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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The NBA's Age Requirement

Many people have displayed outrage about how the University of Kentucky gets all these one-and-done players. And many people end up not liking the players individually because they feel they should stay in college. I am not one of these people. I actually think the current NBA age requirement is fine. 

I think the rule to make players stay for one year in college or overseas (if you’re Brandon
Jennings) is a good idea. A lot of people look the other way and want these kids to stay longer because they only see how it will benefit the NBA. They don't see how it could damage NCAA Basketball. I read Steve Kerr's "The Case for the 20-Year-Old Age Limit in the NBA" on Grantland. Each of the six points he made were correct and true however, he neglects to think about what will happen to college basketball if the rule change is made.

1. More Improper Benefits

When you force NBA prospects to hold off their dreams of getting paid for playing basketball, you will force some of them to resort to some methods of getting that money earlier. In other words you will have more Perry Jones III improper benefits issues. Remember, Jones was suspended for five games after it was learned his mother received three, 15-day loans and had recruiting travels paid for from his AAU coach. So I anticipate much more improper benefits in the future.

Many of you will just say: "That's only one issue. How can you anticipate much more coming?" Well, there is a precedent. Look at football. The NFL is forcing future NFL prospects to wait three years in college before becoming NFL eligible. And we all know that there have been a lot of improper benefits since Reggie Bush's case came out. For example, the five Ohio State Buckeyes players that sold memorabilia for tattoos. Also, there was the University of Miami incident where many Hurricanes athletes were have found to have received improper benefits. These were huge finds within university and it forced OSU Buckeye legend Jim Tressel to resign and put first-year Hurricanes coach Al Golden into an almost no-win situation as many of his top position players and veteran leaders were suspended. So I envision this as a future consequence for college basketball even if the age is pushed back one year.

Players want to get to the NBA and get money. So if they have to wait another year, what do you think they will do? College football players are trying to find ways to get improper benefits so wouldn't you expect college basketball players to do the same? Absolutely. Some of these athletes will try to make their pay-days happen in college. This creates a new bundle of problems to go on top of the ones that it is having with college basketball.

2. More 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcat Teams

Most people I've talked to hate Kentucky. Main reason: They have "one and dones." Well, this statement is true but it also assumes that the entire team is of freshmen which was not the case. Remember, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller were sophomores. There were only three freshmen that received significant time on Kentucky. It wasn't a one and done team; it was a team that's best player was a one and done (C Anthony Davis). Expect more of these teams if the NBA age limit is raised by one year. 

You didn't think Kentucky was the only school that could recruit like that. If you did, you are mistaken. North Carolina and Duke are capable of what Kentucky does in recruiting. Syracuse and Connecticut could do the same as well. Look at what UCLA and North Carolina State University did this year. These two universities probably had the best recruiting classes of 2012. 

So now think about it hypothetically. The freshmen at both of these schools will do well next year and then be forced to stay for another year. The following year, UCLA is going to get another solid recruiting class and NC State will probably bring in another one too. So, two years from now we are looking at the same scenario as the 2011-2012 Kentucky team. A great freshman group with a great sophomore group that that is NBA ready. 

3. Less Competitive Play

This is the domino effect of more teams becoming more like the 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats. The play will be less competitive and I'm not just talking about the NCAA Tournament. There are certain schools that can recruit well, some that have the money to recruit well and the ones that can't recruit. Unfortunately most schools can't recruit well. There's a limited amount of highly-skilled players and not every school can get one. Adding to the problem is that every year, the same school pick up the highly-skilled players. So this creates a dilemma where the talent gap between schools will continue to get wider.

Why is it getting bigger right now? It's not getting bigger at the moment because many of these highly-skilled players are leaving after one year which keeps the playing field level. But if we were to force these great players to stay another year and pair them with more skill players from another recruiting class, their respective teams are going to become "super" teams. So while teams like Kentucky or Duke repeatedly have title contending teams, schools like Butler or Gonzaga might not be able to stay on the same level because they can't bring in outstanding recruiting classes.

I'm not ruling out upset but I think there will be less of them if the NBA decides to up the age requirement. I think the talent level and the quality of players will be too substantial of a difference between two schools that games will become too predictable. The only way games would be competitive would be by putting a high-powered Kentucky team against a high-powered UCLA team.

4. More March Monotony, not Madness

College basketball's "Golden Egg" will suffer if the age rule requirement rising in the NBA. In the future, if the age limit is changed, there will probably be 10-12 "super" teams in the tournament (Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, UCLA, etc.). It will be these teams that will most likely reach the Final Four. I don't believe there will be any more "Cinderella" teams (Butler, George Mason, VCU, etc.) in the Final Four.

Consider this: the talent gap between a "Cinderella" team and a "super" team will be quite substantial because the "super" team will have NBA-ready freshmen and sophomores while the "Cinderella" might have 1 or 2 good players on their team. So I won't rule out one upset by a "Cinderella" over a "super" but eventually it has to face two or three more "super" teams in the NCAA Tournament. If I was to play the odds, I don't think the "Cinderella" would get far in the tournament. The odds aren't favorable.

End result: It would be March Madness because we would know that only the #1, #2, or #3 seeds would be in the Final Four. College basketball is exciting when a #6-#13 makes a run into the Final Four. I wouldn't expect that to happen if the NBA-ready college players are forced to stay one more year and join another NBA-ready recruiting class.

Don't Do it!

Raising the NBA age requirement benefits the NBA and hurts the NCAA. The NBA's intentions "sound" good but carefully think about it. Kerr argues for player development and maturity. Is the development and maturity to benefit the player as a college player or NBA player? It's as an NBA player. This is not false thinking by Kerr because it is necessary for future NBA players to develop and mature. But by raising the age limit, you are catering to the quality of the NBA and future players, not college basketball and the players that don't have an NBA future.

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