By Rob Lep
As I sit in the press box at Madison Square Garden for the 2019 Big East Championship Game, I can’t help but think: Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are the good guys. They are everything that is right about college basketball.
I don’t have to introduce to you the concept of one-and-done - superstar college basketball players renting a spot on a college campus for six months before bouncing for the NBA the first chance they get.
I’ll never blame Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum or Kyrie Irving. Everyone deserves to eat. Especially with talent like that.
In any other walk of life, the American Dream applies. You should be paid for your skills and services. The market will dictate exactly what. Sorry superstar college basketball players, you’re the exception. The NCAA has deemed you ineligible. But they are happy to cash the check for you.
If you don’t have enough money in your pocket to go out to eat or fill up your gas tank because it’s against NCAA violations to make money on your own likeness, I can’t tell you to pass up on millions of dollars between salary, endorsements, etc.
It’s a broken system. College basketball as a whole suffers as a result.
I look around at Sean Miller and Arizona, Rick Pitino and Louisville and Will Wade and LSU to name a few. I get it: we live in a society where winning is everything.
The ends justify the means. Win at all costs. Who cares about respect or common decency?
“We want to hang a Final Four banner. If we don’t win, how will we convince kids to come to our university?”
I don’t know, maybe this thing called education. How silly of me! So naiive.
Then there’s Jay Wright and Villanova. They’ve won two of the last three National Championships. Three straight Big East titles and four of the last five.
No this isn’t Syracuse, Louisville and Georgetown Big East basketball but it sure is fun to watch.
Jay Wright has compiled a roster of three and four year players. No one and dones, this year led by redshirt seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth.
In recent years, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart also come to mind. Guys who stayed four years. Worked their butt off. Absolutely nothing was given to them. Like any D-I athlete, they had their ups and downs.
But at the end, they held up the trophy as champions. Like their one-and-done counterparts, they were also drafted to the NBA. There's no one path to anything.
We get very excited about one-and-done players. I get it. Zion Williamson is just different. There’s nothing like him in NBA history. Like ever.
But I’ve had a theory not just about sports but life in general: experience is important.
Doctors, Lawyers, Surgeons, the list goes on. Would you want a surgeon with 30 years experience or the newbie out of medical school performing your open heart surgery? Take your chances. I’m rolling with experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Zion Hype Train as much as anyone. I’m a Knicks fan. And I’m praying the ping pong balls fall the right way come May.
But I can also take a step back and appreciate what Villanova has done, arguably the best program in college basketball. They were the best team in the country last year. They’ve dominated the Big East too.
Do I expect them to win it all again? No. This is different team than last year. We’ve seen their growing pains. But when I look around the country at what teams are willing to do to win, it doesn’t make me proud to be a fan of college basketball.
Villanova is different. Grind your butt off, teamwork, and dedication to win. I can rally behind that. Get excited about it. Be proud.
Take your coat off. Stay a while. Get comfortable here. And build something great. Bravo to Villanova, your 2019 Big East Champions.