Talking about the 2011-2012 NCAA basketball season as possibly the best ever may seem trivial right now–especially after Connecticut and Butler were featured in perhaps the worst championship of any sort since the famed Greek Olympic chariot racing final of 480 B.C. And it certainly does not help that the game even spoiled ‘One Shining Moment’ by only supplying the tip-off and various Jim Calhoun post-games hugs in their highlight footage. Look past the combined 26.6% shooting of Butler and UConn though, to next year if you can. Next season may provide the most excitement college basketball has seen since Kevin Durant and Greg Oden donned NCAA jerseys.
With a NBA lockout looming, college players will likely shy away from the risk of turning pro. Stars such as Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Texas’ Tristan Thompson have already announced that they will return to school for at least one more season–and if there is one thing we have learned as college basketball fans, it is that you can always trust a college kid’s word.Although a NBA draft will be held, the summer league and start of training camp are in serious doubt. According to ESPN’s Ric Bucher, NBA owner’s demands will likely cause a lockout that will cost regular season games for the 2011-2012 season. To avoid such an event, a new contract between the players union and owners must be agreed upon by the end of the regular season–or nine days from today. At this point, the U.S. and Cuba are closer to an agreement than the NBA and its players.
Last season, 36 underclassmen were selected in the NBA draft, including the first 21 NCAA selections. In 2009, 26 underclassmen were selected. Almost as many underclassmen (36) were selected in the 2010 draft as there were seniors selected over the past two drafts (38). Imagine college basketball this year if Dejuan Blair was the starting center for the already first seeded Pittsburgh Panthers. How about if John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins played on a team with Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones for Kentucky’s Final Four team? In fact, every Final Four team but UConn had an underclassman selected in the top 15 of last year’s NBA draft. Blake Griffin, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, and Johnny Flynn could all still have been on NCAA rosters this season.
Obviously, it is unknown whether or not a lockout will effect the draft or happen at all. If one does occur, look for Kentucky to add the number one overall recruiting class to an already Final Four team. UNC will have consecutive top four recruiting classes and Syracuse is expected to have a top 10 class for the second straight year.
Next year’s college basketball season could be the best fans have seen in a long time if the Morris twins, Harrison Barnes and Derrick Williams all return to school. So, if you don’t want to see another National Championship Game that rivals the excitement of a middle school wheelchair basketball tournament, root for a NBA lockout next season.