Michigan's Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner talk to the media on Friday about the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio. Robin Buckson
San Antonio — What should happen with the one-and-done rule in college basketball?
It’s been a recurring question that has popped up throughout the week at news conferences leading up to tonight’s Final Four matchups at the Alamodome.
On Friday, it was Michigan coach John Beilein’s turn to give his thoughts on how he handles early departures — which he has dealt with six times since 2013.
While Beilein is known more for his ability to develop talent than land one-and-dones, he said he doesn’t shun them away during the recruiting process.
“I don’t think we’re trying to drive anybody away,” Beilein said. “And we’re not saying we don’t want you. We’re saying, ‘If you really want us, here’s who we are.’ We’re student-athletes, we want you to — particularly in our place, I would never turn down a kid that’s a projected one-and-done if he understands that it’s Michigan and he should unpack his bag for four years.
“But after one year if he’s got great options, we’ll drive him to the airport. That’s the mentality I think we need to have right now. So, we’re not — nobody’s driving anybody away. We’ve just got to make sure that guys are playing college basketball for the right reasons. It’s a destination. It’s an experience in your life you’ll never have again. And if you’re fortunate enough to have opportunities early in that career to go pro, like we have, I think every coach endorses that.”
Of the four teams in the Final Four — Michigan, Loyola-Chicago, Villanova and Kansas — none have a one-and-one product as its top player.
Michigan’s leading scorers are junior center Moritz Wagner and redshirt sophomore Charles Matthews, while Loyola is led by redshirt junior Clayton Custer and senior Donte Ingram, Villanova is led by junior Jalen Brunson and redshirt junior Mikal Bridges, and Kansas is led by seniors Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
According to Beilein, it’s no surprise that most teams driven by one-and-dones don’t make it to the Final Four because they lack the type of experience needed in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think there’s a process of going through the season that you have to experience one, two, three times before you can really have this type of success under this pressure in March,” Beilein said. “I think that comes down to it a lot of times.
“At the same time, it is difficult to win. I remember when Carmelo Anthony did it with Syracuse, and Duke did it a few years ago with some young kids.
“There may have been some other times where freshmen have dominated in the NCAA Tournament. It’s very few that’s really been able to happen.”
To pay or not to pay
Another topic that resurfaced on Friday was the ongoing debate whether college athletes should be compensated. During a breakout interview session, fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson said it’s a question he’s avoided answering his whole career because he’s “highly opinionated” on the matter.
“I think there’s certainly some contradictions in college sports and I think that anybody that fails to acknowledge those is either just turning their cheek to it or stubborn quite honestly,” Robinson said.
“Our society is established on capitalism and I think the one place where capitalism doesn’t quite exist is in college sports.
“I think that would be the one contradiction that is glaring to me, but I’m not going to be the one to get a sound bite or say something overly controversial – at this point at least.”
Earlier in the day, Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson also was asked for his stance during a news conference and he said it’s more important to him that student-athletes become athletically, academically and socially accomplished.
“I think the rules that are set forth by the NCAA today are obsolete,” Robertson said. “I think they’ve got to go back and look see what’s going on in the world, how socially we’ve changed as a people and whatnot. Some young people come to school to learn different things.”
Livers in the middle
For a brief period in the second half against Florida State last week, Michigan went to a small lineup and played 6-foot-7 freshman forward Isaiah Livers at the five when Wagner found himself in foul trouble.
It’s something that could happen again against Loyola, who starts four guards and will play stretches with five guards on the floor when freshman center Cameron Krutwig is on the bench.
“We did this if Moe or Jon (Teske) or Austin (Davis) got into foul trouble,” Livers said. “They told me early at the beginning of the year if our three bigs are in foul trouble or if someone gets hurt, you’re going to be our third five because I have guarded the five before.
“We can definitely do it.”
Michigan vs. Loyola-Chicago
Tip-off: 6:09 p.m. Saturday, Alamodome, San Antonio
TV/radio: TBS/WWJ 950
Records: No. 3 seed Michigan 32-7; No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago 32-5
Up next: Winner advances to Monday’s national championship game against Villanova-Kansas winner.