by Micah Hart
Here’s a popular conversation around this time of year:
Sports Fan A: Oh man, imagine how good School A would be if Player X had just stayed one more year. They might have won the NCAA Tournament!
Sports Fan B: Tell me about it. And look how good School B could have been this year. Player Y and Player Z would both be seniors!
Nowadays, Chris Webber would never have called his infamous timeout in the NCAA title game because he’d almost certainly have left after his freshman year — as would have Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard. Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon — all of whom were first-round picks in 1991 — returned to UNLV after winning the 1990 national championship. The only guys who have done that recently were Florida’s ’04s of Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Taurean Green — and even then, everyone knew they were the exception.
While we’ll never know if Syracuse could have repeated as national champs in 2004 had Carmelo Anthony stayed, or what kind of ridiculous stats Kevin Durant might have put up had he stayed four years at Texas, we do know they became stars in the NBA.
Which leads us to a new series we will be running on All Ball over the course of the next few weeks:
Bragging Rights: The Ultimate Battle for School Pride
The premise is simple:
We want to know which school has the best NBA players. Over the next few weeks, we will pit every school with at least five players currently on active NBA rosters against each other in a hypothetical, March Madness-style, single-elimination bracket.
We’ve seeded the teams (see below), and we’ll roll out a few games each week. You vote for the winners.
We’ll start this afternoon with Stanford vs. LSU.
Why spend your time wondering how good your favorite college team could have been when your favorite players are still in action today? Once a Dukie, always a Dukie, right?
The ground rules:
- Schools with at least five players currently on NBA rosters are eligible. If your alma mater doesn’t have enough to put a full team on the floor, better hope its recruiting gets better.
- For our purposes, imagine these games are being played today. We’re not interested in how good these players were as collegians, or at their peak in the NBA, but how they’re doing RIGHT NOW. Vince Carter may have been Second Team All-NBA in 2001, but that has no bearing on how he’ll fare this March, in Bragging Rights.
- As long as it’s not a season-ending injury, you’re eligible. For this exercise, we’ll assume normal health for all players who have played the bulk of this season but who may be sidelined now. However, any players with season-long injuries (like Greg Oden) are out.
- Each school gets one team. Some schools — like UCLA, which has a league-leading 14 players in the NBA — may have enough players to field two teams. Some schools have only five alums in the NBA. To even the playing field, each team will play only its best five players.
- Positions don’t matter. For each school’s starting lineup, we selected the five best NBA players currently playing. Think of the Bragging Rights games like the world’s greatest pickup games: the best five on each side play, regardless of position.
Nineteen universities have five or more players in the NBA. We’ve seeded them in four regions. There are three play-in games between the No. 4 and 5 seeds (Memphis-Marquette, LSU-Stanford and Washington-Ohio State).
Winners will be determined by your votes, so if you want to support your school, spread the word to your fellow fans.
Here are the teams and their seedings:
|East Region||South Region||West Region||Midwest Region|
|1. Wake Forest
||1. Duke||1. Texas||1. UConn|
|2. North Carolina||2. Florida||2. UCLA||2. Arizona|
|3. Syracuse||3. Georgia Tech||3. Kansas||3. Kentucky|
|4. Memphis||4. LSU||4. Washington||4. USC|
|5. Marquette||5. Stanford||5. Ohio State|
Who will win? Hang out with us through the rest of March Madness to find out.