I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “One and Done has ruined college basketball” in the last few years. Whether it’s people saying it to me, callers on my radio show, or seeing tweets about it, there’s a popular sentiment that one of the reasons college basketball isn’t as popular as it was in the 80s and 90s is because none of the star players stick around.
It’s a decent opinion to have, except for one thing: The Final Four is the pinnacle of college basketball every year. It has the highest TV ratings and draws the most interest. (The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is also very popular, but that’s because it’s an orgy of basketball and brackets. The Final Four are the last teams standing in a royal rumble.)
I went back through the last 10 years to see if One-and-Done players ruined the Final Four. Here are the findings:
In 2009, 2010, 2013 and likely 2017, there will be no One-and-Done players competing in the Final Four. There’s a chance Gonzaga’s Zach Collins enters the NBA draft, but right now, I’d set those odds at less than 50 percent.
What about the other four years? Well in three of them, Kentucky One-and-Done players dominated the Final Four. There were 10 total, including the #1 overall pick in 2012, Anthony Davis and 2015, Karl-Anthony Towns, and a #2 pick (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist).
Amazingly, if you remove Kentucky players, there were a grand total of seven One-and-Done players in the Final Four over the last decade. Four teams. Thirteen scholarship players. There have been 520 players in the Final Four over the last decade.
One could argue that Kentucky’s penchant for One-and-Done basketball players has tilted the balance of power in college basketball. But that is definitely not the trend in college basketball, especially as it pertains to the Final Four every year.
2016: Syracuse – Malachi Richardson, freshman.
2015: Duke – Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones; Kentucky – Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles
2014: Kentucky – James Young, Julius Randle
2012: Kentucky – Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague; Kansas – Ben McLemore
2011: Kentucky – Brandon Knight
2008: Memphis – Derrick Rose; UCLA – Kevin Love