I’ve heard expressed at least twice in national media outlets in recent days the belief that a Kentucky national basketball championship would have a severely negative effect on the game. To sum up, the theory states that until now, John Calipari’s one-and-done methods haven’t been legitimized with a national title. And now that he has one, other schools are going to mimic Cal’s approach.
Here’s what Chuck Klosterman wrote last week in Grantland.com:
Now, I’m not suggesting that every single college will turn into a clone of Kentucky, because that’s impossible. There aren’t enough good players in America for that to happen. But Calipari’s scheme will become standard at a handful of universities where losing at basketball is unacceptable: North Carolina, Syracuse, Kansas, UCLA, and maybe even Duke. These schools already recruit one-and-done freshmen, but they’ll have to go further; they’ll have to be as transparent about their motives as Calipari is (because transparency is the obsession of modernity). If they resist, they will fade. And the result will be a radical amplification of what the game has already become: There will be five schools sharing the 25 best players in the country, and all the lesser programs will kill each other for the right to lose to those five schools in the Sweet 16. It will skew the competitive balance of major conferences and split D-I basketball into two completely unequal tiers.
What am I missing here?
I don’t agree at all with Klosterman’s hypothesis. Yes, there has been skepticism of Calipari, along with a lot of criticism. But Klosterman seems to be suggesting that all the one-and-done talent will suddenly congeal in half a dozen programs nationally, which is a grand leap of faith. That implies that programs like Duke have been making a concerted effort not to accept potential one-and-done athletes, which I don’t think is the case. Duke has had several one-and-gone players, including Corey Maggette, Luol Deng and now, Austin Rivers.
Do Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse now lunge after one-and-done prospects, simply with the implied mission of having to keep up with Kentucky? Have those schools been curbing the urge to take potential one-and-done performers? That’s a dubious assumption.
Think of it like this: Calipari’s failure to win a title with one-and-dones was overstated to begin with. He hasn’t been doing it that way for very long. And the fact he did get a championship assures him nothing going forward. Shot-blocking centers like Anthony Davis don’t come along every year, or even every five years. Nor does a talented group necessarily play cohesively, as Calipari managed this season.
Some one-and-done players will always choose schools outside the tight clique Klosterman mentions. Washington just had one with Tony Wroten. There are other schools like Florida, Texas, Louisville and Michigan State that will always be appealing to such athletes.
Personally, I hate the one-and-done phenomenon. But I’d stop short of predicting an apocalypse in college basketball.