When the buzzer sounded on Duke’s season, it didn’t take long before the anti-one and done crowd started celebrating.
The Blue Devils freshmen had become this generations Fab Five in way of hype. Zion Williamson was the face of college basketball. RJ Barrett (Canada) and Cam Reddish (USA) had prior International experience that rendered the big stage as somewhat ho-hum. Having those three and arguably the best coach in College Basketball history would garner a Final Four appearance, right?
All season, it was Final Four/National Championship or Bust for Duke so, on the surface, their season looks like failure. More importantly, to those who have specific agendas, this was further proof that the concept of the one-and-done had failed again.
This flawed assumption exists despite the fact that two one-and-done based teams have won titles. Kentucky in 2012 (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague) and Duke in 2015 (Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Grayson Allen). I can understand if someone wants to argue that Quinn Cook (SR) played a large role on that 2015 team but it was still one-and-done based.
The bigger question is, in today’s environment, should we hold one-and-done based teams to such lofty expectations? Duke’s season is far from being a failure. Losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight is far from being shameful. This isn’t the loss to Mercer. It also speaks to the if-you’re-not-first-you’re-last nonsense. Winning the ACC tournament and making it as far as they did in the tournament while depending heavily on three freshmen shouldn’t be viewed in such narrow lenses.
Failing to make the Final Four didn’t hurt the Duke brand. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will bring in another top flight class of freshmen class that includes three players in the top 10 of ESPN’s Recruiting Rankings. It is good enough to be ranked 5th by ESPN. As you can see, the Blue Devils aren’t rebuilding, they’re reloading.
This is no different than what Kentucky’s John Calipari has done for years. Like Duke, the Wildcats would fall one game short of the Final Four. Kentucky will be bringing in four top 25 recruits including three that are ranked in the top 10 (ranked 7th overall). That meant the top two 2018 recruiting classes made it to the Elite Eight. I find that hard to classify as a failure.
Most anticipate the NBA will eventually change the rule and allow high school students to go straight to the NBA. We are probably still a few seasons away from that happening but don’t expect the one-and-done to go away. By having the Zion’s of the world go pro straight out of high school, that would open up the tier below to possibly being one-and-done.
So don’t expect for Krzyzewski or Calipari to stop the practice anytime soon. Yes, Villanova’s Jay Wright has had success recruiting players that will stay for 2-3 seasons. So has Roy Williams. But there’s more than one way to be successful in any industry as for the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world, it’s all year to year.