College basketball has changed and I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.
I’ve been glued to the screen watching teams like Lehigh take down giants like Duke. I mean that’s the biggest appeal of March Madness, right?
We want the Davids to take down the Goliaths. We don’t want to see four No. 1-ranked seeds meet to decide it all. We want to see Ohio move past Michigan and then take down the mighty North Carolina.
The appeal and the madness are still alive, but are we seeing quality or are we getting a heightened mediocrity that has only come about because kids aren’t staying in school?
Sure, my jaw drops every time that Kentucky hits the floor and Marquis Teague lobs one up to Anthony Davis for an alley-oop. Or every time that Davis pulls his best Stretch Armstrong impersonation, blocking everything from potential posterizers to three-point attempts.
But it would be great to see these one-and-dones, who have become synonymous with head coach John Calipari, stay an extra year or two or, gasp, three. Imagine Davis side-by-side with DeMarcus Cousins, receiving passes from John Wall.
Forget the magic of the run Syracuse made in 2003 with the superb play of freshman forward Carmelo Anthony, and think back to 1979.
That’s the year senior forward Larry Bird led Indiana State to the championship game against Michigan State and their star point guard Ervin “Magic” Johnson, who was a junior at the time. The result was a 75-64 game, but the competiveness is stuff of legend. It was a rivalry that fans will pass down over several generations.
Sure, freshmen have hype and pizzazz, but juniors and seniors have back stories; they have history. They bleed the colors of their colleges and universities.
Johnson’s Spartans are one of 16 teams left in the brackets this year. Their top player is senior forward Draymond Green, a player who has gone through ups and downs on his way to where he is today.
One of the most famous plays in Duke’s history was senior Christian Laettner’s last-second, turn-around jump shot in a dramatic 104–103 victory over Kentucky. Freshman guard Austin Rivers made some memorable moments this season, who can forget his game-winning three against North Carolina in the regular season, but people also won’t forget that the Blue Devils got bounced from 2012 tourney in the first round by the No.15-seeded Mountain Hawks.
What they may forget, if Rivers makes the jump to the NBA, is that he even played for the Dukies. His brief existence in Durham means that his name won’t be around in the record books and his jersey won’t be hung from the rafters.
Calipari said two years ago that setting the record with five Wildcats drafted in the first round of the NBA draft — four of whom were one-and-dones — was the greatest day in the school’s basketball history. This upset fans who would rather look up at Rupp Arena and remember their championship seasons, can you blame them?
I personally enjoy to watch talented freshman go out there and ball, but I’d also like to see them grow and mature into leaders who provide more quality to March Madness. The system is the system and things have changed. I’m a little bitter, but it’s still fun to watch, so I guess for now my answer is that I love to hate it.