NBA Draft Tonight

The NBA Draft happens tonight.  There has been a lot of opining that this year’s draft is deep in talent; I admit that I saw less college basketball than usual in the previous season, but I did watch more games than the average bear.  [Hat Tip to Hannah-Barbera and Yogi Bear.]  What I saw were good players but few if any outstanding players.

Cade Cunningham is expected to be the first guy off the board going to Detroit.  I have read pieces that compare him to James Harden as a scorer.  I did not see anything close to that assessment.  I am not suggesting that Cunningham will be a bust at the top of the draft á la LaRue Martin or Anthony Bennett; I think Cunningham will be a productive player in the NBA for quite a while, but to compare him to James Harden seems like a huge stretch to me.

Another player who draws comparisons that astound me is Evan Mobley.  Yes, he was the best big man I saw in college basketball last  year and I think he too will have a productive NBA career – – but someone said he might be the next Anthony Davis.  Wow…

I believe the reason the NBA Draft does not generate the same level of fan involvement as does the NFL Draft is the lack of familiarity with many of the players who will be taken tonight.  There are 3 players who are mentioned as first round picks who did not play college basketball last year but spent their “year-after-high-school” in the NBA’s G-League and – – as has been the case for the last decade or so – – there are players from other countries (Australia, Lithuania, Serbia, Spain and Turkey this year) who are mentioned as players to be selected tonight.  I watch a lot of college basketball and I have never seen any of these guys play; that distinguishes the NBA Draft from the NFL Draft where virtually every player taken has played college football and is familiar to some segment of the Draft audience.

In any event, the NBA Draft should be entertaining tonight if only for the fact that it puts on display for NBA fans the substance of a line from a poem by Alexander Pope:

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast…”

The proposed movement of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big-12 to the SEC is generating lots more news than merely the realignment of college football conferences.  Let me just hit some of the highlights:

  • Oklahoma State officials criticized Oklahoma for a “lack of transparency” in plotting to leave the Big-12 and applying for membership in the SEC.  [Puhleeez…]
  • Texas A&M officials have been less-than-happy about the Texas move since the Aggies have been the sole focus of SEC football in the State of Texas for the last decade.  Of course, the reason that has been the case is that Texas A&M switched conferences from the Big 12 to the SEC back in 2012 – – but let us not bring that up now.
  • The Big-12 Commissioner’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to ESPN saying that ESPN had lured the two schools away from the Big-12 thereby doing harm to the conference and the other schools in the Conference.  I assume the ESPN lawyers are drafting a response that is the legal and more genteel version of, “WTF are you smoking?”

There has been a ton of publicity about college athletes now being able to profit off their name, image and likeness; sponsorship deals with athletes are coming out of the woodwork everywhere.  While that is a sea change for college athletes, I think the changes that are in progress for college conference alignments is much more important and much more “game-changing”.  I am not going to pretend to know how all the movement will shake out but from my vantage point, I think the vector heading is this:

  • There will be 4 “major conferences” with 16 teams in each of those conferences.
  • Football will drive the alliances and the affinity; basketball and the other sports may follow along or may create single-sport alliances.  The big money comes from college football, and it will be the big money that calls the tune.
  • The football-driven realignments will be virtually independent from the NCAA.  Whatever oversight the “major conferences” set up for themselves will take care of college football; the NCAA can continue to put on March Madness and presumably can continue to be the “adult in the room” when it comes to college basketball.  But the status of the NCAA will diminish.

Even in a sea of entropy, there can be islands of order and stability.  [Aside:  A thermodynamicist will tell  you that the end of time will be the entropy death of the universe where all energy has been degraded to heat energy and the temperature of the universe approaches absolute zero.]  For college athletics, the islands of stability for the next decade or so will be in Division 1-AA and Divisions II and III.  I will go out on a limb here and predict that you will not see any action by the Patriot League to poach a team or two from the Ivy League – – or vice-versa.

I have advocated for years that schools and their athletic departments should be divorced from each other.  Particularly in football and basketball, it would make sense for the model to be a “minor league/feeder league” for the professional leagues where revenues and cooperative agreements with the pro leagues pay the freight.  The minor sports – in the sense of revenue production – would become more minor and play more on a regional basis where cost control is dominant.  Those minor sports may reside under the “supervision” of the schools or the separated athletic departments; I have no strong preference there.

That solution is logical and pragmatic – – meaning it will never make it to any meeting agenda where the future of intercollegiate athletics will be discussed.

Finally, I mentioned above a positive view of “Hope” by Alexander Pope, so let me close with a darker view offered up by the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche:

“Hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………