Unless you are either Dave or Ben, you probably don't know who this fella in the picture is. His name is Herb Pope, and earlier this week he decided that he was ready to make the transition to the pros and declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Had he done this a month or two ago, it would have been hashed, re-hashed and dissected six ways from Sunday on the now defunct Setonia website. Cue the music: "Something touched me deep inside, the day Setonia died. Bye, Bye, the Setonia guys..." If you think that is what I intend to do, you are crazy. I am merely highlighting Mr. Pope as an example of everything that is wrong with college basketball these days. I know I have said it plenty of times, but kids leaving college early for the NBA destroys both the college ranks and dilutes the talent in the NBA.
Herb Pope: stalwart on the Seton Hall basketball team. After an NIT season with the Pirates, Pope has decided he is ready to go pro after only his sophomore year. His projected draft status: second round pick to undrafted. Seriously? Why would someone decide to leave college when they are clearly not ready to go to the NBA? Why don't more players stay all four years? It is honestly beyond me how stupid some of these players are. I hate to be repetitive, but the rule should be changed that players must play all four years of college basketball.
This concept of one and done players is terrible for the sport of basketball. College coaches spend a great deal of time and energy recruiting these guys only to lose them after one year, and fans don't ever really get to familiarize themselves with a team before it is time to rebuild again. As for the NBA, GMs have no idea what they are drafting after only one year of college basketball and it is basically a crap shoot. Moreover, these players have no identity when they are drafted as evidenced by the decline in the popularity of the NBA draft. Think back to the year 1992 for a moment. Let's take a look at the first few picks in the draft: Shaquille O'Neal, Christian Laettner, Alonzo Mourning, Jim Jackson, Tom Gugliotta. These guys sound familiar right? Now let's look at last year: Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Jordan Hill, Demar Derozan. You probably have only heard of a few of them. Not one of them played all four years of college.
The truth is, the average NBA fan doesn't know who most of these guys are either. That is why ticket sales are lagging in the NBA and the product is considered to be fairly lousy. There are obvious exceptions to this rule (LeBron, Kobe, Durant, Carmelo) but I feel that if the players in the NBA established themselves a bit more by playing in college for 4 years, the NBA would be much richer for their experience. Fans would know more about players and GMs would have a much better idea of who they were drafting.
I couldn't be more excited for Butler to be in the Final Four this year. As a mid-major team, they stand for all that is good in college basketball. Their players probably have never thought of declaring early for the draft, and the fact that they have had four years to develop has made them that much better. This is exactly what the seniors at Butler worked so hard for and stayed at school for. They have earned their trip to the Final Four, probably something John Wall will never be able to say. If players continue to go the one and done route, look for more teams like Butler and Cornell, stocked with seniors, to advance deeper and deeper in the NCAA Tournament. However, if the NCAA or NBA decided that all players needed to play for 4 years to be eligible for the NBA, both leagues would be much better off. Stay in school kids!