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What March Madness would look like if every NBA player stayed all 4 years

Welcome to an alternate universe of college basketball featuring Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons and Jahlil Okafor.

Georgia v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

College is typically the fastest years of your life. This is particularly the case for the basketball mega-prospects who are talented enough to leave school early for the NBA.

Perhaps that’s why the collective reaction to this Karl-Anthony Towns tweet was shock, awe and a little bit of horror.

Yes, Karl-Antony Towns and Devin Booker could still be playing basketball for free at Kentucky. Instead they are extremely rich and very good NBA players. Both are barely old enough to get into a bar.

It got us thinking: what would college hoops look like if everyone stayed four years?

An important note

We are not considering the number of available scholarships here. We are also not considering that perhaps Mohamed Bamba wouldn’t have picked Texas if he had Jarrett Allen and Myles Turner already entrenched in the front court.

This is just for fun. Stop being so anti-fun.

The Final Four teams


PG Tyus Jones, senior

SG Brandon Ingram, junior

SF Jayson Tatum, sophomore

PF Marvin Bagley, freshman

C Jahlil Okafor, senior

Bench: F Justise Winslow (senior), SG Luke Kennard (junior), G Grayson Allen (senior), C/PF Wendell CarterJr. (freshman), G Frank Jackson (sophomore)

Please consider that Duke won the 2015 national championship with four freshman scoring 60 of their 68 points in the title game. Now consider that they’re all seniors and two of those players are coming off the bench. Holy moly, is this group stacked.

Duke starts four top-five draft picks (we’re comfortable penciling Bagley in there for now) in addition to one of the best college point guards of the decade in Jones. Duke brings three lottery picks off the bench in Winslow, Kennard and Carter Jr. Duke reduces Grayson Allen to a microwave scorer off the bench.

I view this team as the Death Star of the exercise: absurdly talented with one possible fatal flaw. That would be front court defense, where Okafor and Bagley are likely to get roasted even by amateur players. That said, this team’s offense would be so amazing that it probably wouldn’t matter.


G Tyler Ulis, senior

G De’Aaron Fox, sophomore

G Devin Booker, senior

PF Trey Lyles, senior

C Karl-Anthony Towns, senior

Bench: G Malik Monk (sophomore), G Jamal Murray (junior), C/PF Bam Adebayo (sophomore), F Kevin Knox (freshman), C Skal Labissiere (junior), PG Isaiah Briscoe (junior)

Bring back the platoon system because this Kentucky team is stacked. Towns would unequivocally be the best player in college basketball -- and this time he wouldn’t have to split minutes with Dakari Johnson (seriously: Towns was seventh on UK in minutes per game as a freshman). Devin Booker would finally get the spotlight role he always deserved. Ulis and Fox would be an incredible backcourt, with Malik Monk providing shooting off the bench.

Only Duke could match Kentucky’s combination of size, shooting, athleticism and depth. We need this make believe championship game to happen right now.


PG DeVonte Graham, senior

SG Josh Jackson, sophomore

SF Kelly Oubre, senior

PF Cliff Alexander, senior

C Cheick Diallo, junior

Bench: SF Svi Mykhailiuk, C Udoka Azubuike, SG Lagerald Vick, G Malik Newman

The Jayhawks wouldn’t have the lottery pick star power of Duke or Kentucky, but this team is quietly loaded. It’s easy to forget that Alexander and Diallo would have been monster college players if ever given an opportunity, especially as upperclassmen. Oubre has turned into a damn good role player in his third season with the Wizards, while Josh Jackson is starting to come into his own in Phoenix.

We hear Bill Self is looking into ways to get Perry Ellis an 11th year of eligibility.


G Allonzo Trier, junior

G Rawle Alkins, sophomore

G Stanley Johnson, senior

F Lauri Markkanen, sophomore

C Deandre Ayton, freshman

Bench: G Kobi Simmons (sophomore), PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright (senior), Dusan Ristic (center), Brandon Randolph (freshman)

Dear lord, that front court. Chicago Bulls fans will not stop dreaming about turning it into a reality come June.

This Arizona team would have five guys on the floor who could give you buckets. There is no true point guard, which would be an issue. But even if each starter took turns playing iso ball, Arizona would still be so talented that it wouldn’t really matter.

Who else would be really good?


PG Lonzo Ball, sophomore

SG Aaron Holiday, sophomore

F Jonah Bolden, senior

PF TJ Leaf, sophomore

C Kevon Looney, senior

Bench: C Thomas Welsh (senior), C/PF Ike Anigbogu (sophomore), PG Jaylen Hands (freshman), SG Kris Wilkes (freshman)

Get off those Lonzo jokes while you still can because he’s quietly been one of the best rookies in the NBA after a slow start. Ball might like more shooting around him, but the front court speed here would give UCLA a killer transition attack. Don’t discount Bolden, a Sixers-draftee currently putting up big numbers in Europe, or Looney, who would be a fantastic rim runner as a senior.

North Carolina

PG Joel Berry, senior

SG Theo Pinson, senior

SF Justin Jackson, senior

PF Luke Maye, junior / Cameron Johnson, junior

C Tony Bradley, sophomore

This is essentially the same team Carolina won the title with last year, only this time a first-round pick in Tony Bradley gets a starter’s role and Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson give UNC more shooting and spacing in the front court.


PG Nigel Williams-Goss, senior

G Josh Perkins, junior

G Zach Norvell Jr., sophomore

PF Domantas Sabonis, senior

C Zach Collins, sophomore

The Sabonis-Collins front court would be so deadly. Also don’t forget that Nigel Williams-Goss was one of the best players in the country last season and had another year of eligibility left.

Who are the sleepers?


  • Mo Bamba at center, Jarrett Allen at power forward, Myles Turner at small forward. It’s beautiful. Do they have guards? Who cares. Just let the three five-star 7-footers pass the ball to one another all game long like bullies on a playground playing keepaway.

Florida State

  • There’s real NBA talent here with 6’11 forward Jonathan Isaac (sophomore), would-be junior guard Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon on the other wing. The Seminoles also have solid depth this year, so the likes of Phil Cofer, C.J. Walker, Terance Mann, ect. would be able to fill out a quality lineup around them.

Ohio State

  • This would essentially be Ohio State’s current team + D’Angelo Russell. Hey, that’d be pretty good! The Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten this season and are a projected No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Russell was ridiculously awesome as a college freshman, and would likely torch the entire country as a senior.


  • Purdue + Caleb Swanigan!


  • Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon as juniors, Chris McCullough as a senior, they’d still have Tyus Battle ..... not bad.


  • Dejounte Murray is real good for the Spurs. Marquese Chriss was a top-10 draft pick by the Suns with game-changing athleticism in the front court. Both would be juniors, joined by sophomore guard and former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, plus a supporting cast that enters the Pac-12 tournament as a bubble team. Fultz thought he was going to play with Murray and Chriss when he originally committed, so it would be nice to see what could have done with a real team around him. You know, if he remembers how to shoot like he did in college again.


  • Rashad Vaughn would be a senior and one of the best two guards in America. Stephen Zimmerman as a junior center would be very, very good. Pat McCaw is a vital player for the Warriors, so he’d probably be OK back at the college level, too.


Who wins?

I’m picking Kentucky over Duke in this fictional universe national title game. Sorry.