Because only one national champion fits the description: the 2003 Syracuse Orange featuring Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and a bunch of non-pros. Beyond that, every single national champion from the past 40 years had at least three players who went on to be a first-round pick, second-round pick or an NBA player in general.
So what does this mean?
Well, for starters it means that — surprise, surprise — I was right again, just like always. But what it also means is that a college coach who looks at his roster and doesn’t see at least three NBA-caliber prospects has virtually no chance of winning a national championship. Sure, you can still be good, maybe win your league and even go to a Final Four if everything breaks perfectly. But history suggests you’re not going to win it all without three NBA-caliber prospects, and this is why coaches spend basically every day of the contact periods on the road killing themselves securing commitments from elite-level prospects.
An interesting column that verifies my belief that NBA talent is the most important thing in college basketball, except it doesn’t.
Let me explain.
In 2007, a friend and I were locked in mortal verbal kombat over the coming NCAA championship game. My belief was that Calipari’s Memphis Tigers featured the most NBA talent, and therefore, would crush Bill Self’s homely little roster of kU “good ol’ fashioned college players.” My friend believed that in college, heart, “fundamentals,” and classic college strategy would win the day.
One Mario Chalmers three pointer later (and the last one you could count on him to hit), and kU walks off with another championship.
So what does the excellent Parrish column tell us? That you need some talent, honed into classic college shape by good coaching. That the rest of the talent on your team won’t be good enough to sustain NBA-type play. Carmelo is of course the outlier, which is fitting because he’s the best college prospect to come out over the last bajillion years besides Wade, and Wade played for Marquette, for God’s sake. Travis Diener has a job playing ball right now specifically because Dwyane Wade played at Marquette.
How is this relevant? John Wall and Kentucky have the most NBA talent and are honestly, the most talented team in the country. But Wall still depends on players making NBA shots like baseline 12 foot jumpers. Which they can’t. Because they’re college players. And so likely Sherron Collins will lift the trophy once more before being drafted late in the first round and fading into nothingness. NBA talent matters the most in college basketball, it’s just not all that matters.