For the second straight year, Kentucky coach John Calipari has a recruiting spiel at his disposal that no other coach can match.
He can tell prospects that his program has produced more players on opening day NBA rosters than any other school.
Rookies Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Skal Labissiere each survived final cuts on Monday, increasing the number of ex-Wildcats in the NBA to 23. Duke is second and charging hard with 20, followed by Kansas (15), North Carolina (15), UCLA (13), Arizona (12) and Syracuse (11).
While the presence of so many of college basketball’s juggernauts on that list is hardly shocking, there were some surprises from my analysis of this year’s NBA opening day rosters. Here are a few notable stats:
Colleges that produced the most NBA players on opening day rosters: Kentucky (23), Duke (20), Kansas (15), North Carolina (15), UCLA (13), Arizona (12), Syracuse (11), Florida (10), LSU (8), Michigan State (8), Texas (8), Washington (8)
Comment: The majority of these programs are the ones you’d expect to find. Each of the top eight programs have captured at least one national championship in the past quarter century. During that 25-year stretch, that group has combined for 16 titles, 27 championship game appearances and 45 Final Four bids.
Power-conference programs with no NBA players on opening day rosters: Auburn, Iowa, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oregon State, Rutgers, South Carolina, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Comment: While some of these programs are typically among the bottom feeders in their leagues, it’s a surprise to see West Virginia and Iowa here. Both have made regular NCAA tournament appearances — and even a Final Four in the Mountaineers’ case — without having much NBA-caliber talent. The ACC and Big East are the only leagues in which every school put a player on an opening day roster. The Pac-12 would have done it too had the Houston Rockets not cut Oregon State’s Gary Payton II on Monday.
Programs that have won the most without producing many NBA players: Louisville (4), Gonzaga (3), Baylor (2), Oregon (2), Oklahoma (2), Xavier (2), Butler (2), Cincinnati (2), Purdue (2), San Diego State (1), Pittsburgh (1), West Virginia (0), Iowa (0)
Comment: Louisville is included because it has produced surprisingly few NBA players given its stature in the sport. No other program that has won a championship since 2002 has fewer current NBA players, and most are well into double figures. The rest of this group are programs that have won league titles or made frequent NCAA tournament appearances without the luxury of rosters stacked with future NBA players. Nine of the programs listed have made the Elite Eight or beyond in the past decade.
Programs that have won the least despite producing many NBA players: LSU (8), Washington (8), Texas (8), UNLV (6), Georgia Tech (5)
Comment: Producing NBA prospects isn’t always a good thing for some coaches. LSU’s Johnny Jones and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar are both under fire at their respective schools for not winning enough given the talent both have had on the roster. Jones squandered Ben Simmons’ lone season in Baton Rouge, failing to make the NCAA tournament last March despite the presence of the No. 1 pick in the draft and a handful of other pro prospects. Romar took Washington to three Sweet 16s, but the Huskies have not made the NCAA tournament in five years.
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