As the road to the Final Four winds its way to Indianapolis, speculation is rampant about a vehicle loaded with elephants. Media analysts, however, usually focus on the agility of the beasts on board, ignoring how the collection was assembled.
Kentucky is an overwhelming favorite in the NCAA tournament, largely because it is propelled by one-and-done players collected by John Calipari. He’s apparently had a lot of help in raising the program from the ashes, with William Wesley (a.k.a., World Wide Wes), his long-time friend and confidant.
UK’s resurgence is not good for college basketball. Not when it is based on players with no apparent interest in a college education. To be fair, it is believed a similar connection was helpful to Denny Crum in recruiting the likes of Billy Thompson and Milt Wagner, members of Louisville’s 1986 championship team.
How does the NCAA prevent the continued abuse of the process, the hypocrisy? Possibly make some inroads? At least make an effort?
Don’t count on the National Basketball Association to come to the rescue. The NBA is not about to rescind its rule that prohibits teams from drafting players until theyâ€™re at least one year out of high school. For now, they don’t want teenagers on their rosters running around loose with pockets stuffed with cash. Too many bad things happen.
Strangely enough, a possible solution may have come from the Obama administration. While the observer would prefer government to have a hands-off policy, this intrusion into college sports might be a solution. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has proposed that the NCAA bar any team from participating in the post-season tournament if it fails to graduate at least 40 percent of their players, starting next year.
Louisville, even with Rhodes Scholar Will Scott on its resume, would not have been permitted to participate in the tournament this season. Neither would Kentucky, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico State, Tennessee or Washington. The Final Four of eligible teams probably would have consisted of Brigham Young, Duke, Kansas and Texas.
Missing out on the tournament would sting, but the idea is likely to generate serious discussion in the months ahead. While they may never admit it openly, one has to believe coaches are receptive to any idea that helps them achieve a more level playing field in the recruiting process.