Would College Basketball Suffer Without the NBA's Age Limit?

From Bleacher Report - College Basketball
September 19, 2013 - 4:33pm

There wasn't an Andrew Wiggins in the Final Four in 2013. No Kevin Durant. No Anthony Davis. No Julius Randle.  It was, in some ways, an NCAA tournament without the most genetically blessed players who have become available to college basketball because of the NBA age limit.  If the NCAA had its way, this is what the future could look like. We would be a month away from a college basketball season where the most talented college-aged freshmen were already professionals. NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke Monday at Marquette, and, among other things (mostly there's no chance the NCAA is giving in to pay-for-play), he provided his views on the NBA age limit. He doesn't believe it should exist. And, of course, someone took exception to Emmert's comments.  Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated wrote a column that made a really good argument for why getting rid of the NBA age limit would be bad for business for the NCAA. If you take away the best talent, Glockner argued, the product suffers. Forgive me because Glockner's column made sense and brought up some good points (which I'll get to later), but I side with Emmert here. And I realize agreeing with Emmert these days is like supporting communism.  But forget who is saying this for a minute, and think about a point Emmert makes. It is a principle that, in any other circumstance, we would be fully behind: freedom of choice. Emmert said:  It's a dynamic tension that we really need to work on because it's at heart of part of what talking about here. Why would we want to force someone to go to school when they really don't want to be there? But if you're going to come to us, you're going to be a student. The emphasis is on that final part of the quote—you're going to be a student—and that's a battle that, in some cases, the NCAA is never going to win.  Just like you have athletes who are going to try to cut corners and do enough to get by, you're going to have "regular" students do the same.  Valuing your education is a choice, just like whether or not to go to school in the first place.  So maybe how Emmert has arrived at his stance is a bit idealistic, but the right to choose could be beneficial for all parties involved. The best part of Glockner's takedown of Emmert's stance is the fact that basketball players already have other choices—they can go to Europe for a year or play in the D-League—and Glockner hits on a point that is largely ignored: A lot of people bring up Brandon Jennings, the former Arizona recruit who ended up playing his pre-NBA season in Italy before being picked 10th overall by Milwaukee, as an example of alternate options for high schoolers. What they choose not to mention is that Jennings spent his season at Virtus Roma coming off the bench and getting limited minutes behind former Penn point guard Ibby Jaaber. Yes, the future No. 10 pick in the NBA draft was iced behind a former Ivy League player. Current European basketball culture (as well as the development programs that help feed youth talent to the parent clubs) leaves almost zero chance for a U.S. high school player to be a desirable commodity for a one-year layover. Currently, going to the D-League isn’t much better. This is why the NCAA is a desirable place for the best high school players. They get to play. They get noticed. And then they get paid. In the process, the NCAA makes gobs of money.  Painting the NCAA as an innocent victim is not going to make sense to anyone because the NCAA does make a lot of money off its athletes. Poor bastards. But the NCAA cannot force the NBA to change its rule. It's an NBA rule. The NCAA could, however, push back. Push back hard enough, and the NBA might just do something about it, Glockner argued:  If the NBA, over time, views the NCAA pipeline as less and less beneficial to its own needs, there will be more motivation for the league to explore other legitimate options to the NCAA, whether it's really blowing out the D-League, starting club structures similar to Europe, somehow utilizing Europe's club structures as an approved farm system, etc.  This is where I'm with Emmert, and it might seem crazy for someone who loves college basketball to say, but would it be the worst thing for the NBA to create a more viable minor league system?  The reason the NBA hasn't put more into creating such a league is that minor leagues a

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