The Windy City

It is not often I feel that the NBA does things well (i.e. new basketball that everyone hates and the dress code = bad ideas). But I have to give credit to Commissioner David Stern for insisting on an age restriction for the draft. In the past, high school players were all the rage in the draft as general managers hoped to score a knockout by making selections based on potential rather than proven ability. Unfortunately, for every jackpot high schooler like LeBron or Kobe, there were dozens of players like Ndudi Ebi and Louis Williams who play limited roles or are out of the league entirely. The new NBA rules state that a U.S. player must be at least 19 years of age at the time of the draft as well as be at least one year removed from high school. Due to the new rule, hordes of prospective pros now have to spend at least one year in college. Critics across the country have bashed this decision, saying it will disrupt the flow and beauty of college basketball because the core of programs will be changing on a yearly basis. To counter these points I give you exhibit A: North Carolina vs. Ohio State on Nov. 29. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 and have a shot at the national title, which would not be possible if not for a crop of freshmen playing major roles who, without the new rule, would be in the NBA right now. Many student athletes, such as Ohio State’s Greg Oden, who would have been the number one pick in the draft this past year if not for the new rule, have said that they will go to the NBA after this season, but why is that a bad thing?Isn’t that the “‘Melo syndrome”? Was any Syracuse fan upset after Anthony brought the Orange a national championship, even if he did skip to the league after one year? A player coming in for one year with the singular goal of winning a National Championship cannot be a bad thing. If you disagree, I would ask you to watch the Tar Heel/Buckeye game and tell me it was not one of the best you have ever seen due to the freshmen’s stellar play. There is no way this would have happened without the new rule. Without the freshmen, these teams would not be in a position to win the title (both teams start three freshman). But relying on the youngsters has drawbacks as well. Kansas is a perfect example. They play mostly underclassmen who have the potential to be dynamic (they knocked off then number one and defending national champion Florida) but are also very inconsistent (losses to both Oral Roberts and DePaul). This just adds to the parity of college basketball. In an era when mid-majors are expected to make runs deep into the tourney, and analysts everywhere are trying to pick out the next George Mason, the stellar stock of youngsters go to schools all over the country, spreading talent in a way never before seen in college athletics. We are looking at an age in college basketball when we can no longer expect a team to go undefeated or even expect to be able to predict what will happen throughout the season.But if the beginning of the year is any indication, we are in for one of the best college basketball seasons in a long time, with much of the credit going to the exciting crop of diaper dandies.