From college to the pros
March Madness takes over the basketball fandom towards the end of every collegiate season, as a host of talented squads compete in a thrilling knockout tournament for the title of national champions. This is often our first introduction to future NBA stars, as they display their skills on the big stage. Some schools boast an impressive track record in producing future pros year after year as they mold their recruits through a particular brand of basketball, for instance with Arizona and their reputation as ‘Point Guard U’ or the feathery outside touch of the Indiana Hoosiers.
UCLA: As the original dynasty of the collegiate ranks, the Bruins took home 10 national titles in 12 years during the illustrious career of John Wooden, led by versatile and physically-imposing big men such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Since those early days, UCLA has been making a comeback with a more up-tempo style of play, initiated by Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Kevin Love and Arron Afflalo and continued by Lonzo Ball, Aaron Holiday and TJ Leaf. In this era of fast-paced basketball, they are hoping that this formula will solidify their position as the most successful collegiate program, after enduring a 20-year title drought.
Kentucky: In a similar vein, the Kentucky Wildcats are striving to make a comeback, after their early reign as the original blue bloods of the sport. The old-time basketball royalty ruled the collegiate realm even before UCLA, with its earliest titles coming in the 1940s, and are currently second on the leaderboards with eight national championships. The charismatic John Calipari has succeeded in making Kentucky the choice destination for top recruits, assembling a roster overflowing with athletic talent each season. As a result, the Wildcats have sent more players to the NBA in recent years than any other team, including number one draft picks in Anthony Davis, John Wall and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Kansas: The Kansas Jayhawks belong among the elites of the game, having been set up and coached by none other than Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Although Dr Naismith was not a big proponent of coaching, preferring to let his players dictate the play, his successors have built a winning tradition on a high-low motion offense and the dominance of players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning and Joel Embiid. In recent years however, they have embraced a fast pace of play filled with pick-and-rolls and outside shooting in adapting to the popular ‘small ball’ offenses of today.