My 5-year-old daughter was visibly upset when I broke the news.
Her pick to win the NCAA basketball tournament, Duke, had inexplicably lost in the first round.
For the first time, I had let her fill out her own bracket in the NCAA tournament pool my wife and I enter. Now she probably wasn’t going to win.
She chose Duke mainly because she thinks the name sounds funny. But I had also given her a basic lesson in how tournament seeding works. A No. 3 seed, I told her, has a good chance to go far in the tournament.
I explained to her why my advice was so horribly misguided: “Sometimes things happen that don’t make any sense.”
But even the biggest upset in the NCAA tournament makes more sense than the “one-and-done” rule that requires players to be college one year before joining the NBA.
The rule has somehow survived and advanced for nine years now. Let’s hope it finally gets eliminated.
Under NBA rules, players are not eligible for the draft until age 19. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver has called it “a disaster” for college basketball and will push to raise the age limit to 20.
Silver is right. College basketball doesn’t benefit from having freshman phenoms using top-level programs as a rest stop.
As those players bide their time and barely give lip service to being a student athlete, basketball loses the continuity that makes teams recognizable beyond their campuses.
A 20-year age limit would require two years in college. That’s enough time to make significant progress toward a degree while getting some serious tutelage from some of the best coaching minds in the game. It’s enough time to become the face of a program.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott recently touted a solution that makes the most sense: Adopt a system similar to Major League Baseball.
In baseball, top high school players can go straight to the pros. But if they opt to attend a major college, they must turn 21 or complete their junior year before being drafted.
The NBA has an underdeveloped minor league system in the NBA Developmental League, which has become a purgatory for players who thrived in college but can’t crack an NBA roster.
Instead of spending energy on forcing young talent to attend colleges where they don’t want to be, the NBA should bolster its minor leagues and remove the age cap.
Players would thrive and colleges could drop the student-athlete charade for the one-and-dones. Eventually, the NBA game would benefit from more-refined talent.
That’s a win-win situation. And in these weeks of crumpled brackets and dashed office-pool dreams, why wouldn’t you embrace a winning formula?