It happens every year after the NCAA Championship has been awarded. Many columnists and commentators like to make predictions on who will win it all next year. Even though they are missing one, important piece of information. Who will actually be playing college basketball next season?
With the NBA rule that a player must be out of high school one year before he is eligible for the NBA Draft, there has been a rise in one and done players in college. Every year we see the top freshmen in college basketball leave after one year for the NBA. Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and Derrick Rose are just a few who have had an impact in college and then moved on to the NBA the following year.
The best no doubt is the 2010-2011 Kentucky Wildcats. John Calipari's first seasons in Lexington ended with a run to the Elite Eight. After that season four Wildcats Freshman, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and Daniel Orton, were drafted in the first round. Four one and done players.
Don't feel sorry for Kentucky, though. This year they made a run to the Final Four. They may have two one and done freshmen on this team in Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones or they may not. We are unsure of that at the time of writing this column.
Underclassmen have until April 24 to decide whether to enter the NBA draft. Some players like Duke's Kyrie Irving, Georgia's Trey Thompkins, and Washington's Isaiah Thomas have announced they are entering the NBA Draft. Other underclassmen like North Carolina's John Henson and Tyler Zeller, along with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger have stated they will return to school next year.
There is a key group of players who have yet to decide. Kentucky's Jones and Knight, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, Kansas' Josh Shelby, Marcus and Markieff Morris, and Connecticut's Kemba Walker. These are important players to their schools and could also be high first round draft picks.
One thing we do not know right now is if players are thinking about a potential NBA Lockout next season. The NBA Draft is scheduled for June 23. A lock out would not happen until July 1. This is also the date that drafted players can be signed. So if a lockout does happen, then players drafted this year will not be able to sign a contract.
There is a lot for underclassmen to consider. One thing is that NBA Commissioner David Stern has talked about making it so that you have to be out of high school for two years instead of one. There are many that believe that the Players Association would not be opposed to this, as it would cause players in the NBA to have fewer people taking jobs from them.
Another thing that players need to consider is how will the collective bargaining agreement change in the coming negotiations? If NBA owners really want to try and save money where ever they can, one would think that rookies might take a big hit. Will owners want to keep paying players high salaries who have yet to prove they can contribute to the league?
These variables may be weighing with players' thoughts. Could there be something else players might consider? If they choose to stay in college, could their team make a run to a NCAA Championship?
In the case of Harrison Barnes returning to North Carolina, the Tar Heels would be considered by many as the team to beat next year. To go along with the return of Zeller, Henson, and Barnes, North Carolina would also add two five star recruits in P.J. Hairston and James McAdoo. There would be only a few teams that could match that talent.
One team that could match North Carolina next year, but only if two players did not make the jump to the NBA, would be Kentucky. If freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones returned, the Wildcats would also add four five star players in Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, and Kyle Wiltjer. Kentucky would turn from a mainly six player rotation this year, to 10 players.
Could Roy Williams and John Calipari be able to handle the players and manage those minutes? A Tar Heels-Wildcats title game in New Orleans would almost be certain if they could.
April 24 is still over two weeks away. There is a lot for underclassmen to consider before they decide where they will play basketball next year.
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