Philadelphia, PA – The one-and-done rule has had an interesting effect on college basketball. While it has guided many top-caliber players to school for a season to create a much deeper talent pool, they rarely stick around for another year of unpaid labor.
The one-and-done rule has become the adopted title of the NBA's decision to implement a 19-year-old age minimum on its incoming players. High school seniors with hoop dreams have the option of joining the development league, playing in a foreign country or attending college for a year. The majority end up choosing to play for one of the top-tier college basketball programs.
Mid-major programs benefit from the one-and-done rule due to the trickle-down effect. Schools like Wichita State are able to sign higher-rated recruits who need more than one season to prepare for a professional career. Kentucky found a way to win it all in 2012 with a squad made up primarily of underclassmen, but it will be very difficult for more than one school to consistently compete using such tactics.
Andrew Wiggins, who is considered the best high school basketball prospect since LeBron James, has still yet to sign of a national letter of intent. The highly sought recruit has narrowed his list to four with North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and Florida State still remaining viable options. But will any of those programs benefit from one year of Wiggins?
Team chemistry is a key to finding success on the hardwood, and it can be undermined by a general focus on talent. On paper, Kentucky looked like it was destined for another trip to the Final Four in 2013 after John Calipari managed to land four blue chip prospects in last year's recruiting class. However, the Wildcats were upset in the first round of the NIT.
Meanwhile, coach Gregg Marshall's Wichita State Shockers displayed mental toughness and a veteran approach during their march to Atlanta and the Final Four.
Ben Howland attempted to follow Calipari's blue print last season by bringing in arguably the best recruiting class in the country with Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker - three McDonald's All-Americans. Jordan Adams also made an impact as he ended up being the team's second-leading scorer as a rookie before suffering a season-ending injury in March.
Although UCLA had four freshmen who could have gone anywhere in the nation and found playing time to go along with a solid group of returners, it was hardly a title contender for various reasons. The Bruins were unable to get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament and Howland is now stuck in the unemployment line.
Despite its disappearance from the NCAA Tournament field, Kentucky still lost two of its top three scorers to early decisions. Nerlens Noel, who is expected to be selected very early on draft day, still elected to make the jump although he suffered a season-ending injury during the heart of the Wildcats' Southeastern Conference schedule.
Noel would have been one of the first players chosen in last year's NBA Draft had he been allowed to declare out of high school, but instead landed in Lexington to play 24 more games at the amateur level.
The NBA's age limit policy is intended to enhance the degree of the incoming rookies to create a better product. While Noel's draft stock wasn't diminished by his injury, his rookie season in the NBA will be much more difficult until he returns to full form.
Calipari's unrivaled recruiting skills made it very easy for him to replace Noel and Archie Goodwin and his Wildcats are expected to be a national contender once again. If Wiggins selects Kentucky, Calipari's recruiting class may go down as the best of all-time. With or without Wiggins, the Wildcats will be loaded with talent and fun to watch at the very least.
The high school prospects predicted to follow the one-and-done path will still remain at the top of every college coach's wish list for as long as the NBA age minimum exists because of their ability to immediately elevate a program. But late bloomers have quietly become much more valuable to college basketball.
Duke finished the regular season ranked second in the national polls. The Blue Devils were guided by the senior trio of Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Although he clearly had a knack for scoring to go along with his great pedigree, Curry played his freshman year at Liberty in the less-celebrated Big South Conference. Plumlee and Kelly rarely saw action during the early stages of their careers.
Mike Krzyzewski is not completely opposed to one-and-done-caliber players as Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers both had very brief stays in Durham. Coach K's balanced approach to recruiting makes it easy for the Blue Devils to absorb the loss of them.
Butler has risen to national prominence since the one-and-done rule was instated. The Bulldogs have been ranked in the Top 25 for all but a few weeks since the beginning 2006-07 season. They also became the first mid-major program to reach the championship game in successive seasons since 1979, when seeding of the tournament began.
Brad Stevens is brought up every time a premier coaching position becomes available yet he doesn't appear to be vacating his post on Hinkle Fieldhouse's home bench anytime soon.
He has not had a player depart after one season to pursue a professional career and the two Butler players who left early for the NBA, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack, are still working toward graduating. It will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs' migration to the new-look Big East plays out next season.
If he had any desire, Wiggins could infiltrate the Bulldogs' lineup and be a valuable addition to the roster. But adding a group of one-and-done players to the fold would be very difficult and possibly detrimental.
Butler is categorized as a "well-coached" team because of its discipline on the court. Stevens's players are well versed on how to react to different situations and know his offensive and defensive systems very well. Each member of the team appears to cherish his role.
The NBA's age limit does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. The rule's effect on the landscape of college basketball will continue for as long as it exists, for better or worse, unless the NCAA decides to react with change.