The Kentucky Wildcats are huge favorites to win the 2012 NCAA Tournament and have looked absolutely dominant all season long. They just need to get past Louisville and the winner of Ohio State vs. Kansas to finish the job.
This a good thing for people that love college basketball and the unpredictability, Cinderella stories and many other incredible things that make the sport unique.
What it signifies is that UK coach John Calipari’s system of recruiting the top-rated prospects to his basketball factory for one year of play—basically a glorified purgatory between AAU ball and becoming a first-round NBA draft pick—is the best, and soon possibly only, way to win in modern times.
Chuck Klosterman penned a great piece on this issue entitled “Kentucky’s Death March” for Grantland the other day and provided some great insight on the subject.
He wrote that Calipari’s upfront and unapologetic professionalization of college sports will have, for many who love to watch the game, a disastrous outcome that will finally reach critical mass if and when they win the tournament.
Calipari's scheme will become standard at a handful of universities where losing at basketball is unacceptable: North Carolina, Syracuse, Kansas, UCLA, and maybe even Duke. These schools already recruit one-and-done freshmen, but they'll have to go further; they'll have to be as transparent about their motives as Calipari is (because transparency is the obsession of modernity). If they resist, they will fade. And the result will be a radical amplification of what the game has already become: There will be five schools sharing the 25 best players in the country, and all the lesser programs will kill each other for the right to lose to those five schools in the Sweet 16.
This sounds improbable, but giving it some thought, Klosterman is absolutely right.
Since there are only a handful of highly touted recruits that can impact a game like the freshmen on Kentucky do right now, it’s going to become rare for them to choose lesser schools that would limit their exposure and possibly hurt their draft stock.
The NBA and their forced rule-change back in 2005 brought this upon themselves, and men like Calipari are simply taking advantage of it because they almost forced to do so—as it’s best for themselves and the young men they are recruiting.
Without diving into the socioeconomic factors, it’s clear that many of the top high school basketball players have plenty of drive to turn professional as soon as possible and ink the largest contract they can get.
Programs like Kentucky facilitate those motives and offer these young men a chance at collegiate glory, an improvement to their projected draft position and massive amounts of hype—all during a one-year period between high school and the NBA.
This isn’t going away anytime soon, and as long as the one-and-done rule is in place, powerhouses such as Kentucky are going to keep winning, keep reloading and change college basketball, for the worse, forever.