All the one-and-dones are done before the Final Four.
I’ve talked periodically through the season about how difficult it would be for freshman-laden teams to reach the Final Four and win the national championship. That’s because as they went deeper in the NCAA tournament, the talent almost meets its match against other highly ranked teams that also have greater experience.
So the Final Four at the end of a thrilling Big Dance will be missing the biggest names in college basketball along with high TV ratings. How many brackets you think were filled out with Carolina, Duke and Kentucky all missing the Final Four? Not many, for sure.
The one-and-done rule works great for the players, most of whom go on to be lottery picks and sign big NBA contracts and shoe deals. Zion Williamson will be worth five times whatever his rookie contract is when Nike, as early as today, contracts him to the richest endorsement deal in the company’s history.
Not to the same extent, but that is also true for RJ Barrett, a couple of kids from Kentucky and Coby White if he decides to go, plus some other freshmen ranked high in the mock drafts. They all get what they ultimately went to college for. But their schools, once again not so much. In this decade, Duke and Kentucky have each won one national championship when they were supposed to have the best, or among the best, teams in America.
Auburn and Texas Tech each have one freshman in their rotations; Michigan State and Virginia have one freshman starter, both role players. They make up among the most veteran Final Fours ever, and it’s no accident.
Carolina was bitten by the flu, yes, but more so a questionable game plan against a quicker, experienced Auburn team that got into the Tar Heels’ head. A double-teaming defense forced Coby, UNC’s only real ball handler, into traffic and Auburn hit a barrage of long bombs.
If Ol’ Roy had to do it over again, he might choose to play the Tigers’ three-point shooters tight and straight up and let them have two-point baskets, which the Heels could more easily offset on the other end. The long balls gave Auburn confidence and a big lead Carolina could not overcome.
And even stupendous Zion met his match against gang-defending Michigan State, with a superb senior guard. Zion led Duke with a double-double but barely touched the ball the last few minutes of the game. Another one-and-done team done early.
(featured photo by Todd Melet)