BEHIND THE PLATE: Quality dips as underclassmen jump ship
One-and-done will soon have a place in the dictionary.
Referred to as freshmen student-athletes going to college to play one season and then making the jump into the pros, one-and-done is becoming more popular than ever before.
With Duke winning the college men’s tournament this week, the Blue Devils did something no other team, including Kentucky, has done in the title game. Duke’s four freshmen scored 60 of the 68 points in its win over Wisconsin, showing that freshmen stars are becoming the norm in college basketball.
Forget that the quality of basketball is not the same as it was several decades ago. Did anyone even count how many easy baskets Wisconsin missed in the paint? Don’t even think for a second that it was because of Duke’s defense.
No, the story in college basketball is bigger than UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma’s comments about the sport’s quality tanking, even on the women’s side.
The big story, as it has been for several years, is the huge debate about these one-and-done athletes who don’t even merit the status as student-athletes. They are just athletes, wasting time in classroom and letting textbooks collect dust.
The NCAA’s stance on allowing freshmen to bolt for the NBA after one season is a hot topic that continues to build steam, just like the flaws with the BCS system before the four-team playoff was introduced for this past season in football.
Don’t fault the schools. Don’t blame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for recruiting stellar freshmen athletes, or even look the other way when we see Kentucky’s John Calipari’s starting five. They’re taking advantage of a broken system because of what it takes to win a championship.
It’s not often anymore that we see a team starting three or four seniors at one of the Power 5 programs, like Duke or Kentucky. It’s hardly seen at some of the country’s biggest basketball programs. Wisconsin, though, had four seniors on the team, including its best player — Frank Kaminsky.
The point is not to blame who’s at fault. It’s been this way for a long time but more than ever, big-time programs are taking advantage in order to adapt with the rest in order to field the best team to go into March Madness.
The point is the focus of attending college has been lost.
It’s not just basketball, but most who attend college want to play at the next level. They want to hear their name called on Sundays. They want to rake in millions, even if it compromises the chance at obtaining a degree.
But basketball is at the forefront of this mess because freshmen take advantage of this broken system and attend long enough to get some good looks from scouts who will assure them they will be picked in the upcoming draft.
Granted, their success helps bring in money to the universities through ticket sales and merchandise. But the reason colleges were built was to give an opportunity to young adults to further their education and make a difference in the world.
It wasn’t to drive ticket sales or win popularity contests. Attending college used to serve as a privilege but because of the corrupt nature in college athletics, it takes away from the other students trying to complete their degree. College athletics is merely another form of entertainment with only a few exceptions, mainly seen from the mid-major and smaller programs, like Nevada.
And it works. You buy tickets to football games at Mackay Stadium or basketball games at Lawlor Events Center because you’re supporting the program and university. The money helps everyone involved but some have lost sight of the bigger picture.
It’s more than sports and trying to sell out every game. It’s about providing equal opportunities at a college education with the purpose that these graduates will make a difference that matters. Becoming a doctor or a teacher change lives.
On the court, however, they mean nothing.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.