Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Path to the Draft: Biggest underachievers
By Jason King
In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.
The only thing more frustrating than losing in the NCAA tournament is losing in the NCAA tournament when you have a ton of talent.
Or worse what if you don't even get there?
No team is immune to an upset. Even the best programs have inexcusable slip-ups from time to time. There are legitimate reasons for concern, however, when it begins to happen consistently.
Here are eight schools who have made underachieving a trend in March despite touting rosters stocked with NBA-caliber talent.
Alabama: Football might be the most-popular sport in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but Alabama has a history of producing some of basketball’s best pros. Latrell Sprewell, Antonio McDyess, Robert Horry, Mo Williams, Gerald Wallace, Alonzo Gee you’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty impressive list. Unfortunately, it never led to much for the Crimson Tide, which owns just one SEC regular-season championship (2002) in the past 26 seasons. Even worse is that Alabama has advanced beyond the Sweet 16 just once in school history. That occurred in 2004, and Bama has made just three NCAA tournament appearances since. Perhaps things will change this season, as Anthony Grant welcomes back a top 25-caliber squad.
Georgetown: Yes, the Hoyas are just months removed from winning a Big East title. And it was only six seasons ago that John Thompson III’s squad advanced to the 2007 Final Four. Still, this list is based largely on postseason accomplishments, and no one can argue that, overall, Georgetown has been a disappointment in March. That aforementioned Final Four berth was the Hoyas’ first since 1985 -- and they haven’t advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second weekend since. Even worse is that their past five tournament losses are to Davidson, Ohio, VCU, NC State and Florida Gulf Coast (as a No. 2 seed). That’s an ugly mark on a program that boasts recent alumni such as Greg Monroe, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Otto Porter.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets’ loss to Connecticut in the 2004 NCAA title game marked the only time in 17 seasons that they’ve advanced beyond the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. To be fair, Georgia Tech has been hit hard by the one-and-done era, with players such as Stephon Marbury, Chris Bosh, Thaddeus Young and Derrick Favors spending only one season in school before turning pro. But there have also been enough quality players who stuck around longer to make this level of inconsistency avoidable (Jarrett Jack and Iman Shumpert come to mind). Former coach Paul Hewitt did a good job of luring talent to Atlanta yet always seemed to be fighting an uphill battle.
New Mexico: The Lobos might not be known for churning out NBA players in the same fashion as Georgetown, Texas or any of the other schools on this list -- although they’ve certainly had a handful of good ones including Danny Granger, Kenny Thomas and Luc Longley. Still, for a program that owns four of the past five MWC titles as well as a WAC championship in 1994, you’d figure the Lobos would’ve made at least one NCAA tournament run in their 11 appearances since 1989, but they haven’t. Instead, New Mexico has lost in the first or second round in each of those seasons. One of the most gut-wrenching defeats occurred just months ago, when Steve Alford’s No. 3-seeded Lobos fell to 14-seed Harvard. Not once in school history have the Lobos advanced to the Sweet 16.
Texas: It might seem unfair to include the Longhorns on this list. Texas, after all, made 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances under Rick Barnes before being left out of the field this spring. That’s an amazing feat. Still, considering the talent that has flocked to Austin in recent years, simply earning a berth to the Big Dance isn’t enough. Since losing to Syracuse in the 2003 Final Four, Barnes’ squad has been bounced during the opening weekend six times in 10 seasons, with three of the setbacks coming in the opening round. The most-disappointing defeat occurred in 2007, when the Kevin Durant-led Longhorns were upended by USC 87-68 in the second round. More should be expected from a program that had 10 players (Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, P.J. Tucker, Daniel Gibson, Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton and Royal Ivey) on NBA rosters this season.
USC: It seems almost unfathomable that a school located in such fertile recruiting territory could boast just two second-weekend NCAA tournament appearances since 1961. But that’s the case with USC, whose only claim to fame is a Sweet 16 berth in 2007 and an Elite Eight cameo in 2001. It’s not as if the Trojans haven’t had talent. O.J. Mayo, Taj Gibson, Nick Young, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic are all holding their own in the NBA. It would’ve been interesting to see if Tim Floyd could’ve taken USC to new heights, but an off-court scandal forced Floyd to resign in the summer of 2009, setting back the Trojans’ program just as it appeared primed to take off. Perhaps new coach Andy Enfield can get things going in Los Angeles.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have been one of the dregs of the ACC the past few seasons, but it wasn’t long ago that Wake Forest had the talent to contend for an NCAA title. The 2008-09 squad featuring Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson and Ishmael Smith soared to the top of the Associated Press rankings after opening the season with 16 straight wins, but it floundered down the stretch and lost to Cleveland State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The postseason failure was nothing new for Wake Forest, which has advanced to the Sweet 16 just once in the past 17 seasons. That’s pretty disappointing for a program with an alumni base that includes Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, Josh Howard and Darius Songalia.
Washington: Lorenzo Romar has done a solid job since taking over the Huskies program in 2002. Washington has won two Pac-12 titles and finished second three times. Still, fans want results in the postseason, and Romar can’t get over that “Sweet 16 hump.” The Huskies have never advanced past that stage of the NCAA tournament -- not just under Romar, but in school history. Heck, the past two seasons, Washington didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. That’s a shame for a program that’s produced six first-round draft picks (Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten) since 2005 -- not to mention second-rounders Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas. The talent at Washington has simply been too good to not make at least one or two significant runs.