Regarding Zion Williamson, the duke-boy who helped open the basketball season with a thunderous start to Kentucky, nothing is wrong. There are 31 games of the regular season. There may be three games in the ACC tournament. And if the Blue Devils reach the NCAA Championship game, there will be six games in March.
Forty games – maybe. Love it and let it, college fans.
"He will be an outstanding player for us for a year," said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski before the season opening. "And I think it's going to be – it has a chance to be even an NBA star."
But he never played college basketball? And if he and his new racing mate RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish – not to mention, for example, Jalen Smith of Maryland and Nassir Little of North Carolina and Bol Bol of Oregon, among others – had a other option and never went through the joke of enrolling at the university to take classes towards a degree that they had not intended to receive four years from now?
University basketball is, for the moment, a niche sport. I love it and will probably love it forever. But it is undeniable that he has been sidelined. Last spring, the NCAA Tournament Selection Program, which I had considered for years as a national holiday, attracted fewer viewers than at one point in its history. The result of wandering attention and expanding options? Consider that he has been overtaken by PGA Tour golf (yes, with Tiger in contention), a NASCAR race and a NBA game in the regular season.
Three weeks later, the national title match between Villanova and Michigan, two well-known brands with national appeal, attracted less than 16 million viewers, the lowest total ever recorded.
Yes, moving the title game and selecting the old CBS pending server to the cable's Turner properties played in the declining classification. But also ask yourself, why was CBS willing to transfer what is supposed to be a well-known property into a cable outlet?
In my opinion, university basketball presents deeper problems than those revealed last month in a Manhattan court room. Yeah, a low-rent agent and two Adidas executives have been convicted of fraud for their role in the kind of payment-payment systems that, darkly, have been part of the sport for decades.
The people who run the university baskets consider this to be important because, if you trust them, they believe that the fundamental faith in sport has been eroded. Cue John Swofford, CCA Commissioner, told reporters last month: "It is essential for the long-term health of sport and for college sport that institutional and public confidence in the integrity of sport".
If corruption was indeed at the heart of the problem, I would say that the solution is simple: pay the players. Children are not in college to go to college anyway. The money – that's $ 19.6 billion with a B that CBS and Turner paid for hosting the 2010 NCAA Tournament at 32 – now goes not to performers, but to coaches and administrators and at the Department of General Sports.
"We found that our fans were saying that they would lose interest if the players were not amateurs," said Larry Scott, commissioner of Pac-12, earlier this fall. "They do not care as much."
But as it has been shown, the interest in college basketball has dissolved and you can not convince me that these are the minor league bagmen.
The fact that Williamson, Barrett and others are not coming next year is even more important. In 2006, the NBA's new collective agreement put in place an age limit for players for the repechage. As backward as it seems now, this was supposed Help me college, because even if the most talented players would only spend a year on campus, at least they would get there.
Instead, these players have done more to define the drafts that follow than to define the college programs in which they evolve. This first year of 2006, the first round of the NBA project included only two freshmen – and eight senior college students.
But this is no longer the case. The NBA bets on talent whenever it becomes available. In the last five versions, 33 first-year college students were selected in the top 10, against two seniors. The first nine first choices were freshmen. This year, it should be 10 in a row.
Has university basketball been beneficial because Ben Simmons played at LSU or Deandre Ayton recorded 35 games in Arizona? Do you even remember that Ben Simmons played at LSU or that Deandre Ayton recorded 35 games in Arizona? There is no way to attach to these drifting buoys. You may have hated the former guard of Duke Grayson Allen – many have done so. But after four seasons, 142 career games, an NCAA title, and an opponent's occasional trip, there was at least one relationship. At least you care.
The NBA is considering changing this calculation and giving 18-year-olds another option. Do you prefer to be paid for your negotiable skills as soon as you finish high school? (What a concept!) So the developing G-League will have a place for you. The proposed contracts would be $ 125,000 per year. (Which leads to an easy joke: "Well, I could do more in Louisville.")
Maybe a Williamson Zion or a R.J. Barrett decided to earn six figures rather than spending a year at Duke's? Maybe not for $ 125,000 in an apartment. But as they would be professionals, they could sell Gatorade or have their own shoe or receive money on the rise from a car dealership or whatever. The gateway to the NBA's marketing life would be open a year earlier.
Would the university miss one or the other? Eh. Kevin Garnett would have been a first year student in 1995-1996. Kobe Bryant would have registered the following year. These two seasons, Kentucky won the NCAA title with alignments with Tony Delk, Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer, etc. Wildcat worshipers could identify with these players and teams as they saw them grow over the years, not months. Yes, there was still a-and-Done then. But the most obvious – Garnett and Bryant among them – never showed up.
So as university basketball is gaining popularity, Chapel Hill and Lexington, Bloomington and Lawrence, etc., are attracting great interest, but the rest of the country has been waiting for three weeks in March. The problem is not the level of talent of the players or whether someone slipped an envelope during a summer league match. The problem is that when we know who they have enough to take care of them, they are gone and we have to start next November.