There’s a reason old men love women’s college basketball, and it has nothing to do their aging, Viagara-inspired hormones. Instead, it has everything to do with the women picking up all the prehistoric fundamentals and values the men once left on the sideline like hitchhikers on a fast-break highway.
Layups instead of dunks. Two-handed, midrange, set shots instead of 35-foot, fade-away 3-pointers. And most importantly, bookending, academia-enhancing four-year college careers instead of an extended, military-style, seven-month NBA predraft camps.
We are living in the one and done era of men’s college basketball in which college is nothing more than a gateway drug on the road to multimillion dollar addiction. For the richest of the goldmine, it always goes something like this: The best players attend their college of choice, play right away, compete for a national title (and most likely fall short) and then turn rags into riches with the latest lottery-bound NBA loser.
Welcome to Calipariville, kids.
But while college die-hards disagree with Calipari and hate him for the same reason, there’s no denying that, since its institution by David Stern in 2007, the age limit has reinvigorated the college game like no development since the three-pointer. For almost a generation, beginning with Kevin Garnett’s repopularization of the “straight to the pros” dynamic in 1994, we were deprived of seeing the best players in their purest collegiate form.
Imagine how blood boiling it would have been to root against the unbeatable Kobe Bryant-Mike Krzyzewski tandem at Duke. Imagine how exciting it would have been to see LeBron James chucking up alley-oop lobs to Greg Oden at Ohio State. Imagine how imposing Dwight Howard would have looked next to Sean May in the North Carolina frontcourt.
Instead, we were subjected to a watered-down landscape that showcased shooting specialists such as J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison as the best the college game had to offer.
In the last five years, the viewing privilege has reverted back to its pre-Garnett course. Sure, it’s a minor dose compared to the four-year female stars such as Candace Parker and Maya Moore. But as evidenced by the decisions a year ago of stars such as Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger, maybe, just maybe, the age limit is convincing its not-so-shallow casualties that money can’t buy growth and happiness after all.
They’re still the exceptions, of course, not yet the rule. Five years into its budding existence, let’s name the first and second teams of the rip-roaring, high-flying one and done era.