After falling to Duke in the 2015 National Championship Game, then-Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan took a dig at schools that use one-and-done players as a staple of the program.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has famously used one-and-done players more than any other coach. The Wildcats have had 16 of them - with three more likely making the jump in the coming weeks - during his eight-year tenure in Lexington. Add in six more that left after two seasons during that span.
The one-and-done rule has been a hot-button issue since it was implemented prior to the 2006-2007 season. Some say it's not fair to players that want to jump right to the NBA and some say it makes a mockery of the college educational system.
Rarely, however, is it discussed as whether coaches should recruit these players. Are they essential to winning?
With the exception of Calipari's first and only national title in 2012, and the Duke championship team in 2015 - and only Jahlil Okafor was a lock to go pro when the tournament began - the one-and-done system has failed to win championships.
Kentucky has won a ton of games, so has Duke, and freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. carried Ohio State to the 2007 title game, but championships have been scarce. The eventual top pick in the NBA Draft has reached the Final Four just four times since 2007, with only Anthony Davis playing on a winning team.
This year provides the ultimate proof that those players are not needed to win a national championship.
The Final Four teams - Gonzaga, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina - don't have any star freshmen. The four teams are comprised with experienced, mature veterans.
Gonzaga has been a monument for old-fashioned recruiting since 1999. The Bulldogs - playing in a mid-major conference, with less than 5,000 undergraduates - have become a national power without nationally renown stars.
In fact, Gonzaga has had just three players leave early for the NBA Draft since 1999.
The Gonzaga success starts at the top. Mark Few started his coaching career with the Bulldogs in 1989 and hasn't left.
In an era when athletic departments, fan bases, coaches and players have the patience of a shooting star, Few and Gonzaga have been patient.
The Bulldogs bring in under-the-radar freshmen, recruit players from overseas and wait patiently for them to develop. Since 2007, Few has only brought in seven players ranked in the ESPN Top 100 coming out of high school, compared to Kentucky's 43 during that span.
Few has even used transfers, including former Calipari recruit Kyle Wiltjer, who guided Gonzaga to the Elite Eight in his after transferring from Kentucky to Gonzaga in 2015.
North Carolina, while it is a college basketball Blue Blood, has had tremendous success under Roy Williams, and the Tar Heels have done so with just a two one-and-done players.
Williams has won two national titles and is making his fifth trip to the Final Four since returning to Chapel Hill, and he has done it with experienced players.
One-and-done prized recruits bring buzz and notoriety for a season, but major programs like Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky aren't lacking in that department. They don't need players to get the hype, it comes with the logo.
How many fan bases would trade consistent trips to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight for second round exits that eventually lead to a championship?
The middle of the NCAA landscape is closing in on the top. Top tier programs are often young and still growing as players and people, while the middle is comprised of mature and experienced men.
It's time for college basketball as a whole to shy away from the quick fix and stay patient.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.
Posted: Friday, March 31, 2017
Article comment by: