Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
In 2016-17, Bill Self Says Freshmen Will be Critical in National Championship Race
ROSELLE, N.J. — Kansas coach Bill Self says the loaded batch of incoming college freshmen — which includes new Jayhawk Josh Jackson — will play a critical role in determining the NCAA championship in 2016-17.
That would be quite a departure from this past season when there wasn’t a single one-and-done player in the Final Four, where national champion Villanova as well as North Carolina, Oklahoma and Syracuse were all led by upperclassmen.
“I like what Denzel [Valentine] said [in accepting the AP Player of the Year Award at the Final Four], it’s not a competition between seniors and freshman,” Self told SNY.tv exclusively on Friday at the NJ Coaches’ Clinic at Roselle Catholic High School. “It’s not a competition. Everything’s cyclical and guys develop at different speeds and rates but I do think that it was great for the college game to have so many veterans have an impact on their college programs [this past year].
“I hope that continues but I still believe the teams that have a chance to win a national championship are going to be led in large part by young kids. But the foundation will be their veterans.”
As we reported, 11 of the 21 players invited to Friday’s Jordan Brand Classic will be freshmen suiting up for Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State. (It would be 12 if if Jackson had accepted an invite to the game.)
Duke was installed by Bovada as a 9/2 favorite to win the 2017 NCAA championship, followed by Kentucky at 6/1, Villanova at 8/1 and Kansas and Louisville at 10/1. Michigan State and North Carolina are at 12/1.
Kentucky has the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the nation, followed by Duke and Michigan State. Scout.com now has Kansas at No. 7 with the addition of Jackson.
“I think it is cyclical,” Self said. “I think this past year was a pretty good year. I don’t think it was great. I think there were a lot of high-end freshmen out there, but next year based based on the reports that I’ve seen and what I’ve actually seen personally you have some real potential difference-makers that will definitely bring a lot of attention to the one-and-done in the college game this year.
“Where this year you had Ben [Simmons] and Brandon Ingram, other than that I don’t know if there’s anybody else that really brought the national scope attention to it.”
The three top projected picks in 2017 according to DraftExpress.com are all incoming college freshmen — Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles and Kansas’ Jackson.
“The best players don’t always make the best teams but they give you the best chance to have the best teams,” Self said.
“This was a year and the reality of it was the veterans were probably better than the young kids this year. It’s not going to be that way every year. It’ll go back and forth.”
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.