Basketball's simple: More-talented teams usually prevail
Without NBA players-in-waiting, it's tough to win in the Big Ten
What the heck, why not look at an NBA mock draft on Feb. 6? The draft is a mere four months and 21 days away.
Unlike last year when just four Big Ten players were among the 60 selected by NBA clubs, this year has a bunch. Right now, the mock draft of CBSsports.com's Jeff Goodman has nine, five of them in the first round.
3rd pick: Cody Zeller, Indiana sophomore center
9. Trey Burke, Michigan sophomore guard
23. Victor Oladipo, Indiana junior forward
26. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan freshman forward
29. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State junior forward.
39. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan junior guard
44. Adreian Payne, Michigan State junior forward
52. Brandon Paul, Illinois senior guard
55. Rodney Williams, Minnesota senior forward
The seniors bring up the rear. None of the first 13 players in Goodman's projections are seniors. Or juniors.
And that's where I bring this to Iowa. It has no NBA players. Check that. It has no one deemed ready to make the leap to The League this summer.
That, simply put, is why the Hawkeyes are taking a 3-6 league record to Wisconsin tonight. They have played Michigan and Michigan State and Ohio State and Indiana and Minnesota, and lost to all. Minnesota'shas a marginal "NBA player" in Williams. That's not a knock. He's a nice player. But the other four teams have genuine NBA players-in-waiting. I think Payne is listed a little too low, or else I think he'll play his way up that ladder before this season is done. One of the two.
As for the men listed from Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana, they need no validation. Burke is a National Player of the Year candidate. Zeller will probably be first-team All-America. Oladipo and Thomas are wonderful players. Et cetera.
You can bemoan Iowa's 3-point woes, or its failure to close out games on the road. Those are symptoms of the ultimate problem. Namely, until Fran McCaffery either brings in NBA players-to-be or his current players rate such a distinction, getting to the NCAA tournament will be difficult. Making a dent in the NCAAs will be all the more so.
Last year, the Final Four teams were Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville and Ohio State. Nine players from those teams were taken in the 2012 NBA Draft, and a 10th and 11th in Thomas and Kansas center Jeff Withey, who will be drafted this year.
What about Butler? The little Bulldogs went to the championship game in 2010 and 2011. Well, they had two future NBA players in Gordon Hayward (the 9th pick in the 2010 draft) and Shelvin Mack.
Virginia Commonwealth, a 2011 Final Four club, was an outlier.
Iowa State beat Connecticut in the first round of the 2012 NCAAs. UConn had two NBA players, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb. But Iowa State had Royce White, who outplayed Drummond and Lamb combined. Maybe that's an exaggeration. Maybe.
Then ISU played Kentucky in Round Two, and it's hard to beat a team with nothing but NBA players in the lineup.
College basketball has few "Hoosiers" stories. Instead, it has the Hoosiers, with Zeller and Oladipo, and a superb freshman point guard in Yogi Ferrell. and Christian Watfofrd, and Jordan Hulls, and Will Sheehey.
Big-time college basketball isn't scrapping, and running a swing offense, and holding the ball for 30 seconds per possession, and playing bellybutton defense. It's Kentucky, which after having four players drafted in 2011 and six last year including the top two picks, has four of the top 22 guys in Goodman's 2013 projections. It's North Carolina, which had three of the top 14 players drafted in 2012.
When Iowa gets or develops players like that -- 14 of Tom Davis' players at Iowa spent at least some time on NBA rosters -- the Hawkeyes won't be taking 3-6 Big Ten records anywhere.
But for those who may lack patience, note this: Michigan was 7-11 in the Big Ten in John Beilein's third season there, three years ago. Indiana was 3-15 in Tom Crean's third season there, two years ago.This is McCaffery's third season at Iowa.