Has there ever been a No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick whose college team had a losing record in his final season?
Anything can happen on draft night (June 22), but Washington combo guard Markelle Fultz has been viewed as the consensus top prospect for much of the scouting process, despite leading the Huskies to a 9–22 record in his lone season in Seattle — UW’s fewest wins since 1994-95. Fultz would become the first No. 1 overall pick coming off a losing season since LaRue Martin led the Loyola (Ill.) Ramblers to an 8–14 mark before becoming the top pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1972.
In fact, since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only two collegiate No. 1 picks failed to lead their teams to the Big Dance, Pacific’s Michael Olowokandi (Clippers, 1998) and LSU’s Ben Simmons (76ers, 2016). In contrast, 10 of 27 top picks from the Field-of-64 (and Field-of-68) era led their teams to the NCAA title game at some point during their collegiate career.
Of the five non-college players selected No. 1 during that time, only Georgia high schooler Kwame Brown (Wizards, 2001) failed to win a championship in his respective league the season before being drafted. Historically, the No. 1 overall pick has a winning, if not championship, track record before arriving on the NBA scene. Fultz is a definite statistical outlier.