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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

College basketball is in need of a change, and a 96-team tournament isn’t it.

The one-and-done rule has got to go, and the NBA and NCAA must work together to fix things.

In 2006, the NBA instituted a rule that a player has to be 19 and one year out of high school to be eligible for the NBA Draft.

The idea was to keep players from jumping straight out of high school and force them to get some sort of college education.

Five years later, it’s clear it is a bad idea. Big-time players make a drive-thru of college, and many pay no attention to their spring classes.

I’m also a believer that forcing someone to get an education accomplishes nothing. There are some people that are simply destined to play basketball for a living. That is their job, and no college classroom can make them any better at that.

Some people might argue that the current one-and-done setup helps players who would’ve jumped from high school but don’t go pro after their freshman season because they realize they need more work.

In fact, current Florida center Vernon Macklin is a close-to-home example of this. Some people had Macklin projected to go pro out of high school, and he was a McDonald’s All-American, after all.

The rule forced him to go to Georgetown, and he is about to finish his college eligibility next season. Maybe Macklin would’ve succeeded jumping straight to the NBA. I certainly doubt it, but it’s possible.

But America has never been a place big on rules for making sure you don’t do something stupid. If you want to act like a moron, you usually can, but you’ll have to deal with the circumstances.

Why should basketball players face special restrictions?

Sure, most non-sports careers encourage or require a college degree. But if you want to graduate high school and become a plumber, no one forces you to go to college.

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Obviously, the NBA has a right to enact whatever rule it wants (or can get the players’ association to agree to, anyway). It is a business, and if it feels play is diluted by kids jumping from high school, the NBA has a right to protect its product.

But someone in the NCAA needs to grab the ear of someone in the NBA and explain that just because 18-year-olds are allowed to turn pro doesn’t mean the NBA has to draft them.

Evaluate talent better. Help give kids coming out of high school accurate projections of where they would really be drafted. Have the NBA and NCAA work together on a calendar so kids have a reasonable deadline to decide on the draft and go to school if desired.

Listen, nothing would make me happier than the stars staying in college all four years. College basketball is my favorite sport, and the level of play would be 1,000 times better. But I admit a rule like that would be absurd — Kevin Durant is fighting for an NBA scoring title in what would’ve been his senior season at Texas.

The solution to this issue is on the baseball diamond. High school graduates are eligible for the MLB Draft, but if you go to college, you’re not eligible for the draft until after your junior season.

But that is logical, so I know it won’t happen.

Instead I’ll get a “fix” for an NCAA Tournament that isn’t broken.

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