With the Summer Olympics only a few weeks away, national pride reaches a pinnacle. In this fortnight more than ever, people will hear the willows of "USA" chants from households and see red, white and blue color-coordinated outfits.
The most scrutinized event of all is USA Basketball. Since basketball was founded in the United States and foreign countries adopted the sport in the past twenty years, anything less than a gold medal is considered an utter failure.
Recently, NBA Commissioner David Stern advocated for the restriction of the U.S. men’s basketball team to players who are 23 years old or younger. Instead, Stern proposed the World Cup of Basketball, similar to the FIFA World Cup Soccer format, where the NBA owners would reap in the profits, not the Olympics.
This got me thinking... imagine if the NBA sponsored a similar tournament, except each player represents their college. Instead of being driven by economics, this would revolve around the university pride of student athletes. (I know, very idealistic thinking.) This event would bolster school spirit and create a new avenue for fun, intense rivalries. Finally, Duke and North Carolina fans can settle disputes about who produces better NBA talent.
I looked at current-NBA players and the universities they attended and ranked the top 10 teams based on who was the better overall team.
And sorry, high school draftees cannot compete. Though, a Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett would be scary good. This team would dominate that it would appear they were still playing against high school competition.
Let the fun-filled, intense, mythical NCAA Alumni Basketball Championship commence!
Rationale: Some of the most high-profiled, successful programs in the country did not make the Top 10.
Do you remember when Carmelo Anthony was known as a winner?
Or when Tyler Hansbrough was a frequent lunch discussions and one of the most polarizing figures in sports?
Only a few years ago, Greg Oden actually displayed his potential on the court leading (yes, leading) his team to the national title game.
Also, a Derrick Rose led team would definitely pose a threat to the opposition, like it did in the NCAA Championship Game, but the team lacks depth, especially in the front court.
Those days are long gone, but these programs continue to thrive in the collegiate ranks.
PG- Mario Chalmers
PG- Kirk Hinrich
SF- Paul Pierce
PF- Thomas Robinson
C- Drew Gooden
Bench: Nick Collison, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Josh Selby, Tyshawn Taylor, Cole Aldrich, Darrell Arthur, Xavier Henry
Coach: James Naismith (props to the founder of basketball)
Rationale: The Jayshawks are fraught with college superstars and talent, but outside of Paul Pierce, they lack NBA stars. Pierce will indubitably be the focal point of their offense.
The team lacks a starting-caliber shooting guard, so Mario Chalmers and Kirk Hinrich share the point guard duties—this results in an undersized backcourt, both offensively and defensively.
NBA-ready rookie Thomas Robinson should impact the game on the glass and on defense immediately, while Drew Gooden will add experience and toughness. On the bench, Nick Collision, the Morris brothers and Josh Selby should add a nice spark off the bench.
Short: The Jayhawks have many solid NBA rotation players, but lack the star power or size to compete with the top dogs.
PG- Jerryd Bayless
SG- Chase Budinger
SF- Andre Iguodala
PF- Jordan Hill
C- Channing Frye
Bench: Jason Terry, Richard Jefferson, Derrick Williams, Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby, Luke Walton, Mustafa Shakur
Coach: Lute Olson (respect the legend)
Rationale: The Wildcats pose threats on all cylinders, including a deep bench, but lack a true NBA-star. Andre Iguodala is a nice player and a 2012 NBA All-Star, but will never be confused with the NBA's elite. Arizona is built similar to Iguodala's NBA team, the 76ers.
Jerryd Bayless, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill all played together in college and were highly-touted prospects and have improved immensely in their first few seasons. They all are fuming with passion and energy and have developed into solid role players, but are by no means difference makers.
Channing Frye is extremely finesse but can stretch the floor as a shooter.
Off the bench, Jason "The Jet" Terry, former NBA Sixth Man of the Year will infuse scoring and leadership in the second line. Richard Jefferson, Derrick Williams and Gilbert Arenas provide depth.
Short: The Wildcats are a well-rounded machine in need of a star. Their second unit with provide a strong boost.
PG- Bradley Beal
SG- Mike Miller
SF- Chandler Parsons
PF- Al Horford
C- Joakim Noah
Bench: David Lee, Udonis Haslem, Corey Brewer, Matt Bonner, Marreese Speights, Vernon Macklin
Coach: Tim Tebow (let the force be with you!)
Rationale: The Gators have one of the strongest front court pipelines in the NCAA. They start top big men, Al Horford and Joakim Noah—they teamed together to win two NCAA championships along with Corey Brewer.
Rebounding machine David Lee and NBA-tough guy Udonis Haslem come off the bench.
Florida needs strong guard play to compete with the top teams. Budding-star Bradley Beal is better off the ball and sharp-shooter Mike Miller makes a greater impact off the bench.
Chandler Parsons surprised many in his rookie year with his all-around game, but still has plenty to learn.
Short: The success of the Gators depend on the play of their big men. They also need Beal to take care of the ball and facilitate the offense as a point guard, a position he is not accustomed to playing.
PG- Jarrett Jack
SG- Iman Shumpert
SF- Thaddeus Young
PF- Derrick Favors
C- Chris Bosh
Bench: Anthony Morrow, Will Bynum, Gani Lawal, Mario West
Coach: Stephon Marbury (Vaseline, anybody?)
Rationale: The Yellow Jackets have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, but have developed a strong NBA roster.
They boast a strong front court, led by All-Star and NBA Champion Chris Bosh and underrated future All-Star Derrick Favors. Both southpaws, Bosh can draw the defenders outside the paint and Favors can dominate the interior and the glass.
Point guard Jarrett Jack will get into the lane with ease and distribute the ball well.
As a rookie, Iman Shumpert displayed some of the best defensive instincts and quick hands on the perimeter, averaging almost two steals per game. Thaddeus Young adds another scoring option and defensive presence on the wing.
Anthony Morrow expands the floor with his incredible three-point shooting, but overall Georgia Tech lacks depth off the bench.
Short: The Yellow Jackets will rely on their big men and their stout defense. They lack depth off the bench, so they need their starters to pull through.
PG- Kemba Walker
SG- Ray Allen
SF- Caron Butler
SF- Rudy Gay
C- Emeka Okafor
Bench: Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, A.J. Price, Hasheem Thabeet, Charlie Villanueva, Jeff Adrien
Coach: Maya Moore (show the boys how it's done)
Rationale: The Huskies have members of three different NCAA championships and are one of the deepest teams in competition.
They have the best three-point shooter in history and future Hall of Famer, Ray Allen, but do not have a current All-Star. Before his injury, Rudy Gay showed flashes but has not proved he possesses the entire package yet.
Kemba Walker displayed potential with his jump shot and vision, but made too many rookie mistakes. Walker's diminutive size did not impact him in college because of his exceptional athletic and playmaking ability, but in the NBA, his athleticism does not stand out.
Caron Butler is a very solid role player but does not scare defenses. Emeka Okafor remains a great defender, but does not have a strong offensive presence.
Connecticut's bench poses many threats with the likes of Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, A.J. Price and rookies Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb.
Short: The Huskies have several weapons to threaten defenses, but no overwhelming playmaker to impact the game. Walker will need to fill the big shoes as a point guard and Gay needs to play like the bona fide All-Star he can become.
PG- Kyrie Irving
SG- Corey Maggette
SF- Luol Deng
PF- Carlos Boozer
C- Elton Brand
Bench: Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Gerald Henderson, Austin Rivers, Shelden Williams, J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts, Mike Dunleavy, Dahntay Jones, Lance Thomas, Nolan Smith
Coach: Coach K (who else)
Rationale: The Blue Devils are led by future superstar Kyrie Irving and current All-Star Luol Deng. Irving's speed and ability to penetrate will open up the offense for their shooters—and yes, Duke has plenty of them.
They are especially strong at the wing position, with Corey Maggette as an imposing offensive threat and Deng. Duke also has a plethora of good options off the bench like Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Gerald Henderson, and everyone's favorites Austin Rivers and J.J. Redick.
Their big men Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand are solid all-around and good rebounders, but are incredibly injury-prone and are past their prime. A few years ago, they would be one of the most versatile, dominant duo.
Short: Duke needs very strong guard play and their great shooters to hit open shots. Irving showed All-Star potential as a rookie, he needs to play up to that potential and lead his team on offense. It would not hurt if the big men shaved off a few years and played extremely physical.
PG- Jrue Holiday
SG- Russell Westbrook
SF- Arron Afflalo
PF- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
C- Kevin Love
Bench: Baron Davis, Darren Collison, Trevor Ariza, Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar, Jason Kapono, Earl Watson, Ryan Hollins, Tyler Honeycutt, Malcolm Lee
Coach: John Wooden (enough said)
Rationale: The Bruins start an extremely youthful front line with everyone being younger than 26, but do not let that ease your fears. This team can ball.
No other team equals this team's talent and depth at guard. Jrue Holiday remains one of the better up-coming point guards in the league.
The oft-criticized Russell Westbrook possesses all the talent in the world and can virtually score at will.
Once lauded for his outlet passes, Kevin Love quietly developed into a bona fide superstar adding an outside jumper and becoming lethal on the boards.
Arron Afflalo is a good defender and a solid shooter at the wings. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a strong power forward who provides a lot of energy.
Former All-Star Baron Davis, speedster Darren Collison, defensive-specialist Trevor Ariza and shooter Matt Barnes offer a nice spark from the bench. The only weakness is the Bruins are undersized without a true center. Love might have difficulty guarding elite centers.
Short: The Bruins have All-Stars in Westbrook and Love and need these dynamic players to draw the defense to open up the court for the other players. Love needs to play much more physical and bang in the interior with the best of them. This team has the talent to contend with the best of them.
PG- Chris Paul
PG- Jeff Teague
SF- Josh Howard
PF- James Johnson
C- Tim Duncan
Bench: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ishmael Smith, Darius Songalia,
Coach: Muggsy Bogues (for those of us "average" people who are not taller than six feet)
Rationale: Though the Demon Deacons have endured two tough years in a row, fans can solace in the success of their alumni in the NBA ranks.
Chris Paul has proved he remains a superstar and arguably the best point guard in the league. Tim Duncan proved this postseason he can be a great second option for a title contender. Just imagine the CP3-TD pick-and-roll game.
The youthful Jeff Teague has made great strides in the past year to display All-Star potential.
Former All-Star Josh Howard has faced several injuries but still remains a lock-down defender.
Freakish athlete James Johnson has developed in recent years to become a competent starter providing rebounds and energy.
Wake Forest has a dearth of star power and size off the bench, but former Top 10 pick Al-Farouq Aminu has grown in recent years and Ishmael Smith is a solid backup point guard.
Short: The Demon Deacons need their undersized guards to contain the opposing offenses. Paul and Duncan need to create mismatches through the pick-and-roll. The bench needs to step up huge, as well. With all of this, Wake Forest has a chance to bring its first basketball championship back to Winston-Salem
PG- D.J. Augustin
SG- Avery Bradley
SF- Tristan Thompson
SF- Kevin Durant
C- LaMarcus Aldridge
Bench: Daniel Gibson, Maurice Evans, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, J'Covan Brown, Dexter Pittman, Damion James, Royal Ivey
Coach: Mack Brown (sorry Rick Barnes, this is football country, hook 'em)
Rationale: With the best two man combo and a plethora of other talented players, the Longhorns may be destined for the championship. Kevin Durant is the best player in the world who attended college and will piece apart any defense with his unique mix of length and speed. LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star center just entering his prime; he can crash the boards, nail a jumper and take it to the hoop.
Diminutive guard D.J. Augustin enters the lane with ease and possesses good vision to find the open man.
Avery Bradley has grown into an elite perimeter defender and is improving offensively.
Tristan Thompson progressed on both sides of the ball in his rookie season and rebounds at a high rate.
Off the bench, Texas has sharpshooter Daniel "Boobie" Gibson and wingmen Cory Joseph, Maurice Evans and Damion James. Center and bruiser Dexter Pittman provides a strong rebounder and an element of toughness to the locker room.
Short: Texas is always in the discussion with the second best player in the world and several other major contributors. Aldridge needs to assuage the defenses from Durant. They also need to play up to their potential on defense. If they do this, they can win it all.
PG- Rajon Rondo
SG- John Wall
SF- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF- Anthony Davis
C- DeMarcus Cousins
Bench: Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Terrence Jones, Nazr Mohammed, Patrick Patterson, Keith Bogans, Marquis Teague, Chuck Hayes, Doron Lamb, Jamaal Magloire, Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller, Jodie Meeks, Daniel Orton, Kelenna Azubuike, DeAndre Liggins
Coach: Pat Riley (we all know he wants to return to a winner on the sidelines)
Rationale: After winning the national championship this season, the Wildcats remain the favorites to win NCAA Alumni Basketball Championship.
At guard, the Wildcats have two blazing fast, playmaking point guards with Rajon Rondo and John Wall. Rondo has a case for the best point guard in the league with a rare ability to find his teammates, and with the right assets around him, Wall will develop into the All-Star everyone expected him to become.
These guards will receive picks from two big men who have the brightest NBA futures—Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Davis, the 2012 No. 1 pick, has received comparisons to Kevin Garnett with his incredible defensive prowess. Oft-criticized for his work ethic, Cousins validated his talent by averaging a double-double in his second season.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist remains the perfect jell-guy for his All-Defense potential, dedication and will to win.
No other team matches the Wildcats off the bench. Great role player Tayshaun Prince will help guide these youthful players to a championship. Guards Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Terrence Jones have star potential. Nazr Mohammed and Patrick Patterson provide adequate depth in the paint.
This team will have immense expectations but like the 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats, they possess the determination and talent to meet those lofty expectations of a championship.
Short: The Wildcats are fraught with physical specimen on the court. They have a wide variety of weapons all over the court. It would take an uphill battle to unseat the champions. With the pass-first guard Rondo facilitating the offense, wing men need to step up and hit open jump shots. They will have many of them.
Although this might not be as exciting as an NCAA Championship—and I do not expect to see flipped over cars in the streets of Lexington. Kentucky remains the most complete team and I expect them to win the NCAA Alumni Basketball Championship.