What the NBA has done to college basketball.

Submitted by Section 1 on March 19th, 2010 at 11:12 AM

I found this Wall Street Journal article from yesterday to be an interesting one:


The Journal chose the headline, obviously. My headline might have been, "What the NBA has done to College Basketball." Warning; this article might lead you to believe that Evan Turner is one of the best stories in all of college basketball. I had read this article yesterday and just sort of filed it away, but reading the Board thread on how to improve the spectacle of football recruiting and signing day made me think about the link to this article...



March 19th, 2010 at 11:20 AM ^

Not sure I understand your point about the headline. The one you propose wouldn't fit the tenor of the story. The WSJ is arguing that the game is thriving even as its talent level is down.

Section 1

March 19th, 2010 at 11:49 AM ^

The two Journal writers were making the point that the NCAA Tourney thrives despite the talent dilution.

Of course, my own headline didn't exactly advance a thesis that the NBA had "ruined" college hoops. Just changed it. "What the NBA has done..."

I'll say this, too. With the NBA increasingly selecting NON-college players in the draft -- more Europeans, more players who never even enter a U.S. college -- there is an argument to be made that the NBA is raiding the NCAA less than ever. So I just don't know.

There are a few critical comments to the article at the WSJ website. Somebody pointed out that the photo captions were wrong.

As I said at the outset, I was just going to let the whole subject slide. For some reason I linked it in my own mind to the other Board topic about "improving" football recruiting for the sake of fans' infotainment.


March 19th, 2010 at 11:26 AM ^

it's funny/ironic how an article in the WSJ of all places (really good article, btw, and thanks) manages to tell this story w.o. really pointing a finger at the influence of money on the game. The truth is that that is WHY we keep loving college hoop so much, because it remains somewhat pure. . . and the number of players leaving may, in fact, level the playing field, making it still more fun.

I had never thought about the lack of tall inside players--duh. Wonder if, long term, that speaks positively to Beilein's odds for success. Obviously, it's changing the complexion of the game.


March 19th, 2010 at 11:30 AM ^

The NBA didn't screw college basketball; college basketball screwed college basketball.

A simple change in eligibility rules so that they are more like those in baseball or hockey would fix half of their problems. A team should be able to draft someone in HS and have their rights until they graduate.

Better yet, why not pay the players for their work. Throw out most of the rulebook and let players get money from boosters, endorsements, etc, for playing in college. If LeBron James could have made $40 million a year in endorsements to play in college, he might have played there for awhile instead of going straight to the NBA.

If a kid has an opportunity to feed his family, especially in this economy, he has to take it. Allowing kids to be paid might keep them in school longer, and it would certainly be more fair.

The only downside I see to this is Phil Knight's Nike money making Oregon THE powerhouse program, but it would be amusing to see colleges lining up to please sponsors.


March 19th, 2010 at 12:24 PM ^

It's not 40 million a year, but if someone would have offered me a full scholarship to attend a major university resulting in 50-100K in savings to me and my family, I would argue that's payment enough. Greed has taken the purity out of college basketball, and I can’t think of anything worse than players going to the highest bidder in college athletics. We have that to look forward to when they enter the NBA.


March 19th, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

I'm not really sure that the NBA did anything to college basketball. Despite the waxing of some old-timers, the game today is about as good (if not athletically better) than decades ago.

Sure, some teams were juggernauts (those old UCLA teams, Kentucky teams under Pitino, those early Duke teams, etc.), but the vast majority of those teams still lacked identifiable "talent" that the article (which is well written) argues exists today. Look at results from the 1980s and 1990s and you'll see upsets of 4 and 5 seeds at about the same pace as today, and most of those higher seeds didn't have any high draft picks.

As the article noted, the real difference is that good kids are not being concentrated at a couple of schools like they did years ago. Before, a couple of name schools - UCLA, UNC, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Georgetown, etc. - had waves of top-notch kids while the rest of the schools had to pick through the table scraps. Now, Mr. Basketballs see the Butlers, Gonzagas, and Siennas of the world as legit schools where they can compete nationally, and they are jumping at those opportunities. A similar phenomenon occurred in football with scholarship limits - you'll never see those Bear Bryant-led Alabama teams because you can no longer afford to bury top kids just so that they don't play for your competitors.

I'll agree that the overall NBA-level talent of this year's tournament is lower than in years past, but not as pronounced as the sentiment seems to be.


March 19th, 2010 at 1:34 PM ^

"A simple change in eligibility rules so that they are more like those in baseball or hockey would fix half of their problems."

I believe that would have to come from the NBA and would have to be done with the support of the player's union. It would be considered a restraint-of-trade otherwise. Certainly, the NCAA can't tell an NBA team who can be drafted and who can't.

Basketball ratings have been declining for about a decade. Final Four ratings are not worth what CBS is paying for them and I think they would be the first to tell you that. NBA ratings are just embarrassing. The financial troubles the league has to deal are enormous and have been well-chronicled elsewhere.

Kids are hitting their physical peak earlier than they did 20 years ago. There's no reason that a guy like LeBron James should have to go to college. Let NBA teams draft whoever they want (like baseball) and let the players decide if they like their draft spot or not. BUT...if they go to college, make them stay there until they are 21 before the NBA can draft them again.

They would be free to go to Europe and do whatever they wanted, obviously. The NBA screws itself by limiting the amount of time they can scout particular players. Great example...Terrance Morris. If he leaves after his junior year, he's a lottery pick. But he decides that he wants his degree so he stays in college. The NBA scouts take another look at him and realize that he's going to struggle getting his shot off in the NBA. So he falls all the way into the second round. And that's where he belonged...he was a marginal NBA player. The drafting teams benefited from that extra look. Why wouldn't they want to do that with every player?


March 19th, 2010 at 2:18 PM ^

I think that the first question the article poses is fairly easy to answer and pretty much sums it up.

"Does talent matter in college basketball?"

The answer is no.

People watch college basketball because it's fun. There are hundreds of teams, its not stagnant like the NBA (with long term deals that sink teams chances of competing for years) because players are only in college for four years, sometimes less. There are always new players to get excited about every year.

The NCAA tournament is fun to watch. Granted, it is a horrible way of determining a champion but it's more about fun and bringing in cash as opposed to deciding who the best team would be (for that a 7 game series is the best format which is not as fun or exciting).

When I want to watch good basketball with players who know how to play the game and play it at the highest level I watch the NBA.

When I want something fun and exciting where god knows what can happen I watch college ball.

If you're watching college basketball for the "talent" level then watching college basketball probably isn't a whole lot of fun.


March 19th, 2010 at 8:10 PM ^

GTFO with your statement about the BCS. I never said anything about it and you can just GTFO with that.

As far as basketball is concerned. A seven game series playoff is easily the best way to determine who the best team is, a la the nba playoffs. The nba playoffs may be boring (to some) but they are logically the best way to determine which team is the best.