Welcome to the college basketball season. If everyone could introduce themselves please. . .

When it comes to Zion Williamson, the Duke's son who helped open the college basketball season with a thunderous debut against Kentucky, there is no claim. There are 31 games of the regular season. There are, perhaps, three games in the ACC tournament. And if the Blue Devils were to reach the NCAA championship game, there would be six games deep in March.

Forty games – maybe. Love it and leave it, college hoop fan.

"He will be an outstanding player for us for a year," said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski before the start of the season. "And I think it will be – he has a chance to be an all-star NBA too."

But what if he never played college basketball? What happens if he and his freshman run the companions R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish – not to mention, for example, Maryland Jalen Smith and North Carolina Nassir Little and Oregon Bol Bol, among others – had another option, and they never overcame the farce to enroll in college to take classes in a degree that they do not intend to receive four years from now?

University basketball is, at the moment, a niche sport. I adore it and probably I will always do it. But undeniably it was pushed to the margins. Last spring, the NCAA tournament selection show, which for years I thought of on a national holiday, received fewer television viewers than at any time in its history. Does the result of an errant attention extend and expand the options? Consider that it was discovered by PGA Tour golf (yes, with Tiger in contention), a NASCAR race and a regular season NBA game.

Three weeks later, the national title game between Villanova and Michigan, two brands with national appeal, attracted less than 16 million viewers, the lowest total ever recorded.

Yes, the move of both the title game and the selection show from the old CBS standby properties to those of Cable Turner has declined in ratings. But ask yourself: why was CBS willing to move what was to be a selection property for a power outlet?

In my opinion, college basketball has deeper problems than those revealed last month in a Manhattan courtroom. Yes, a low-income agent and a couple of Adidas executives have been convicted of fraud charges for their roles in that kind of pay-per-play schemes that, obscurely, have been part of the sport for decades.

The people who run the college hoops consider this important, because – if you trust them – they believe that basic faith in sport is eroded. Cue John Swofford, commissioner of the ACC, to journalists last month: "It is essential for the long-term health of sport and for the health of university athletics that there is an institutional and public trust in the 39; integrity of sport ".

If corruption were really the heart of the problem, I would say that the solution is simple: pay the players. Children are not in college to go to college anyway. The money – which would have been $ 19.6 billion with B that CBS and Turner paid to bring the NCAA tournament from 2010-32 – is now not addressed to the artists, but to the coaches and administrators and the general department of the athletic department .

"We found that our fans say they would lose interest if the players were not amateurs," said Commissioner Pac-12 Larry Scott. "They would not care so much."

But as shown, the interest in college basketball is dissolving, and you can not convince me that the juvenile bagmen are the reasons.

The fact that Williamson and Barrett and others will not be around at this point next year is much more important. In 2006, the new collective agreement of the NBA established an age limit for players for the draft. Although it may seem backward, it seemed Help college basketball, because even if the most talented players would have spent only a year on campus, at least they would have arrived.

Instead, those players have done more to define the following drafts that must define the college programs that they pass through. The initial year of 2006, the first round of the NBA project included only two freshmen and eight college students.

But it's not like that anymore. The NBA launches on talent whenever it becomes available. In the last five drafts, 33 college freshmen were selected from the top 10, unlike two seniors. The first nine general choices were college freshmen. This year should do that 10 in a row.

Has college benefited from basketball because Ben Simmons played at LSU or did Deandre Ayton score 35 total games in Arizona? Do you even remember Ben Simmons playing at LSU or Deandre Ayton who recorded 35 games in Arizona? There is no way to stick to these drifters. You may have hated the former guard of Duke Grayson Allen – many did. But after four seasons, 142 career games, an NCAA title and the occasional trip of an opponent, at least there was a relationship there. At least you care.

The NBA is planning to change this math and offer 18-year-old players another option. Do you prefer to be paid for your tradable skills immediately after graduating from high school? (What a concept!) Then the evolutionary G-League will have a place for you. The proposed contracts would be $ 125,000 per year. (Which leads to an easy joke: "Well, I could do more in Louisville.")

It could be a Zion Williamson or a R.J. Barrett decides to earn six digits instead of spending a year at Duke? Maybe not for $ 125,000 apartment. But since they would be professionals, they would be able to sell Gatorade or have their own shoe or receive excess money from a car dealer or what you have. The gateway to NBA marketing life would have been opened a year earlier.

Will the university be missing from any of them? Eh. Kevin Garnett would have been a college freshman in 1995-96. Kobe Bryant would have matured in the following year. In these two seasons, Kentucky won the NCAA title with roster with Tony Delk and Antoine Walker and Ron Mercer and so on. The faithful Wildcat could identify with those players and teams because they watched them develop for years, not months. Yes, there were still one-and-gifts then. But the obvious ones – Garnett and Bryant among them – have never presented themselves.

So, while college basketball is felt, the interest could be high in Chapel Hill and Lexington, Bloomington and Lawrence and the like, but the rest of the country waits three weeks in March. The problem is not the level of talent of the players or if someone slipped them into an envelope during a summer league event. The problem is when we learn who they are enough to worry about, they are gone and we have to start again next November.

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