We could argue all day if the NBA truly needed an age requirement.
But, one thing is certain from this point of view: it will be good for college basketball.
As part of the NBA's new six-year collective bargaining agreement, players must be 19 before they enter the league, beginning in 2006-07.
To be specific, American players must be one year removed from high school before they enter the NBA. Even if they are held back at some point and are 19 when they graduate high school, they must wait a full year.
For international players, they have to turn 19 by the end of the calendar year in which they become draft eligible. So, if there is a foreign player that turns 19 on December 31, 2006, he will be eligible for the '06 draft.
OK, those are the new guidelines. But how will they affect the college game?
Well, there are many out there that believe the one-and-done, "hired gun," player will not be good for the game. But I do not follow that logic. What is wrong with a star player spending a year in college? Syracuse fans had no problem with Carmelo Anthony doing it. Ohio State fans would have loved to see LeBron James in the scarlet and gray, even for just one season.
And even the best – once they taste the college experience – they want to stay there. Even Anthony considered coming back to Syracuse for his sophomore season, despite winning the national championship and being assured of becoming a lottery pick. He liked college that much. Yes, he eventually decided to go pro (and was the No. 3 pick of the 2003 draft) but it wasn't an easy decision for him as he fought back tears at his press conference.
Was he crying because he couldn't decide between buying a Hummer or Range Rover with his new riches? No, he simply liked college basketball that much.
Maybe the same will happen to Greg Oden – the star 7-foot center from Indianapolis that is strongly considering Ohio State. Everyone assumes he will go to college for just one season. But what if he gets there and loves it? What if he spends two years there? Or, (gasp) stays all four years and get his degree? What would the naysayers chirp about then?
Right now, they say it's a mockery of the college educational system to accept a student that will only be at the school for a year before turning pro. But what if there was a gifted mathematician? One of the best young minds in the country. What would be wrong with a situation where that student goes to college for one year, studies his skill, then accepts high-paying job the following year? Did he need to stay in school the next three years to get the career he wanted? No. Neither should this "new breed" of athletes that the NCAA will see over the next few years.
Even if it was just a year, what if Kevin Garnett had gone to school for one year? Or Kobe Bryant? Or Tracy McGrady? Or Jermaine O'Neal? The NCAA Tournament – already one of the best events in sports – would have been even better.
And the 19-year-old age requirement will also be good for the NBA itself. Right now, the league does well in ticket sales and merchandise. But television ratings are another matter. The problem? Most casual basketball fans don't know the players. If a kid goes directly from high school, to the NBA, college basketball fans don't know anything about him.
Take Ohio State fans for example. You might follow Milwaukee Bucks games, or at least read their box scores, because former OSU star Michael Redd is on the team (well, at least he is for now – Redd is a free agent this offseason).
If Oden comes to OSU – even if he stays for just one season – many of you will follow his NBA career. You think some Syracuse fans suddenly became Denver Nuggets fans because of Anthony? You betcha.
So, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. But the new age requirement looks like a win-win for both college and pro basketball.
Yes, it's a little hard to justify on the heels of LeBron making the direct jump and dominating the league, but from a selfish perspective, I like the new rule.
BUCKEYES NEED A BIG MAN?
Sticking with basketball for a moment… with only 10 scholarship players on the 2005-06 roster, it's a bit surprising OSU did not sign a big man this offseason. Our basketball recruiting reporter Kyle Lamb tells me there simply were not many (if any) good post players to choose from.
But I'm not talking about a big-time player. Not talking about a big scorer. Just someone that can come off the bench, give Terence Dials a rest, grab some boards and play tough defense. A Shun Jenkins-type.
The 2005-06 Buckeyes will likely be an NCAA Tournament team. I actually think they will be a top 20 team. But, clearly, the one weak area on the team is post play. You have Dials… and that's pretty much it. Matt Sylvester is skinny for a small forward, let alone a power forward. Ivan Harris plays like a two-guard. Matt Terwillger was not good enough to beat out Matt Marinchick last season as Dials's backup. Incoming freshman Brayden Bell is another player that is reportedly more of a shooter than banger.
Hey, I understand that there wasn't many to pick from. But why not go out and get the most physical JUCO player out there – even if his offensive skills are limited – so Dials will have a viable backup? Last year, when Dials went out of the game, it was nearly automatic that the opposing big man would score right away. Also, it was a given that OSU would get killed on the boards with Dials out of the game.
Next season, expectations will be high. But the Bucks might be one player away from really being a good team. One big man away.
I understand banking scholarships for the future, but there's also something to be said for seizing the moment. Come March, the Buckeyes might be hoping they had another big man for their postseason run.
If you watch enough sports, a few things will get on your nerves. Here is a look at a few of my pet peeves:
* The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: When I first heard about this over the winter, I thought it was a joke. I'm still waiting for the punchline. Of course, Angels fans shouldn't feel bad. I was just informed that there will be an NFL franchise called, "The Boston Patriots of Foxboro." No, not really.
Detroit Pistons public address announcer "Mason": Someone needs a muzzle for this guy. His DEEE-TROIT BAAA-SKET-BALL shriek sounds like first graders at recess. I'm just waiting for the, "Na-na-na-na-na-na."
"Men's" hairstyles: I can't tell if some of these players are guys, or gals. Danny Fortson and the pigtails? Are you serious? Victor Martinez? Is that a perm? Carmelo Anthony? I didn't know you had a twin sister. Sorry to single those gals, er, guys out. There are plenty more.
What happened to a nice fade? Even the cornrows don't bother me. But pigtails? Come on.
Saying the Yankees are "slumping." As soon as the Yanks lose three or four games in a row, everyone wants to know what is wrong. Are they falling apart? Is Steinbrenner going to trade Jeter to a Japanese team? Will he throw Torre and Cashman into the Hudson River?
Tell you what, check back around October, and the Yankees will be in the playoffs. Not a Yankee fan here (Reds, unfortunately), but it happens every year. They go through their slumps – baseball fans and writers forget it's a 162-game season – and everyone wants to know how long until the Yanks replace the Devil Rays in the cellar. Not going to happen. The Yankees will be in the playoffs, and Eric Milton's ERA will hover around 7.00. Those things are certain this season.
MLB official scorers: I have seen Little League moms that are stricter when it comes to scoring. A second baseman will flat boot a ball hit right at him, but if it's hit hard enough, there is a chance it will go down as a hit. Or if an outfielder drops a fly ball. Well, he had to run all of 10 feet to get there, must be a double. Let's start scoring games like these guys are MAJOR LEAGUE players.
End of rant.
So, how will Maurice Clarett do as a rookie with the Denver Broncos? Well, the general consensus is that he won't do well, but those are probably some of the same people that guessed Clarett would go undrafted.
Here's the thing: the guy can play football. Maybe Broncos starter Tatum Bell will be the man, but maybe not. He was a very good college back at Oklahoma State. But he wasn't any better than Clarett.
I think they will split carries for much of the year. Bell will be the starter, but he won't be the "bell cow" that many are hoping. Clarett will steal carries from him and I think Clarett will have a decent rookie season.
Couldn't ask for a better situation than Denver. They might be a little dirty with the below the belt blocks (see Williams, Tony), but their offensive line is known for opening holes.
ND IN THE BIG TEN?
So, why hasn't Notre Dame joined the Big Ten? Well, because they're smart.
For starters, they saw what happened to Penn State. The Nittany Lions have gone from one of the nation's elite programs, to a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team.
Also, Notre Dame is not going to give up its exclusive television deal, as long as NBC is dumb enough to give it to them. Why not play Air Force, win on a last second field goal and make millions of dollars? That beats losing to Purdue, and not getting as much money for your trouble.
Many figure that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten at some point. Maybe it will take 20 years, but they think it will happen. I do not share in that viewpoint.
SUTTON SILENCES CRITICS
Former Akron Hoban tailback Tyrell Sutton put a big stamp on his Mr. Football award by rushing for 203 yards and three touchdowns in the North-South Classic last Saturday.
Up until then, many wondered if Sutton was "big" enough. He rushed for 3,241 yards as a senior (9 yards per carry) against good competition. He also set Ohio's career rushing mark with 9,447 yards. But at 5-9, 185. There were always questions about his size and durability.
Dropping his stock even more, Sutton was not offered a scholarship by Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, or Notre Dame. So, he was effectively written off as the next Ryan Brewer or Jeff Backes (both diminutive former Mr. Football winners, who could not win a starting tailback job in college).
Sutton signed with Northwestern – the school that had been with him the longest. Other schools stepped up late in his senior season with offers, but none of the aforementioned "powers" of the Midwest showed much interest.
Don't be surprised to see Sutton turn into a complete star with the Wildcats. He runs much bigger than his size and does not shy away from contact. Plus, his biggest strongpoint is his balance. He can get bounced around and stay on his feet. He also runs with excellent quickness and vision.
Ohio State fans should just be thankful he landed at Northwestern, and not Wisconsin, Iowa, or another perennial conference contender.
O-LINE 10 DEEP
Since Jim Tressel and Jim Bollman took over the offense at Ohio State in 2001, there hasn't been much depth on the offensive line.
Bollman has said he wanted to get to the point where he could use a rotation of 10 players. That seemed unrealistic a few years ago, but that time has arrived.
This year, the Buckeyes should be able to go at least 10 deep, maybe more. And we're not just talking about warm bodies. Ten or more linemen that can actually play.
To open the season, the starters will likely be: LT/LG Steve Rehring, LG/LT Rob Sims, C Nick Mangold, RG T.J. Downing and RT Kirk Barton.
Top backups will include: G/C Doug Datish, T Alex Boone, C Jim Cordle, G Andree Tyree, G Ben Person, G Kyle Mitchum, T Jon Skinner, C Steve Winner, and G John Conroy (and possibly Tim Schafer, who is still listed as an OT on the roster, but could move to defense). That's 14 players, 15 including Schafer, and all of them can play. Winner and Conroy are walk-ons that could be awarded scholarships this fall, and could follow in the footsteps of Mike Stafford and Mike Kne.
Overall, this should be one of the Big Ten's best offensive lines and the unit should be able to stay fresh. Mangold and Sims won't rotate out of the games very much, but everyone else will be shuttled in and out. Something Bollman has always wanted to do, but couldn't until now.
As for the defensive line, it is one of the few areas of the team that fans seems concerned about.
But the Buckeyes have the potential to have a high-quality D-line this year.
Junior defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock has developed into one of the best interior players in the conference. He has a great blend of power and quickness and always plays hard. He could potentially take that next step this year and become an All-American.
Senior Marcus Green will likely be the other starting tackle and he continued to improve last season. Green won't be a star, but he will be more than competent.
The weakness of the defensive line is pass rushing. If a defensive end steps up this season and proves to be a reliable pass rusher, the sky is the limit for the D-line.
The starters at DE will likely be senior Mike Kudla and junior Jay Richardson. Kudla is strong and fast, but has not shown the ability to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. Maybe he breaks out with a huge senior campaign.
Richardson has all the talent you could hope for, but doesn't always play hard, and he would be the first to tell you that. If he can get his motor revved up all the time, he could collect more than his share of sacks this year.
And like always, there is decent depth on the defensive front.
Junior David Patterson can play tackle and end. He was impressive as a true freshman, but reported out of shape last season and never really got on track. He is a talented player and his versatility will lead to a lot of playing time.
Junior Joel Penton is another veteran player that can play both tackle and end (most likely tackle).
Two young defensive ends that the staff is excited about are sophomore Vernon Gholston and redshirt freshman Alex Barrow. And there is a very good chance that true freshmen Lawrence Wilson (DE) and Doug Worthington (DE/DT) could see the field. Wilson looked especially good at last week's North-South game.
Sophomore tackle Sian Cotton is another player to keep an eye on. He brings a lot of talent to the table, but has fallen in and out of favor with the staff somewhat. He could be a very important component off the bench.
Redshirt freshman Nader Abdallah is another player that could provide depth at tackle. If nothing else, he comes equipped with two excellent nicknames from his high school days: Darth Nader, and the Terminader.
Sophomore tackle Brandon Maupin is still listed on the roster, but there have been rumblings that he will not return.
Overall, most are expecting the defensive line to be the weak link of the defense. That might very well be true, considering all the talent at linebacker and defensive back. But there is no reason the D-line won't be among the Big Ten's best this season. No, it won't be up to par with the outstanding lines of 2002-03, but it will more than hold its own. The defensive line struggled for much of last season, but really came of age in the final two games.