Can a team win the national championship without having a surefire NBA prospect? Yes.
Oh, sorry, did I give it away? My bad, but let me at least try to explain.
The question has been brought up recently among college basketball circles asking whether or not a team can be dominant and win the national championship. A vast majority take this question and instantly think “no. No NCAA team can win it all without a pro prospect.” Well, not only is that wrong, it’s extremely misguided.
One of the key words in this question is surefire. Using this word alone makes the question moot. Who’s to say a person is a surefire prospect? What makes a player surefire? Is it because everybody says, “Oh, most certainly this young man will be in the pros.” If that’s the case then it’s a really silly notion. When’s the last time a team went to the Final Four (and wasn’t a surprise mid-major team) that didn’t have at least one player go to the NBA afterwards?
The last team to play for the national championship that didn’t have one of those elusive surefire NBA prospects was the 2011 Butler Bulldogs that turned out to have that Shelvin Mack fellow go onto the NBA. Before that though? If there’s an occurrence I can’t find one in the last decade or during the one-and-done era.
This argument is based around the Florida Gators and Wisconsin Badgers more than the other two teams in the Final Four. Kentucky has about seven different NBA prospects on their roster (whether they be for the 2014 draft or 2015 draft) while the Connecticut Huskies have at least one in Shabazz Napier and probably more as time goes on. You can make arguments for Florida’s Patric Young and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, but are they really surefire NBA players? Debatable, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win it all.
So we look at the four teams battling for the national championship this weekend in Arlington, Texas, and look at the history. There has not been a time where a team has played for the national championship and not had at least one player go on to the NBA afterward. Even the ’11 Butler team that played in one of the worst title games in history had one go to the NBA. So I’m basically proving the point against my initial statement, right? Not exactly.
Just because a college team doesn’t have an NBA prospect through the eyes of some does not mean those teams don’t have any prospects at all. Young has been projected anywhere from late-first to the mid-second round of the 2014 NBA Draft and some don’t have him on their radar at all. That doesn’t mean he’s not an NBA prospect. One thing that gets lost in this translation is that when team perform better (i.e. play for national championships) each member of that team gets looked at more and more closely.
Take, for example, Corey Brewer. When the Gators won their first title in 2006, the two NBA prospects were Al Horford and Joakim Noah, but Brewer was a fringe role player at best. It wasn’t until their run to a second championship in 2007 that Brewer started propelling himself into the lottery of the NBA draft after being one not projected to be drafted at all earlier in the season.
Success in college makes players appear sexier than they otherwise would. That’s why the notion that a team can’t really compete for a national title gets watered down. It’s because there isn’t a recent memory of one team winning or competing without an NBA prospect. This is because players get elevated to NBA prospect status the further they move in the tournament. As a team moves so does its star player.
On another note, surefire is a truly loaded word, especially when it comes to drafting and pro prospects. By definition surefire means “certain not to fail”. How many of these “surefire” NBA prospects have come in and completely failed? Just in recent history we’ve got Greg Oden, everybody from the 2005 national champion North Carolina Tar Heels, anybody from Syracuse not named Carmelo Anthony (still early to declare that Michael Carter-Williams has broken this trend), and a multitude of others. Calling them a surefire pick does not guarantee they will succeed. If this were true then Andrew Wiggins would’ve finished the year with all the scoring records, all the awards, all the championships and his name and likeness would’ve been retired by Kansas forever based on the labels he was given before the year.
Don’t let the label of surefire NBA prospect fool you. All it means is that they will probably or should be drafted. Their success is not guaranteed. Labeling somebody as surefire is a gross overstatement because nothing is guaranteed in this world.
Don’t get caught up in the hoopla of people saying “a team can’t win without an NBA prospect.” NBA prospects often result from their college teams winning. It’s a silly, misguided notion that doesn’t often look at the big picture.
A team can win the national championship without a surefire NBA prospect. Florida and Wisconsin will be attempting to do that this weekend at the Final Four.
Tags: Al Horford Andrew Wiggins Carmelo Anthony Corey Brewer Florida Gators Frank Kaminsky Gregg Oden Joakim Noah Kentucky Wildcats Michael Carter-williams NBA Nba Draft Ncaa Final Four Patric Young Shabazz Napier Shelvin Mack UCONN Huskies Wisconsin Badgers