clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

North Carolina basketball and the success of one-and-done players: Part 1

New, 39 comments

After being shunned by Kevin Knox, Tar Heel Blog takes an in-depth look at one-year players in the NCAA.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

(Note: This article/post has been updated to reflect all 2017 freshmen who entered the NBA draft. Some numbers and conclusions have been changed since the original was posted).

Okay. It’s been a few days. Fans have all had time to sit back and digest the news that Kevin Knox will be living in Lexington, Kentucky, next season. Reactions range from complete irrational hate towards a 17-year-old kid to complete apathy. For Tar Heel fans, most emotions are probably bouncing between frustration at missing out on another highly ranked recruit and a relief that Knox didn’t choose Duke.

Many had hoped that back-to-back Final Fours and Roy’s third NCAA title may have helped turn the tide. For a variety of reasons that are best discussed at a different time, UNC hasn’t quite turned that recent success into bringing in that top, "elite" talent. Not that it matters. North Carolina continues to thrive. In fact, numerous teams that don’t recruit OADs (or at a minimum, don’t chase OADs as their primary recruiting strategy) have continued to find success, especially in the post-season.

How much success? Grab a cup of coffee. We’re going down some rabbit holes as we take a look at how teams that have signed OADs have fared over the past 12 years.

This is the first in a three part series. Today I’ll present mostly data about teams who have signed one-and-done players and how some of those teams have performed through the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Later this week I’ll follow this up with a look at success rates of those teams in the Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championship games. I’ll finish the series by analyzing what the information means for basketball and for UNC.

Before we begin, let’s go over some ground rules and come to some basic understandings.

1) I have no major bias for or against recruiting methods. I want to know what works best.

2) This data includes the 2017 early entrants list. If a freshman has signed with an agent, they are now officially a "OAD".

3) If they have not signed an agent, I am making the assumption they will return to school.

4) This data begins with the 2005-2006 season, when the "One-and-Done" rule was introduced.

5) This means that I am not "forgetting" about Marvin Williams and Carmelo Anthony.

6) I use quite a few tables. I have many more that I did not show here that influenced this process. I can share those upon request.

Who is signing OADs?

It often seems schools like Kentucky and Duke dominate the OAD landscape. OADs are usually top 15 recruits, and every spring, summer, and fall media and fans fawn over the best recruiting classes. Even ardent basketball fans probably think that Kentucky and Duke are the only two schools that regularly recruit OAD talent, and have made them a focal point of their program’s recruiting strategy.

That would be a misleading thought. Since the 2005-2006 season, 121 Division-1 players have left college after only one season. It would be hard for only two or three schools to scoop up all 121. Instead, I was surprised to see that 38 different D-1 schools have signed at least one OAD. Of those 38 schools, 20 have signed multiple OADs. Sixteen schools have signed at least one OAD in multiple seasons.

Here’s the break down. This includes the school, the total number of OADs signed, and the number of seasons that a school has had an OAD on its roster:

School

Total OADs

# of seasons

School

Total

# of Seasons

Kentucky

21

8 (10-17)

Baylor

1

1

Duke

10

7 (11-12, 14-17)

California

1

1

Kansas

9

7 (10-11,'13-17)

Cincinnati

1

1

UCLA

8

6 (08-09, 13-15, 17)

Creighton

1

1

Ohio State

6

4 (07-09, 15)

Florida

1

1

Texas

6

5 (07, 10-11, 15, 17)

Gonzaga

1

1

Arizona

6

4 (08, 13-15, 17)

Illinois

1

1

Washington

5

4 (07, 12, 16, 17)

Marquette

1

1

UNLV

4

3 (13, 15-16)

Marshall

1

1

Syracuse

4

4 (08, 14-16)

Maryland

1

1

Georgia Tech

3

2 (07, 10)

Michigan State

1

1

LSU

3

3 (06, 08, 16)

Midland CC

1

1

Memphis

3

3 (06, 08-09)

Pittsburgh

1

1

Indiana

2

2 (08, 14)

Providence

1

1

N.C. State

2

2 (08, 17)

Southern Idaho

1

1

Florida State

2

2(16-17)

St. John's

1

1

Southern California

2

2 (08-09)

Tennessee

1

1

Oklahoma

2

1

Texas A&M

1

1

Kansas State

2

1

UCONN

1

1

UNC

2

2(07, 17)

Note: Southeast Missouri and Gadsden State CC each had one OAD in 2016. Those are not listed in this table.

A few things stood out. Clearly Kentucky has redefined the recruiting landscape since John Calipari arrived. In fact, they have so thoroughly dominated the recruiting scene that it is slightly perplexing that they haven’t brought home at least one more title. Former 3-star walk-ons who shoot daggers into BBN hearts must be more abundant than previously thought.

Duke and Kansas have also tried to replicate that method with extremely mixed results. That’s actually putting it mildly.

However, it’s surprising to see some of the other programs near the top of that list. Texas and Washington are largely absent when late March rolls around, yet they’ve been welcoming one-year talent for the past decade. It’s the same situation for UCLA and, to a certain extent, Arizona.

More importantly, look who is not in the top 10 of signed one-and-done recruits. Michigan State, Louisville, Florida, UCONN, Villanova, and yes, UNC. All are quite familiar with post-season success.

Is that important? Quite possibly.

What is success?

It’s important to determine what qualifies as success. Overall wins? NCAA tournament participation? Final Four appearances? National titles?

It’s fair to say that every college program wants to win championships. Mid-majors want to win conference championships and make the NCAA tournament. Many schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big-12, SEC, and Big East are satisfied with multiple NCAA appearances and the occasional deep tournament run.

A smaller select group of schools and their fans define success by their NCAA tournament accolades. These schools include Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State, UCONN, Indiana, UCLA, and a handful of other basketball blue bloods. Before this season I would have added Duke to that list, but their fan base was so ecstatic about their ACC Tournament Championship that it’s clear they have adjusted their annual expectations.

Kidding. Kidding. We’ll include them too.

For the purpose of this analysis, we’re going to focus largely on NCAA tournament success. Specifically Elite Eights, Final Fours, and Championships. Conference tournament titles and NCAA tournament appearances are always fun, but at North Carolina and other schools, getting invited to the annual March dance is expected. They are always judged on how long they dance and the manner in which they boogie on the dance floor.

Tournament Appearances

Before we dig into the most successful tournament teams, a base line is needed. You also have to make the tournament in order to have success. Those 38 D-I programs that signed the OAD talent have accounted for a total of 89 different rosters. Of those 89 different rosters, 66 have made the NCAA tournament. Good for a 75% success rate of at least being asked to basketball prom.

So, if your team has an OAD on its roster there is a high likelihood of at least getting a bid. That is usually enough to appease fans. Like when you’re in high school and you tell yourself you just need one chance to prove to that guy/gal that you can totally be their soulmate. Sometimes just a little hope and a prayer makes the whole journey worth it.

Unless you’re N.C. State. Both seasons in which they’ve had OADs, they finished with a losing record. No, that’s not important. Just funny. Really funny. Moving on.

And once they get there, how are they seeded? Favorably.

Seeds

# w/ OADs

11

3

10

6

9

4

8

5

7

1

6

5

5

2

4

8

3

5

2

9

1

18

Forty of those 66 teams have been seeded in the top four of their respective brackets. That’s not a small number. Those seeds are indicative of regular season success. Without getting bogged down in overall records, it's a fair assumption that teams with an OAD player perform well from November to early March.

Those numbers should translate to significant success throughout the tournament. Emphasis on should.

Early Round Successes

In theory, a 1-seed should at least make the Final Four, 2-seeds the Elite Eight, 3 and 4 seeds the Sweet 16. While tournaments are unpredictable, and this thought process is slightly simplistic, it works as a basic starting point. Using that as a guideline, the results aren’t so favorable.

Of the 18 top seeds, 10 of them have lost before reaching the Final Four. On the positive side, seven have made the title game. That’s an appealing return on investment if you’re ok with the above average rate of losing earlier than expected.

Of the nine teams that earned a #2 seed, only two ever reached the Elite Eight, and none made the Final Four. Five of those teams lost in the first weekend. That leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Of the five #3 seeds, one reached the Sweet 16 and one lived until the Elite Eight. Three teams fell in the first weekend.

The #4 seed actually performed the best compared to expectations. With eight total selections, four lost in the first weekend. Two more made it to the Sweet 16 and two more exceeded all expectations and made a run to the Final Four. Overall, 50% of #4 seeds with an OAD on their roster matched or exceeded expectations. That’s the best success rate of any of the top four seeds.

I have the breakdown of these tournament outcomes broken down by season and by team. I have not shown them here, but can answer questions upon request.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. However, we're closing in on 1700 words. We’ll take a short break so you can share this information with your friends, on message boards, and at the water cooler. Later this week in Part Two, we’ll dive into Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championship successes (or lack thereof).