeah, Sean is onto something. First, we should at least be cautious of the conclusions drawn from a single-elimination, three weekend tournament played in various arenas throughout the country.
As we know, the NCAA Tournament does not necessarily crown the best team in the sport of college basketball. It’s rare that all four teams left in the tournament represent the four best teams in the country. Just because there aren’t any one-and-done prospects left in the 2019 tournament, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one-and-done prospects can’t win a title.
For each of the last two seasons Duke was just one bucket away from earning a trip to the Final Four with teams that relied heavily on one-and-dones. Had Grayson Allen made a jumper against Kansas and/or Kenny Goins missed a 3 for Michigan State, Duke would have made the Final Four in back-to-back seasons and then who knows what happens after that?
Kentucky almost won another title in 2014 with a roster, you guessed it, full of one-and-dones but fell just short to UConn. So I suppose that’s all the proof we need to determine that one-and-dones can’t get it done?
If you want to say that most Final Four teams and National Champions have rosters with upperclassmen, you’d be right. But don’t most rosters in the NCAA Tournament have juniors and seniors to begin with? I don’t think that necessarily proves anything.
The fact of the matter is there are usually only two teams each season with a multitude of one-and-done prospects. That doesn’t give the narrative much of a chance to be disproven, especially when most rosters have seasoned college players to begin with. Duke had a 19-percent chance to win the tournament this year and Kentucky had a 5-percent chance according to FiveThiryEight. Isn’t that already unlikely?
This doesn’t mean that programs should stop recruiting one-and-done types or that doing so is a surefire way to to fall short of college basketball’s final weekend. Just because Duke or Kentucky fail to win six straight games in a single-elimination tournament doesn’t necessarily prove anything.
To be sure, this isn’t a defense of Duke or Kentucky. It just seems silly to suggest that one-and-done prospects can’t win a championship when it’s already been done.