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Another side effect of one-and-done

The one-and-done rule is not popular.

Let's lay out some pros and cons. Pro: Really talented players now kind of have to play a year of college basketball, which is, for fans' own selfish reasons, totally awesome. Cons? Pretty much everything else. The rule makes a mockery of the NCAA's focus on academics. It creates mercenaries out of young, developing talents. It encourages NCAA violations; if you're leaving in eight months, why wouldn't you take that plasma TV in your dorm room? (Cough, O.J. Mayo, cough.) Coaches have to recruit the players who, all told, probably don't want to be in college in the first place. And so on.

At this point, most of these are well-known and well-debated. But one side effect of the rule that hasn't been discussed at length (relatively speaking, anyway), is what the one-and-done does to college basketball in general. That effect? Instability.

In the midst of a Pac-10 round-up Wednesday, SI writer Ann Killion made just this point:

Turnover has been the Achilles' heel of the Pac-10. It's not like the old days at Stanford, when Montgomery could take a look at his roster and recruit accordingly, filling in behind the starters for both need and depth, and safely predicting how long each player would stay.

Cycles are shortened to a year-by-year basis. The Pac-10 sent a record-tying six teams to the NCAA tournament in 2009, an accomplishment that once would have likely led to a good cycle of recruiting and a period of success. Instead, the depth vanished. In back-to-back seasons, the conference sent 17 players to the NBA as early entries (and had 13 players -- more than any other conference -- taken in the first round of those drafts).

This applies to the Pac-10, of course, but it rings true for every major college hoops conference across the country. Big-time programs have to recruit uber-talented prospects to keep up with their competitors. Those players are more likely to leave after one or two years than your average college basketball recruit. Each season, schools see more and more of these players off to the draft, which in turn creates a greater need to recruit more talent. It is, as a famous Austin Powers character would say, a vicious cycle. (Austin Powers reference in 2010? Bet you didn't see that one coming.)

The end effect of all this is that programs can rise and fall like the tide. One year might bring a wave of talent and an NCAA tournament berth and a glowing chunk of the national spotlight. A month later, it's all gone, and that program is forced to build from scratch all over again. Coaches, programs and conferences wax and wane with greater speed than ever before.

You could argue that this is a good thing. It unseats the old powers. It creates parity. You could also argue that it's bad for the sport. College hoops fans are already overwhelmed with information; it's really, really hard to follow 65 teams, let alone 346. It's even more difficult when so many of the best players, and oftentimes the best teams, are unrecognizable from the year before. College hoops fans don't just have to know who did well last season. They have to know who recruited well, too.

On the list of one-and-done negatives, it doesn't exactly rank with "forcing NBA-ready players to delay a year before they can start making money for themselves, instead compelling them to make millions for the NCAA instead, because sorry, them's the rules." But it is a big, systematic side effect, and there's no question it's changed college hoops. Whether that change is for the better is entirely up for debate.