NCAA Basketball

Blake Griffin, John Wall: What if 5 College Teams Hadn't Lost Stars?

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As the Maui Invitational tournament gets underway today the talking heads at ESPN are out in full force lauding a talented Michigan State squad that returns 10 players from last year’s Final Four squad including 2 very talented seniors in Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas and 3 experienced juniors in Delvon Roe, Korie Lucious and Draymond Green.

Michigan State is able to be a force in college basketball every season not only because they have an exceptional coach in Tom Izzo but also because they consistently return talented players and can field an experienced lineup year in and year out.

With a coach like John Calipari at UK it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to have any teams that look like Michigan State does this year and, for us, sophomores will be deemed veterans, but what if that wasn’t the case?

What if when a player was recruited they made a commitment for the long haul? How would the college landscape look if players didn’t leave early for the draft every year?

I know this is a ridiculous premise and if players weren’t going to the NBA then the recruiting landscape would be look extremely different than it does now, but humor me.

What teams would have come into this year as the preseason top five if none of their players in the past three seasons had left early for the bright lights of the NBA?

I’ll start by listing three teams in my honorable mention. Pitt, Duke and Michigan State are deservedly in the actual top five for the ability that their coaches have in developing talent. Outside of Pitt and DeJuan Blair, none of these teams would look much different in the world of my hypothetical rule. Despite that, these teams would all still be top competitors and contenders for the national championship.That’s why Coach K, Jamie Dixon and Tom Izzo are considered the best of the best.

Now on to the top 5:

5. Kansas State

Players they’d still have: Michael Beasley and Bill Walker (both would be seniors)

Kansas State is in the actual top five this year with an extremely talented leader in Jacob Pullen. Michael Beasley was a fantastic player in his short time in Manhattan and is now coming into his own in the NBA. Walker hasn’t had much of an impact in the pros yet but he was a highly sought after recruit coming out of high school and, as a senior, would have given Frank Martin an experienced and reliable player capable of explosive plays and highlight reel dunks.

4. Wake Forest

Players they’d still have: Jeff Teague, James Johnson (both seniors) and Al-Farouq Aminu (junior)

Wake Forest has gotten off to an embarrassing start this year after losing to Stetson and getting blown out by VCU but if they still had these three players it would be a different story in Winston-Salem. These guys were the core of a team that briefly held the number one ranking during the middle of the season. Add them to talented freshman Travis McKie and the Demon Deacons would be undefeated this year. Jeff Teague is a prolific scorer at point guard, James Johnson is an uber-athletic forward and, as UK fans can attest to, Aminu is a very talented player while he’s on the floor. Dino Gaudio would have probably liked it too. He’d still be employed if these three were suiting up in Old Gold and Black this season.

3. Ohio State

Players they’d still have: Evan Turner, Kosta Koufos (both seniors) and BJ Mullens (junior)

Turner was the player of the year last year and would have made a push at it this year. He can do everything and would have been the glue for this Thad Matta coached team. Mullens hasn’t done much of anything in the league but Koufos has been decently successful. Put those two back into the college ranks with the god-like talent that is freshman Jared Sullinger and the Buckeyes would have a front court unlike any ever seen in college basketball. It would be frightening. Ohio State already has a freakishly talented team but with these two big guys and the multi-talented Turner, Ohio State could easily be the number one team in this hypothetical adventure but I just don’t like them very much.

2. Kentucky

Players we’d still have: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton (all sophomores) and Patrick Patterson (senior)

Kentucky could have easily been the number one team but I wanted to have a little fun. Without a doubt the most talented team in the nation last year would be bolstered by the abilities of Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, leading to disgusting depth and more potential NBA players than most NBA teams have. The most obvious example of how the recruiting landscape would have changed, UK wouldn’t have been able to sign its monster class of 2010 if the monster class of 2009 hadn’t left. Still it’s a lot of fun to think about all of these players together like this but they’re still not the number one team.

1. Oklahoma

Players they’d still have: Tiny Gallon, (sophomore) Willie Warren and Blake Griffin (both seniors)

Yep the number one team is our first opponent in Maui and a team that needed overtime to beat North Carolina Central. This one is up to a lot of debate but count me as one of the many who have fallen under the spell of Blake Griffin. Warren is a great shooter and would have provided a great leadership presence and a deadly touch from beyond the arc. Gallon was decently productive as a freshman and probably should have stayed in school anyway. However, the gem of this team would have been Blake Griffin without a doubt. Not only would a senior Blake Griffin be the best player in the nation, but he’d also be the best by such a wide margin that whatever team he played for would be the best as well, even in a country of stacked teams.

Once again this whole thing was in jest and the closest we might get to something like this would be a rule similar to the MLB rule but that’s unlikely, but it’s fun to imagine what it might be like.

Go Cats and follow me on twitter: HaysSays