From heroes to zeroes?

A look at the whether the NCAA tournament really produces NBA talent

Updated: March 25, 2013, 11:59 AM ET
By Neil Paine |
JordanMalcolm Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Today's All-Tournament teams don't feature talent like the 1982 squad with Michael Jordan.

As appealing as the one-and-done craziness of the NCAA tournament is to casual observers, March Madness also represents an interesting battle among hardcore fans over the soul of basketball.

Some sticklers have long devoted themselves to the college game as a "purer" form of the sport, devoid of the supposed flash-and-dash that plagues the pros. On the other side of the aisle, though, the argument is simple: The NBA features higher-caliber basketball with better players. Case closed, right?

In many ways, it's getting harder to avoid the NBA devotees' argument. As I wrote for Basketball Prospectus a year ago, the last few decades have seen the college game become less and less relevant in terms of producing NBA stars.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.