Rare year for college hoops

The Spectrum

I am a major advocate of abolishing the 'one and done' rule in college basketball and the NBA.

Players are forced to play for schools that are aware of their intended stay. Fans watch these players with the same awareness, and they have been stripped of the opportunity to fall in love with a specific recruiting class and follow the highs and lows of a core group over four years.

Most importantly, the level of play in college basketball has dipped and turned into a pseudo developmental league for the NBA. Immature and underdeveloped freshmen and sophomores lead their teams to Final Fours, dart for the NBA, and the next batch of high schoolers swoop in as the cycle is stuck on 'repeat.'

But I'm not here to discuss why college basketball fans are stuck watching players they know they don't want to be there, or the ignominy of a university paying thousands for an athlete that has no intention of completing a degree. (Surprisingly, for you NCAA antagonists, The Rule is the NBA's - stating its players must be a year removed from high school before declaring for the draft - not the NCAA's.)

Fortunately for college basketball pundits, this year is different. The Rule is benefiting college hoops and has brought reverence to the 2013-14 season.

This year's freshman class features at least six potential lottery picks, all of whom would have most likely declared for the draft straight out of high school had it not been for The Rule. Some are calling it the best NBA Draft class of all-time.

Sure, college basketball is blessed with players like Anthony Davis every year. But it's generally a guessing game of which top 10 high school recruits will turn into superstars and top NBA draft picks.

This year, it wasn't a guessing game. People were calling this the best class even before the season started and now that it is underway, that sentiment has cultivated - giving fans one of the most anticipated, exciting seasons of college basketball in years.

Two weeks ago in Chicago, four of the nation's top five teams squared off - featuring the top three high school recruits. Social media was buzzing and analysts called it one of the best regular season nights in college basketball history. As the season progresses, and more pivotally, as those freshmen progress, we can only expect more to come.

But as this season provides a rare, unfathomable amount of talent, its end result will be no different. The top players will leave for the NBA and the spoiled fans of 2013-14 will be left star-less next year, resetting their fandom once again for a new batch of high schoolers.

And unlike this season, fans won't be so lucky next year. This year's class is once in a lifetime.

The Rule has paid off for college basketball this year. If the prospects become NBA superstars as expected, this year's March Madness is capable of providing some of the most historic matchups in history. So soak it in, Kentucky, Kansas and Duke fans - players like this don't come often. Next year, you'll be buying new jerseys.

email: jon.gagnon@ubspectrum.com