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The Morning Dish – Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

Today we bring you a special NBA Draft edition of The Morning Dish:

While a number of recent college stars received their first assignments in their careers as professionals, last night’s NBA Draft also was good for taking us back a couple months and reminding us just what we had in college basketball this past season.

It wasn’t necessarily a prevailing storyline during the Final Four-and there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way-but this year’s Final Four was loaded with future NBA talent. Loaded. And it wasn’t all just at Kentucky, or even Duke, as this year’s NCAA semifinals included eight first round draft picks and a total of 11 draftees just this year, nearly 20% of the entire draft.

The starting fives for the Wisconsin/Kentucky semifinal game featured five players drafted in the first round last night alone, all in the first 18 picks-UK’s Karl-Anthony Towns (1), Willie Cauley-Stein (6) and Trey Lyles (12) and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky (9) and Sam Dekker (18). Including Wildcats Devin Booker, Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson, the contest featured no less than eight of this year’s 60 NBA draft picks.

That may not even be the end of the first round picks, as the Badgers’ Nigel Hayes and even possibly Bronson Koenig will have a chance to be drafted whenever they finish their careers, as will Kentucky’s Marcus Lee. Imagine that: a national semifinal game that may have included as many as nine first round picks on the court at some time.

The numbers for the championship game are similar. Duke and Wisconsin also put five players on the court on that Monday night that ended up being first round picks. Jahlil Okafor (4), Justise Winslow (10) and Tyus Jones (24) joined Kaminsky and Dekker, and like the Badgers, the Blue Devils could add to that overall total considerably in coming years.

The last time a Final Four included eight first-round picks that same year was 2007, when Florida was winning its second straight national title and beat out Georgetown, Ohio State and UCLA, which was in the midst of a string of three straight Final Four appearances. That was also the only other time the feat occurred.

It should be noted the first round of the draft obviously has become larger over the years as the NBA has expanded, but it’s an eye-catching number nonetheless. Much is made these days of how college basketball isn’t the NBA, nor is it the sport it once was when it was dominated by four-year players. Both are true. And while it’s perfectly fair for those in both of those camps to lament what the sport is not, perhaps it’s time to start appreciating the talent the sport does have and what it currently still is.

Side Dishes:

  • A total of 13 conferences had at least one player drafted-ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Sky, Big Ten, Big 12, CAA, MAC, Mountain West, OVC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt. Of those, the ACC (12) and SEC (10) had easily the most picks, combining for more than one-third of the entire draft. The Pac-12 was next with seven, followed by the Big Ten with 10 and then the Big East, Big 12 and Mountain West with two each.
  • The Mountain West joined the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC as the only conferences to have multiple first round draft picks-UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn (17) to Milwaukee and Wyoming’s Larry Nance, Jr. (27) to the Lakers. Nance if the first Wyoming player to be a first round pick since Theo Ratliff in 1995.
  • For those scoring at home, that was six Kentucky players drafted last night, four in the lottery. Our favorite tweet of the night was from the terrific college hoops analyst Mark Adams:
  • Always a story on draft night is the players who weren’t selected. Among the notable college players who were not picked (in alphabetical order): Arizona forward Brandon Ashley, Kansas forward Cliff Alexander, Florida guard Michael Frazier, Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison, Texas forward Jonathan Holmes, UTEP forward Vince Hunter, North Carolina State guard Trevor Lacey, Wisconsin-Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes, Maryland guard Dez Wells, UC Santa Barbara forward Alan Williams and UNLV forward Christian Wood. Of those, all but Holmes, Sykes, Wells and Williams were underclassmen. Obviously the name-brand stunners there are Alexander and Harrison, once ultra-highly touted college recruits, but for our money the biggest disappointments are guys like Hunter and Lacey, who had a chance for spectacular conclusions to college careers.

Have a terrific Friday.

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