Barry Laminack: The problem with college basketball
March is here and that means March Madness is right around the corner. That also means that everyone has to get back to acting like they like and care about college basketball (but we all know that's not true). Let me get this out of the way first, I don't hate college basketball. I watch the NCAA Tournament like everyone else.
Every year the tournament has crazy finishes, drama, and some fun games there is no denying. The problem is the rest of the year. Outside of the big matchups (Duke vs North Carolina, et al.), it seems that college basketball isn’t all that popular. Sure in pockets of the country where there are few pro teams this may not be true, but when it comes to major sports cities it seems that college hoops fails to capture the interest of fans.
When you watch the average college football game, you’re likely to see several future NFL stars on the field. When you watch the average college basketball game you're likely not going to see any future NBA stars (or players for that matter) during the game. Here is where you tell me about all the “talent” in the tourney, but I’m just not buying it. In fact, I did some research. And the numbers each NBA draft class is putting up over the last 5 years is pretty bad.
Below are some numbers from the last 5 draft classes currently in the NBA (to really spare you from just how bad it actually is, I’m only using the top ten picks in each year).
These are the combined career averages for the top ten picks in each of the last 5 NBA drafts:
Career Averages for the Top 10 Draft Picks (Per Game)
As you can see, over the last 5 years the average top ten pick in the NBA is averaging 10.5 points per game, 4.25 rebounds per game and 1.85 assists per game for their career.
Looking at the first round as a whole, in each of the last 5 years, here is a break down of career average scoring per game:
1st Rd Players Points Per Game Average
0 - 9.9 pts/g
10 - 15.9 pts/g
16 - 19.9 pts/g
Out of the 150 players that have been drafted in the last 5 years, 2 are averaging 20 or more points per game - Joel Embiid (22.3) and Karl-Anthony Towns (21.3). The main reason I think NCAA basketball isn’t a good watch (outside of the tourney) is that there are too many teams in Division I basketball.
Basketball (more so than any other major team sport) is the kind of sport where having 1 really good player can completely change the dynamic of a team. There can only be 30 first round picks (and 60 total draft picks) in a year. That means of the 5,265 players in Division I that fill roster spots, less than .0114 percent of them are NBA caliber. (I say “less than” because not all 60 draft slots are filled with NCAA talent, some are from overseas).
But Barry, not all 5265 players on an NCAA men’s basketball roster are eligible for the draft!
Well, the NCAA estimated that 3.6% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2016 NBA draft, so my point still stands.
Shrinking the number of Division I schools would mean that more teams would have more talent and deeper rosters. More talent and deeper teams would make the regular season games more compelling and fun to watch.