- Breaking down the reignited one-and-done rule debate and how it will only exacerbate current problems, plus five teams on the rise, a chat with Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett and more.
Perhaps the most important college basketball news of last week was broken by an NBA reporter and centered on the NBA’s commissioner and the head of its players’ union. When ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Adam Silver and Michele Roberts met with the Commission on College Basketball—the group chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and assembled by the NCAA this fall in the wake of the FBI’s recruiting sting—one of the sport’s most well-tread subjects of debate was reanimated: the impact of one-and-done players on college basketball, and what would happen if the NBA eliminates the draft-entry age limit that produces them.
Wojnarowski reported that there is “momentum gathering” for such a change, which would be the first alteration of the NBA’s draft-entry requirements since the current rule was put in place before the 2006 Draft. While a number of conditions have changed since then, a look at the last few drafts where NBA teams could select high school graduates suggests some seven to nine players would bypass college basketball each season. For all the discussion of how the rule has ruined the sport (by increasing roster turnover, undercutting continuity and thus quality of play, even further distorting the purported academic roots of college sports) or benefited it (by injecting it with elite talent, giving the college game a boost in relevance in an increasingly NBA-driven sports culture), the actual number of players that would come or go based on the age limit does not seem particularly high.
But Wojnarowski’s report contained a second bit of news that might be equally impactful. Wojnarowski wrote that for the one-and-done rule to be changed in the next collective bargaining agreement, “the union would probably need to ... agree to a mandate that players entering college must stay two years before declaring for the draft.” This would be a system similar to that employed by Major League Baseball, which forces players to either enter its professional ranks either out of high school or after three years of college. It has often been a popular suggestion among coaches and commentators to replace the one-and-done rule, rather than reverting to the pre-2006 rules where players could enter out of high school or any year thereafter.
Yet much like the way unknown backup quarterbacks are often beloved simply because the starter is struggling, the popularity of the zero-or-two-and-done rule gets a boost from the fact that we have not yet seen its flaws in practice. Consider the decision facing the type of player with realistic draft prospects out of high school. It is one thing to be choosing between a professional salary and assured opportunity and the delay of such by a year for the benefits of development and/or education. But forcing them to choose between the pros and waiting two years, the calculation changes.
It would not be unreasonable to expect this to encourage more players to bypass college altogether, as doubling the potential delay before an NBA career means doubling the risk of an injury compromising it or, even worse, preventing it before it happens. That would mean a further decrease in the college game’s talent level and the attention garnered by its most promising pro prospects. And given the realities brought to light by the FBI investigation—the way the financial stakes and the NCAA’s model of amateurism create an ample black market for players services—the motivations behind corruption and bribery would increase as well. Recruiters would no longer be trying to simply out-bid one another; they’d also have to out-bid two years of a professional salary. And players talented enough to be making that choice would have more reason to seek extra compensation as a way to hedge their bet as they wait two years to cash in on their value. Not only might this sort of rule change fail to solve some current problems, but short of further reforms, it could actually exacerbate them.
Of course, the NCAA ultimately has no real say in this. One-and-done is the NBA’s rule, governed by the NBA’s and its players’ own interests, and it’s neither party’s responsibility to do what’s best for college basketball. All of which leaves the NCAA, somewhat fittingly, at the mercy of the same market forces that it so steadfastly restrains and manipulates within its own jurisdiction. And that’s a problem forever beyond its control too.
If you are wondering what exactly you are reading, this is the Monday Rebound, SI.com’s weekly Monday-morning column on college hoops. It’s a sort of a grab bag of news and tidbits and opinions largely aimed at catching you up on the weekend’s (and week’s) action and being generally informative. If there’s anything you like or dislike or would want to see more of here, or if you would just like to chat and maybe swap stories about air travel, you can find me on Twitter @thedangreene. Thanks for reading.
As the scandal turns...
Another quiet week has passed on the subject of the ongoing FBI probe into college basketball recruiting. There were some not guilty pleas and assignment of future court dates at the end of the month, but that’s all. The implicated teams are playing just fine thus far, with only Auburn having lost a game, and that was to a quality Temple team.
But there was a bit of news that may become important down the line. According to a Yahoo Sports report by Dan Wetzel, NCAA staffers may be called to court as witnesses to explain the NCAA rulebook. NCAA rules are not laws, but the prosecution’s legal case rests on the idea that by willfully violating such rules, the defendants were defrauding the universities. Some have questioned how well that argument will hold up in court. Testimony from NCAA experts will be crucial to it doing so.
Speaking of one-and-done, a week ago in this space it was noted how disappointing it must have been for Missouri fans to only get to see Michael Porter Jr.—a presumed top-3 pick in next June’s NBA Draft—play two minutes in his collegiate debut due to a hip injury. Seven days later they’ve still yet to see anything more. In fact, they couldn’t even see him sitting out Monday’s win against Wagner because Porter watched it from a monitor inside the arena rather than from the bench. Three days later Porter didn’t travel to the Tigers’ game at Utah, which they lost 77-59. Coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters he didn’t know how serious the injury is.
That disappointment is beginning to turn to worry. With a player of Porter’s caliber and importance, it only makes sense to be take a cautious and conservative approach, especially this early in the season. But not even traveling to Utah would seem to be some kind of red flag. Mizzou’s next real test will be a Nov. 30 trip to UCF. Judging by the loss to Utah, the Tigers will likely need Porter’s help to win games like that one. By then there should be a clearer picture of Porter’s injury’s severity. Until there is, when it comes to Porter, you have yet to miss much of anything. And with a player like him, that’s something.
Each week, we’ll be highlighting five teams on the rise. Here’s who stood out over the past week.
1. Duke: Beating Michigan State on a neutral floor would have made for an impressive victory regardless of how the Blue Devils did it. Doing it while superfrosh Marvin Bagley III sat out the last 30 minutes with an eye injury made it a statement. This offense could be scary, and the 2-3 zone has shown encouraging signs early.
2. Xavier: One of the best true road wins of the season’s first week(ish) came Thursday night, when the Musketeers won 80-70 at Wisconsin to solidify their top-15 bonafides. It wasn’t quite their second round thriller from the 2016 NCAA tournament, but it did feature JP Macura taunting Badgers fans with a Gator chomp in reference to Florida beating Wisconsin last March.
3. Minnesota: The Gophers got a quality road win of their own last Monday when they knocked off Providence by 12, then took care of business against Niagara and Western Carolina. Big man Reggie Lynch is averaging 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks, the latter of which ranks first nationally.
4. Temple: The Owls won the Charleston Classic by reeling off victories against Old Dominion, Auburn, and Clemson. That’s the beginning of a potentially strong bubble resume. Junior guard Shizz Alston is breaking out to the tune of 18.3 points per game and 56.3% three-point shooting.
5. Belmont: After opening the season with a close loss at Washington, the Bruins knocked off Vanderbilt at home and Middle Tennessee on the road this week—two quality wins that should boost Belmont’s seeding in March should Rick Byrd’s squad win the Ohio Valley.
Top of the Classes
Senior: Jevon Carter, West Virginia guard
Carter nearly flirted with a quadruple-double in the Mountaineers win over American, posting 20 points, nine (!) steals, seven assists and seven rebounds. He’s looking like a good bet to repeat as NABC Defensive Player of the Year, which hasn’t been done since UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet in 2008-09.
Junior: Femi Olujobi, North Carolina A&T forward
After struggling to crack Oakland’s rotation for two years, the 6’8” Olujobi has taken kindly to his new home with the Aggies, averaging 33.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in their wins over the Citadel and Jacksonville last week. He also shot 70.3% from the field in those games.
Sophomore: Isaiah Reese, Canisius guard
This season’s second triple-double in Division I against a D-I opponent (and first in Canisius history) came when Reese put up 23 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds in a 104-84 win over Youngstown State on Saturday. As a freshman last season, Reese had just one double double.
Freshman: Trevon Duval, Duke guard
He may not have been very efficient as a scorer, but Duval’s first big-game performance—17 points and 10 assists to just three turnovers (plus six steals) against Michigan State—proved he can run the offense against an elite opponent and was key to setting up Grayson Allen’s monster performance.
Bests of the Best
Each week, we’ll get to know a standout player a little better by asking them about some of the best things in the world. This week we welcome Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett, who’s averaging 25.3 points and 7.0 rebounds for the 3-0 Muskies. So, Trevon, tell us about the best...
...player to impersonate growing up. “Kobe Bryant. When I was growing up, he went on his tear. I remember watching the game where he scored 81 against the Raptors. The moves he was doing—fadeaways, post-ups, all that stuff—just seemed unrealistic, like those were tough shots to make. So I always went downstairs or in the backyard and tried to do those moves. I couldn’t get them down at the time.”
...nickname someone’s given you. “Around my freshman and sophomore year in college, back when I used to fluctuate with my weight and all, my teammates used to call me Big Baby. As funny as it was, I feel like it was pretty accurate looking back on it, so I can’t complain about that one. It was still funny at the time, but I was in denial.”
...Thanksgiving food. “I’ll probably say turkey just because we don’t eat turkey all the time except on Thanksgiving. And then my mom’s homemade macaroni. That’s something I eat every holiday. I don’t really sit around and watch her cook, but I know the process takes all day, starting in the morning with cutting the blocks of cheese and mixing it in. She does it from beginning to end homemade.”
Social Media Post of the Week
Imagine trying to explain to John Wooden that on Nov. 19, 2017 UCLA would pay someone $12 million to stop coaching football and the President of the United States would be feuding with the father of a UCLA basketball player.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) November 20, 2017
PK-80 Motion bracket finals, Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It wouldn’t be fair to assign any homework on Thanksgiving Day, but if you want to watch the two-bracket, 16-team, three-round PK-80 tournament—held in Portland, Ore., in celebration of Nike founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday—from the beginning, that’s when the games will begin. By Sunday the two impressive brackets will narrow to two surely impressive finals, with the Motion bracket (the other is named Victory) offering the most alluring potential final matchup in Duke vs. Florida, with Texas and Gonzaga lurking as spoilers.
As for the Victory bracket, its final will tip off two hours earlier, with Michigan State, North Carolina, and Oklahoma as its headlining contenders. And both brackets will conclude with quadruple-headers beginning at 1 p.m. ET that day, so if you want to truly stuff yourself with basketball, there will be plenty of courses on offer.
Before You’re Dismissed...
• There’s a lot more big-time college basketball to watch this week than just the PK80. SI’s Chris Johnson has a great preview of Feast Week you should check out to guide your hoops consumption.
• On Twitter, President Trump mused, in response to LaVar Ball’s comments on his involvement, that he should have left the three now-freed UCLA basketball players imprisoned in China after their shoplifting arrests. Good to know our president’s caring for his constituents might depend on their father’s—or their teammate’s father’s—praise of him.
• All-America Michigan State forward Miles Bridges sprained his ankle in the Spartans’ win over Stony Brook on Sunday. Tom Izzo said he expects Bridges to be day-to-day, which is better news than a more serious sprain would have been. Next up for Michigan State is DePaul on Thursday on the first day of the PK80.
• Keep an eye on the situation with Kansas freshman Billy Preston. The forward and top-20 recruit was held out of the Jayhawks’ game against Kentucky last week after a minor single-car accident led to questions about the “financial picture” of the vehicle Preston was driving. The implication is that if Preston received the car as an improper benefit, rendering him ineligible, then the Jayhawks would have to forfeit any games Preston played in. Thus Kansas coach Bill Self has said Preston will be sitting out until the situation is resolved. Self said he expects that to be soon. We’ll see.
• It’s early, and Minnesota’s lone major opponent has been Providence, but Gophers forward Jordan Murphy seems to have taken a sizeable leap in his junior season. His scoring average is up from 11.3 points per game as a sophomore to 24.8 through four games this November, while his rebounding average is up from 8.8 to 12.8. Alabama and Miami will provide some stronger tests before the month is through.
• Despite its loss to Belmont that night, Vanderbilt had a pretty good day last Monday, earning a commitment from five-star guard Darius Garland (not to be confused with SI’s Dan Gartland). That’s a big get for second-year coach Bryce Drew.
• That prep-to-pros resurgence may get an early start. Top-10 Class of 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons told ESPN this weekend that he is considering entering next year’s NBA Draft, for which Simons would be eligible because he graduated high school last year (he is currently doing a post-graduate year at Florida’s IMG Academy) and will turn 19 before the draft. Simons reportedly has offers from Florida, Florida State, Louisville, LSU, and Texas A&M, among many others.
• Two bad bits of injury news for NCAA tourney hopefuls this week, as UCF will reportedly be without guard B.J. Taylor until around the end of December, and Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews is expected to be out until around the same time after breaking his left wrist.
• After a too-long saga, N.C. State freshman Braxton Beverly—who briefly enrolled in classes at Ohio State before coach Thad Matta was fired in June, then transferred—was ruled eligible by the NCAA last week. Glad they did the right thing, but this was all a bunch of completely unnecessary drama.
• SI’s preseason projections may have only had Wake Forest 12th in the ACC, but that was still good for 73rd nationally. With a 1-4 start including a home loss to Liberty and a neutral-site defeat to Drake, even modest projections are looking a little rosey.
• A freshman you’ll be getting to know soon, if you don’t already: Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, a Norman native who’s averaging 18.5 points and 11.5 assists through two games. Those were against Nebraska-Omaha and Ball State, which are not exactly Big 12 opponents, but Young looks ready to live up to five-star expectations.
• Watching Ed Cooley coach Providence last week, it struck me that a lot more coaches should wear vests. It’s a good look. Cooley rocks them well.
• Have a good Thanksgiving, everybody. Don’t forget the dump’s closed.