September 24, 2023

Column: Grown men leading Final Four teams

If you take a peak at to see who the top prospects for the upcoming NBA draft are, you’ll find a bunch of freshmen.

We live in a one-and-done world of college basketball. The rules force future NBA players to spend at least one season playing college basketball.

The days of Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown and others jumping straight to the NBA from high school are over.

It’s a good thing for the league really. Garnett and Bryant were two of the players who were able to skip college and have hall of fame careers. Most of the others simply didn’t work out positively.

In the day of the one-and-dones, the four teams left in the NCAA Tournament are doing it with grown men.

Oregon has three freshmen on its entire roster, which is probably normal considering coaches bring in players every year to balance out rosters. Five Ducks are averaging in double-figures and four of them are juniors or seniors.

Gonzaga is probably one of the more successful programs in the country that does it with older players every year. The Bulldogs have freshman Zach Collins, who is projected to be a lottery pick. But he isn’t even one of the four Gonzaga players averaging in double figures.

North Carolina is a program one would think would be able to roll with the one-and-done model, but head coach Roy Williams has built this current roster differently. The Tar Heels lost in the championship game last year and are back in the Final Four with a team full of juniors and seniors.

South Carolina has the youngest team of any Final Four teams. The Gamecocks have freshman standout Rakym Felder and sophomores PJ Dozier and Chris Silva. But two of their top three scorers are senior guards who weigh an average of 218 pounds. Grown men.

All four programs have talent. There’s no doubt about that. But according to the latest mock draft on, the first senior projected to get picked is Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu early in Round 2.

Fourteen of the top 15 picks are freshmen. The first non-freshmen or non-international player projected to be taken is Duke sophomore Luke Kennard at No. 19.

Both of Duke’s standout freshmen are projected lottery picks and two others are projected in the first round. None of them are seniors, and the Blue Devils lost to South Carolina’s more experienced roster in Round 2.

Kansas’ best player, freshman Josh Jackson, is the projected No. 1 pick. Frank Mason, the favorite to win National Player of the Year, is a projected second-round pick. Kansas couldn’t get past Oregon, which does have three projected second-round picks in Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher.

North Carolina had to beat the program that started the one-and-done phenomenon. Kentucky has three freshmen projected to be taken in the first 16 picks, but North Carolina’s experience was just a little better.

North Carolina’s top projected pick is Justin Jackson at No. 24. The Tar Heels don’t have the NBA talent that they have had before, but Williams still has a team that is now the favorite to cut down the nets Monday.

Getting one-and-dones can certainly boost your chances but as North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon and South Carolina are showing, it’s not the only way to do it.

I’m pulling for Gonzaga this weekend.

I don’t have a dog in the fight so I may as well go with a former Cinderella who has finally reached the Final Four after 18 straight tournament appearances. And I like that Karnowski guy.

Contact Troy Hyde