In the 30 seasons since the NCAA Tournament started morphing into “March Madness,” 120 teams have traveled the road to the Final Four. That’s 120 unique formulas that have worked to make it onto college basketball’s biggest stage.For all the debate about what counts more toward building a championship program — great teams with veteran leaders and role players versus outstanding individual talent, even if that talent only makes a short pit stop in college before going to the pros — an Associated Press analysis of rosters found that one factor outweighs all else:The most surefire way to consistently advance deep into the tournament is by amassing players with enough NBA potential to leave college early.The AP analyzed rosters of every team to make the tournament at least 10 times over the last 30 years and saw a trend that goes beyond the anecdotes and occasional tales of magical runs that have underscored the storytelling driving this debate for decades. The conclusion, as succinctly summed up by Gonzaga coach Mark Few: “It’s not a big secret. If you want to win and advance in this tournament, you have to have NBA talent.”“You can get the NBA talent through recruiting one-and-dones, or you can do it through development,” Few said. “But whether it’s one-and-dones or two-and-dones, you have to have it.”This combination of photos shows Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, left, on March 31, 2012 and as a New Orleans Pelicans player on Jan. 23, 2016, in New Orleans. (AP Photos)A wealth of NBA talent has been the mainstay on perennial contenders such as Kentucky, Duke and Kansas, which are among the programs that stand out in the AP analysis. Of the 79 teams the AP charted (including seven that made fewer than 10 appearances but went to the Final Four at least once), those blue bloods, along with North Carolina and Connecticut, were the only programs that averaged nearly three wins — a trip to the Elite Eight — per tournament appearance since 1989. All of those teams were also in the top 10 of programs that had the most early entries in the NBA draft over the same span.And though this year’s Final Four is being touted as one in which experience and teamwork won out over NBA-ready talent, three of the teams in Minneapolis this week do, in fact, have underclassmen on the roster who could be first-round draft picks. Sophomores Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech and DeAndre Hunter of Virginia are potential lottery picks in this year’s NBA draft, and even Auburn made it this far with the help of now-injured sophomore Chuma Okeke, who is widely considered to have first-round ability.The reality only serves to heighten the debate about what is essentially the professionalization of college basketball. It’s an issue that has become increasingly fraught in the wake of FBI investigations that further reinforced the influence that big money, shoe companies and the prospects of pro stardom have on the college game.FILE – In this March 30, 2019, file photo, Texas Tech celebrates after a win against Gonzaga in the West Regional final in the NCAA Tournament in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)“There are some things that are wrong with it, things that take place that are inappropriate,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl , who himself has been previously banned by the NCAA and, more recently, has seen a handful of his Tigers assistants caught up in the current probe. “That’s the business of college basketball. The reason why the NCAA is involved in this is because it’s their job to monitor.”There are, of course, exceptions to the talent-equals-titles rule. This year’s Michigan State squad doesn’t appear to have any NBA-ready underclassmen on its roster, even though the Spartans are a program that traditionally draws that sort of talent.The Loyola-Chicagos, George Masons and VCUs of the world are the teams that prove, semi-regularly, that anything is possible, and are a big part of the reason the tournament captivates America every spring. But they are the outliers. The reality is that gritty, unselfish teamwork is nice, but raw talent is better.“It’s like when I go to (fried chicken restaurant) Grandy’s, do I want double mashed potatoes or mashed potatoes and corn?” said Texas Tech coach Chris Beard. “I want both. So we would love to have All-Americans and turn ’em into grinders.”As Gonzaga’s role in the sport has morphed from plucky underdog to perennial power over the past two decades, Few says he’s changed his strategy from one that emphasized roster building, to one that focuses on roster management.FILE – In this March 30, 2019, file photo, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter dribbles past Purdue’s Grady Eifert (24) during the first half of the men’s NCAA Tournament in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)“The most important part of the year now is April and May,” he said, in a nod to the period when NBA-caliber players such as Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke make their decisions about whether to stay or go. “You project what they’re going to do, then you plan accordingly.”No program runs on the hamster wheel of quick turnover more than Kentucky. Not surprisingly, the Wildcats, thanks largely to the impact of the one and done factory John Calipari has been running for the past decade, have been to the tournament 29 times since 1989 and sent 45 players to NBA before they graduated. They average just shy of three victories per trip, and just shy of 1.7 early departures per year they’ve appeared. In the AP analysis, they are alone in their own quadrant of the data grid.Not included in the study are teams that didn’t make the tournament despite having one-and-done and other early-entry talent. Ben Simmons spent one year at LSU, and Markelle Fultz spent a season at Washington, but neither played in March Madness.On the other end of the spectrum, having NBA talent is no guarantee of success. Both Texas and Southern California have put more than a dozen early entry players into the league over the span of the study, but their victories-per-tournament average hovers around 1.And yet, the way the top programs have ensured consistent success, the analysis proves, is by repeatedly securing that kind of talent.FILE – In this March 30, 2019, file photo, members of Virginia celebrate after defeating Purdue 80-75 in overtime of the men’s NCAA Tournament college basketball South Regional final game in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)But there’s a chance everyone might have to recalibrate.With the NBA and its players union considering changes that could end one-and-done, and possibly allow players to go to the NBA straight from high school — the way the system worked for decades before 2006 — Kentucky’s path to success could be in peril.“I don’t know how it will play out, but we’ll try to be first in whatever we’re doing,” Calipari said.It’s not only the Wildcats who might need to adjust.Even programs like Michigan and UConn, which tend to keep players around longer, haven’t shied away from the realities of college basketball in the 2000s: one-and-dones drastically improve your outlook, like it or not.“We’ve never said we’re not going to take a one-and-done guy,” said Wolverines coach John Beilein, who leads a program that, in many ways, wrote the first chapter of the book on modern basketball when the Fab Five came through in the early 1990s. “But at the same time, we’re going to be very open with a young man, that if you’re coming, this is a destination. This is not a stopover.”Over the three decades the AP studied, Michigan averaged 2.375 wins in each of its 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, while sending 16 players early to the NBA.Like Beilein — and unlike Calipari — Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is nowhere near as outspoken about embracing his school’s role as a place where the most talented players are welcome to camp out for a year before heading to the NBA.In 2015, the Blue Devils won the title with two freshmen who left to become lottery picks. (Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow). This year, the Blue Devils have three potential one-and-dones in Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett.FILE – In this March 28, 2019, file photo, Gonzaga coach Mark Few yells during the first half the team’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament West Region semifinal against Florida State in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)They came up 1 point short of the Final Four — agonizing, for sure, but hardly an indictment of a formula that has worked for decades.It’s a formula more schools would like to get their hands on.“We don’t shy away from that,” said Beard, who led Texas Tech to its first Final Four this year. “Our goal is to have a team at Texas Tech one day where every guy on the team is an NBA player. No doubt about it, to play on this stage, you have to have pros, and you’ve got to evaluate and recruit and develop them.”___By EDDIE PELLS and LARRY FENN Associated PressTweetPinShare0 Shares
Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) head Vinod Rai’s decision to announce an ad-hoc panel to conduct interviews of candidates who apply for the new Indian women’s coach job does not have the blessings of the other committee member, former Indian women’s team captain Diana Edulji.In an internal BCCI communication accessed by India Today, Diana struck down Rai’s instructions to go ahead and named an ad-hoc committee comprising of Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaikwad and Shanta Rangaswami to interview applicants for the coaching job. “I have read Mr Rai’s mail and don’t agree with it. As chairman he can’t take any unilateral decisions as there is no casting vote for chairman. Rahul and Saba without my approval you cannot proceed on this as it does not have my approval,” she writes addressing CEO Rahul Johri and General Manager Saba Karim.Edulji bringing in BCCI’s handling of the Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble conflict argues that on the same line, the player opinion should be respected while choosing the women’s team coach too. Citing T20 captain and vice captain Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana’s request to retain coach Ramesh Powar for his good work, she writes that Powar’s services be continued for the upcoming tour of New Zealand in January.”The Capt and vice Capt have requested their choice so why can’t we respect their choice for this tour till we get clarity on the committee. We can go ahead and continue with the same coach. The views of the 2 senior players must not be ignored.advertisementVirat did not accede to Kumble continuing inspite of CAC saying so then why not these 2 players get what they feel is best for the team,” she writes.Vinod Rai counters Edulje arguing if players sentiments had to be respected, so should Mithali Raj’s. “If it is a question of respecting opinions of senior players— why not respect the opinion of the senior most player– in fact the ODI captain of the team?,”The original idea of letting the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) conduct interviews of coaching aspirants did not fruitify after refusal and reluctance from Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman to involve themselves in the process.There too the two COA members remain at loggerheads.”I would like to state that the CAC said they would have liked more time. We should give them the time and define their role better. The applications we received can be kept in abyence so one tour can be taken care of,” writes Edulji.Rai countering Edulji goes on to term Powar’ as reason for bad blood in the team. “The advert for the head coach has issued. If media is to be believed, internationally reputed coaches have applied/are applying.We cannot now withdraw and say that we will continue with our ad hoc coach of three months — who has been the reason for such bad blood in the team.”This chapter has to be closed and the earlier the better,” he writes.