With Jayson Tatum and Frank Jackson, the men's basketball team at Duke should have a good shot at winning it all this year.
Wait — Tatum and Jackson aren't at Duke any more? I thought that was Brandon Ingram who left after one season. Or maybe I was thinking of Justise Winslow. Or Jabari Parker. Or Tyus Jones...
Since 2011, 10 Duke players have played one basketball season and then departed for professional basketball. After this season, four more freshmen are expected to depart.
The faculty at Duke, which is rated the ninth best national university by U.S. News & World Report, is starting to wonder if this is a good idea. None of the other top 10 universities, which includes Stanford, Harvard and Princeton, has embraced one-and-done players as Duke has.
At a meeting of the faculty senate in the fall, political science professor Peter Feaver raised the issue of whether the one-and-done practice provided a "reputational risk" to Duke, the Durham Herald-Sun's Ray Gronberg reported.
Of course it does. It makes Duke appear as if its a basketball factory in the worst sense of the term. No other ACC school has adopted the one-and-done approach as Duke has, although it's not for lack of trying. But the Duke faculty isn't worried about the other schools' academic reputations; they're concerned about Duke's.
The other leading one-and-done school is Kentucky, which U.S. News ranks as the 133rd best national university and whose coach left two programs that were punished for actions while he was coach (he was cleared). No doubt one can get a good education at Kentucky but it is not an academic peer of Duke.
That Duke is in this quandary is not the players' fault. The NBA effectively requires players to attend a year of college before turning pro. The one-and-done players are making a rational decision to go to the basketball program that will preserve and perhaps enhance their market value.
And several of the Duke one-and-done players (Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones) have made the conference all-academic basketball team. Marvin Bagley III, a star on this year's team who will be one of the top picks in the upcoming NBA draft, also made the all-academic team. Good for them.
James Coleman, the Duke law professor who chairs the Duke faculty's Athletic Council, said all of Duke's one-and-done players have completed their freshman year in good standing.
This isn't Coach Mike Krzyzewski's fault either. He's won with one-and-done players and without them (which raises questions about whether the one-and-done approach is the best way to win, but that's another column). Krzyzewski is playing by the rules and recruiting the most talented players he can. The Duke administration — his bosses, in theory anyway — has condoned the practice.
They shouldn't. Duke is admitting players even though they plan to stay only two semesters at Duke and have no intent to graduate from the university. That rent-a-player approach is inconsistent with the academic mission of one of the country's great universities.
Great universities have standards. And one of them is you admit students who intend to graduate. That's not Krzyzewski's call; the policy of admitting one-and-done players is a president-level decision, first by Richard Brodhead, who retired last year, and now by Vincent Price, who started in July.
The universities know which players are likely to stay only for a year. All you have to do is ask the players, their families and the scouts. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a Duke graduate, said last year: "There's very little movement. If you look at draft projections going into their first year of college, it holds fairly true."
At some schools, one-and-done players have left school after the basketball season, completing only one semester, what Silver calls "half and done." Coleman said that was "too tenuous a relationship with the academic side of the university to call it legitimate." So one semester isn't legitimate but two is?
To Coleman's credit, he's trying to make the best of an awkward situation. He wants Duke to develop a continuing education program for former one-and-done players that keeps them engaged academically and helps them complete their education, whether at Duke or elsewhere.
There's an easier fix for Duke: Don't recruit and admit players who have no intention of staying at your university for more than two semesters. For a university like Duke, that's not too high a standard to meet.
Drescher, opinion/solutions editor, is at firstname.lastname@example.org; 919.829.4515; @john_drescher.