Until last year, the question that was on everyone’s mind was: “is it possible to win a championship with one and done players?” Well, UK showed that it is indeed possible if you have enough of them.
Now, just one year later, everyone is asking: “is it still possible to win a championship without mercenaries?” Can you still win a championship with gritty, team-oriented players who are on campus for more than a semester and a half?
The mercenary rule has been in place for 7 years. This year is the eighth. Let’s look at how many mercenaries there have been during that time and how many of them played in the final four or won a championship.
Last year, there were eight one-and-dones taken in the first round of the draft. Of those 8, only 3 played on a final four team (UK). Obviously, 3 won a championship. No other player since the rule changed has won a championship in his only season of college basketball.
In 2011, there were Five. Brandon Knight (UK) was the only one to go to the final four.
In 2010, there were seven. None made it to the final four.
In 2009, there were four. None made it to the final four.
In 2008, there were ten. Only 3 teams played in the final four* that year and it featured only one one-and-done player (Kevin Love of UCLA).
IN 2007, there were eight. 3 played in the final four (Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, and Mike Conley of Ohio State).
In 2006, there were two. 1 played in the final four (Tyrus Thomas).
There has been an average of 6.29 one-and-done players per year.
Only one team (14%) has started a mercenary and won a championship. Only 6 (including one no longer on the books) teams in 7 years (21%) have been to the final four with a mercenary player.
Can you still win a championship without a mercenary? Of course. In fact, if history means anything, it is much more likely to happen for teams without them.
According to NBAdraft.net, there are likely to be 9 mercenaries this year. Two are still playing (Glen Robinson III of Michigan and Ben McLemore of KU), four already lost in the tournament, and three lost a tough battle on the road in the National Invitational Tournament.
In fact, there are only ten projected first round draft picks still playing this year:
1) Michigan (Glen Robinson, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway jr).
2) Kansas (Ben McLemore, Jeff Whithey)
4) Duke (Mason Plumlee)
5) Louisville (Gorgui Dieng)
6) Syracuse (Michael Carter-Williams)
Add to this the incredibly strange possibility that Russ Smith will move into the 1st round and is legitimately in the conversation for the best player in college basketball; there aren’t many teams with more talent than us.
There sure as hell aren’t any teams with more defense than us.
*If we ignore the fact that Calipari is a dirty cheater and that Derrick Rose shouldn’t have been allowed to play college basketball that year, there were two in 2008.