It’s that time of the year. March. Everyone in world will fill out a bracket in a couple weeks and hope and pray a team they never heard of either pulls an upset or doesn’t shock the world by sending their team home. You hear the arguments that the college game is better than the pros. “It’s team basketball.” “There’s no ego.” Well some could counter and say, especially a couple years ago there was no talent. Bill Simmons pointed out that just a couple years ago Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick were the best players in the college game. Really? And people like this better?

There was also an article written a couple years ago that outlined what the NCAA tournament could possibly look like if players could not leave early. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and another season of Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor at UConn made up the article. It was a great read. I’m not trying to recreate that piece, rather I’m just pointing out all the players that could actually still be playing college hoops, and it’s quite remarkable, even with the rule that you can’t jump to the draft following high school.

Here is each NBA team with their players that could still be in college. The college team they played for is in parentheses and if they did not attend, where they committed or signed with is in italics. Take a look…

Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith ( University of Indiana), Marvin Williams (University of North Carolina), Al Horford (University of Florida).

Boston Celtics: Glen Davis (LSU), Rajon Rondo (University of Kentucky), Gabe Pruitt (USC).

Charlotte Bobcats: None

Chicago Bulls: Tyrus Thomas (LSU), Joakim Noah (University of Florida), JamesOn Curry ([[Oklahoma State University}Oklahoma State]]), Cedric Simmons (NC State).

Cleveland Cavaliers: Daniel Gibson (University of Texas).

Dallas Mavericks: None.

Denver Nuggets: J.R. Smith ( University of North Carolina), Taurean Green (University of Florida)

Detroit Pistons: Aaron Afflalo (UCLA), Amir Johnson ( University of Louisville), Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington University).

Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis (Mississippi State University), Brandan Wright (University of North Carolina), Patrick O’Bryant (Bradley University).

Houston Rockets: Gerald Green (Oklahoma State University).

Indiana Pacers: Shawne Williams (University of Memphis).

Los Angeles Clippers: Shaun Livingston ( Duke University).

Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Farmar (UCLA), Andrew Bynum ( UConn).

Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay (UConn), Mike Conley Jr. (Ohio State), Javaris Critteton (Georgia Tech), Kyle Lowry (Villanova University).

Miami Heat: Daequan Cook (Ohio State), Dorrell Wright (No idea).

Milwaukee Bucks: None. (Duke probably could have paid Yi to come.)

Minnesota Timberwolves: Al Jefferson (University of Arkansas), Sebastian Telfair (University of Louisville), Corey Brewer (University of Florida).

New Jersey Nets: Sean Williams (Boston College).

New Orleans Hornets: Julian Wright (University of Kansas).

New York Knicks: Randolph Morris (University of Kentucky), Wilson Chandler (DePaul University).

Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard (Some very lucky school).

Philadelphia 76ers: Louis Williams ( University of Georgia), Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech), Jason Smith (Colorado State University).

Phoenix Suns: None.

Portland Trail Blazers: Greg Oden (Ohio State), LaMarcus Aldridge (University of Texas), Josh McRoberts (Duke), Martell Webster (No College).

Sacramento Kings: Spencer Hawes (University of Washington).

San Antonio Spurs: None.

Seattle Supersonics: Kevin Durant (University of Texas), Jeff Green (Georgetown University), Robert Swift ( USC).

Toronto Raptors: None.

Utah Jazz: C.J. Miles ( University of Texas).

Washington Wizards: Nick Young (USC), Andray Blatche (No College), Dominic McGuire (Fresno State University).

(How about those Texas Longhorns? They could have a lineup of Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, C.J. Miles, Daniel Gibson, and D.J. Augustin with A.J. Abrams coming off the bench. Good lord. UNC would add Marvin Williams, J.R. Smith, and Brandan Wright to their team which is already #1 in the country, and UConn could team up Rudy Gay and Andrew Bynum to their solid nucleus.)

By my count that’s 53 players currently in the NBA who would still be hitting the books and playing on “Big Monday’s” and “Super Tuesday’s” if they couldn’t leave early. How exciting would March Madness be with this talent level? Tyler Hansborough has had a great season, don’t get me wrong, but he would be hard pressed to even be Honorable Mention All – American with the likes of Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, Kevin Durant, Andrew Bynum, and Monta Ellis on the scene. I mean even Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright on his own team would be stealing some of the hype.

If it wasn’t for the “no high school players in the draft” rule, most of the best players in the country would not even be there this year. Michael Beasley (got to be the player of the year), Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Bill Walker (would be in the NBA if not for the rule), DeAndre Jordan, Jerryd Bayless, and Kevin Love make this year’s bracket much richer in talent. How watered down would it be without these guys?

Obviously a “4 years of college” rule would be ridiculous, but imagine the level of play. The high school rule was a step supposedly put in place to help the NBA, and it probably has, however college basketball has benefited even more. The rule is just 2 years old and we could see back-to-back freshmen win Player of the Year. (Durant and Beasley). We thought the Oden/ Durant rivalry was great, and I’d have to say this year’s freshmen class as a whole is even better.

Button line: what was a good move for the NBA, has become a great move for college basketball.

-Rich Keefe

(Just for fun, if it was a 4-year must rule, LeBron James and Chris Paul would be leading a solid rookie class in the NBA right now…)

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