What can UCLA's current predicament teach us about the NBA age limit and more in this edition of State of the Nation
As we did last week it is time to look around SBNation and find the most intriguing work from the past week. As with last week, some of it is about basketball (albeit the pros), and some of it isn't but we think about what it means to college basketball, and more specifically, mid-major basketball.
In this edition, we look at the minimum age limits for the NBA, scheduling and how it affects both the teams at the top and next level of college football, and defense of the baseball variety.
Time to address our Congress -- you the fans -- with our State of the Nation
1. NBA: Teenage Wasteland: Shabazz Muhammad Latest Victim of NBA Age Minimum - Tom Ziller looks hard at the case of UCLA recruit Shabazz Muhammad, whose recruiting to Westwood has drawn a lot of attention to the new Bruins. Muhammad is currently ineligible as the NCAA and UCLA sort through his ties to the underbelly of recruiting. He isn't the first and he won't be the last to get tied up in this kind of mess. We will probably even see more programs at the mid-major level get wrapped up in situations that they shouldn't as they attempt to make that leap to the next level of competition. But is it all worth it? David Stern has created an artificial age requirement for the NBA that doesn't seem to be helping anyone other than the 12th men on a lot of benches keeping their jobs for one more season before the top talent can get there and push everyone down. The draft isn't any more successful for teams, because as we saw this year, more and more teams essentially punt their second round pick by taking a Euro player who may or may not ever wear the uniform (yes, I know there are other reasons for this to happen, but not every team is "building long term"). I have long been an advocate of the baseball method, which probably wouldn't work 100 percent in basketball, but what if the NBA and NCAA allowed something similar to it?
Allow everyone to be eligible for the draft right out of high school. If they don't get picked, they are still fully eligible to head to college and have their one to four years of time on the court.
In that way, we can get players who would definitely go to the NBA their shot, and we don't get guys who make a poor decision to enter the draft when they aren't really ready for the NBA (and no one was going to pick them anyway). It might even give players a better idea of where they stand once they get to college and exactly when it might be prudent for them to enter the draft for the final time.
One thing that should definitely happen though is that Mark Emmert and David Stern need to stop talking through the media and get into a room where they can hash out what is best for both the college and the pro game with regards to the age limit.
2. Cowboys Ride For Free: Don't Blame Gundy, Blame Savannah State - In case you missed it, Oklahoma State rolled up an 84-0 win over Savannah State during the opening weekend of college football. The margin of victory was widely criticized as people saw Gundy just running up the score on the poor HBCU. The thing is that we see this kind of beat down all the time in college basketball and barely anyone blinks an eye. Perhaps it is because nominally, all the teams are Division 1 in college basketball, and football is broken into two pieces. But all the same, there was a reason that the Cowboys had to eventually settle for Savannah State. And the Tigers got paid for their bloodbath, in much the same way that the teams in the MEAC and SWAC get paid come basketball season. This is how they keep their programs running. It might not be the best way to do it, but it is the way things work until something causes a permanent rift in the Division 1 ranks.
And when considering this, think about how teams at the other end of the spectrum look at filling out their schedules. Villanova has been stuck in a sort of limbo as it contemplates a jump to the FBS, but can't seem to find the actual initiative to make the investment in doing so. The move would mean a chance to compete directly in the Big East, versus picking off a game or two each season against the FBS. Most recently, it has become harder and harder to play Temple for the Mayor's Cup, because the benefits of that "loss" don't help them, let alone the teams that they are supposed to play in the coming seasons instead of the Owls. When you are a team at the top of the FCS, there are real concerns when you "schedule up," some of the same concerns that teams in college basketball weigh when making the same decision. Look at Long Beach State's schedule that we discussed here on Tuesday. With a team not used to playing together, it could be a recipe for disaster that could set the team up for disaster when conference season comes around.
3. Beyond the Box Score: Adrian Beltre and the Unsexiness of Defense - When it comes to looking at the true value of a player, defense has to be involved. That is why I called out a specific stat within my HOOPWAR calculations (DEF100) to put all defenders on a common level when it comes to evaluating the talent on that side of the court. My calculation may not be perfect there, but it is a standard, something that baseball fans are still lacking. There are a number of methods to calculating the defensive skill of a player, but sometimes they disagree, and sometimes they need such large samples, they can't be used for anything meaningful until after a player's career is over.
Gentile's piece also looks at how defense is often overlooked when it comes time to talk about the true greatness of a baseball player and his place in the Hall of Fame. Beltre's defense is solid, not great, but it will probably also not help his case for reaching Cooperstown.
I tend to believe that the same argument can happen in college basketball. We can talk about the great defenders, but a lot of them only are noticed because of their offensive skill. Many will be missed along the way. It is rare that we have a generational talent like an Anthony Davis, who excelled at both ends of the court, to make the case for the player of the year easy. But even picking a defensive player of the year in a conference can fall prey to the "offensive eye for the defensive guy" syndrome that a lot of writers have.
Either that or they fall for the sexiness of blocks, and just reward the guy who swats a lot of shots (Zeke Marshall at Akron comes to mind, although there might have been better all-around defenders in the league).
Until we have some more standard measures for the contribution a player makes on the defensive side, it will remain an interesting argument, one we here at Mid-Major Madness includes DEF100 when the time comes.