One-And-Done Or Die

Dana O’Neil, who I normally enjoy only slightly more than a root canal, has written an interesting piece explaining why fans (and opposing coaches) shouldn’t bemoan Kentucky for their tremendous success with one-and-done athletes.

She explains as follows:

You can fret over the bastardization of academics or denounce the death of college ideals until you are as purple as Frank Martin during a 15-point loss.

It won’t change a thing. Until the NBA decides that, like skilled carpenters or master craftsmen, basketball players don’t necessarily need to go to college, we will live in the age of the flyby.

Seriously, Dana?

In other words, don’t blame the people who have benefited from the rule. Blame the people in charge of making the rule.

O’Neil, with open disdain, describes Calipari as the game’s “P.T. Barnum.” A comparison that makes so much sense because P.T. Barnum was a coach in competitive sports that involved teaching and improving athletes as players and people. Oh, he wasn’t? My bad.

That aside, she goes on to make a few very valid points about the state and future of college basketball:

 The history of our world, the basketball world, is being rewritten before our eyes. This isn’t 1972. Bill Walton isn’t slinging hook shots in tube socks and short shorts.

 

… I realize that conventions don’t last. The construct of the rules dictate how the game is played, and one overriding rule from 1972 still applies: He who has the best players wins.

And why does Kentucky get the best players, Ms. O’Neil?

So Mom and Dad. You want your boy to succeed in his field of choice, the field being basketball? Well, tune in on June 28 and watch. UK is to basketball as MIT is to engineering.

I think that sums it up pretty nicely. If your goal is to play and succeed in the NBA, UK is the place to be right now. Don’t kid yourself. Getting to the NBA as fast as possible is most certainly the goal for every top prospect who isn’t lucky enough to have independently wealthy parents.

Kentucky coach John Calipari recruits the best players possible year in and year out because he can and talent equals wins. Unless the NBA changes the one-and-done rule, college coaches will have to adapt or die.

You can rest assured that the NBA will not be changing the rules any time soon. NBA GMs have benefited immensely from having an extra year to watch the top prospects compete against high level competition. The one-and-done rule has produced more players like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and John Wall than it has busts like Kwami Brown and Jonathan Bender.

Coach K has recruited and coached a couple of one-and-done players, so has Roy Williams. Rick Barnes and Thad Matta try to recruit as many as possible. They’re just not as successful at it as John Calipari.

In the end, I think that’s what rubs people the wrong way. It’s not that they give a crap about integrity or development. They just hate losing.

As long as they keep clinging to an outdated approach, they better get used to it.

Expectations and the Joyless Final Four

Get those smiles out now kids. It could get bumpy from here. (AP)

The date was March 27th, 2011.

My brother and I had just finished watching our 4th seeded Kentucky Wildcats knock off the 2nd seeded North Carolina Tarheels in thrilling fashion. As the realization that our beloved Wildcats were finally going back to the Final Four after 13 long years sank in, we screamed and jumped around like tweens at a Justin Bieber concert. Victory had never tasted much sweeter.

Flash forward to all but a year later and I’m sitting alone in my garage watching Kentucky dominate an over-matched Baylor team to reach their second straight Final Four. I had been confined to my “man cave” for poor behavior, as the weight of expectations had caused my scream-reflex to have a hairier trigger than most seasons.

As the minutes slowly ticked off the clock, there was no celebration in my solitary screen-room. There was only relief. This was expected, better yet, this was required.

With a roster stacked with at least 6 NBA players, Kentucky began this season as the 2nd rated team in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Tarheels who combined similar NBA talent with “experience”. As the year progressed, we saw Heels and Orangemen fall to the wayside, and the Wildcats emerged as the “clear favorite” to win the title.

In a season that saw Kentucky beat the Tarheels, the Jayhawks, and the Cardinals OOC, they went 16-0 in the SEC. Going undefeated in a major conference hadn’t happened for anyone since the 2003. It became increasingly clear that this group was truly a notch above everyone else.

This year’s Kentucky team is such an over-whelming favorite to win it all that anything less than a shiny new National Title banner hanging in Rupp Arena will be deemed a failure. The expectations are so great, that we have writers like ESPN’s Myron Medcalf openly suggesting that it’s title or bust for the Cats.

Anything short of a national title for Kentucky will equal failure.

Let that sink in for a minute… In a sport where 68 teams are given equal opportunity to win the title, the Kentucky Wildcats are the only squad that can’t lose at any point and have their season deemed a success. It’s not just that they have the best shot to win the title. It’s that they have to win the title.

For a fanbase that’s only 3 seasons removed from the NIT, this sort of talk is sweet honey with a side of vinegar. This is what we wanted. We wanted to be on top. We wanted these expectations. In these waning hours of the greatest ball of all, though, doubt and paranoia can ruin the party.

We start projecting amazing powers on apathetic players like Perry Jones III, who probably cares as much about winning a tournament game as he does his next MWIII session on the XBox. We start imagining the taunts we will receive from opposing fanbases if we lose. “Biggest choke of all time”, they’ll say and we’ll be forced to agree with them.

So, like the hottest girl in school, there really are no excuses for this team not to be the homecoming queen. It’s all or it’s nothing. It’s the elation of a title 14 years in the making or it’s questioning the one-and-done philosophy and whether our coach is capable of winning the big one.

The Final Four isn’t enough, not this season. In short, in a year where Kentucky fans may experience their 8th National Title, there will be no joy riding along the way.

Big Blue Madness From The Nose-bleeds

I was fortunate enough to attend BBM last night and I got the crappy cell phone pics and videos to prove it.

Here’s the view coming in to Rupp.

Here’s video of Matthew Mitchell doing something. I’m not really sure…

Some of the NBA Cats stopped by.

Here are the player intros. Poor Stacey Poole… [Sorry about the quality on this one]

Best meaningless, no-defense scrimmage I’ve seen in a week.

Finally, hanging the first UK Final Four banner in 13 years.

Elitist Jerk Classics: “John Calipari Recruiting Muhammad Ali”

Editor’s Note: The following is a re-post from a while back. We’ll be posting a couple of these every weekend as a way of letting a new audience see some great posts they might have missed.

John Calipari with Muhammad Ali

In a peculiar twist, it seems that John Calipari is now recruiting Muhammad Ali as a 2009 player for the Kentucky Wildcats.

When asked why Ali and why now, Calipari responded, “If you want to be the greatest, you’ve got to recruit the greatest. Who’s greater than the Greatest of All-Time?”

“Plus, we have an open scholarship that I’d rather not use on Mark Krebs. I don’t really like white people as basketball players.”

When pressed about the obvious issues of Ali’s advanced age, Parkinson’s Syndrome and inability to dribble a basketball, Calipari retorted, “Look, I’ve been told my whole life that I couldn’t do this or that and look where I am now.”

“Did you know the New Jersey Nets fired me? Life is about Bouncing Back, afterall. If I can do it, so can The Greatest. Have you read my book yet?”

Calipari continued, “Muhammad will be a great fit for the dribble-drive motion offense. In fact, there’s not a single player on the planet that can’t thrive in this system. By the way, will you be pasting my Twitter URL in this story? They love me on Twitter.”

When asked for his thoughts on Kentucky and whether or not they were the current leader for his services, Mr. Ali mumbled, “Who is this white man touching me? Did I just buy a car?”

Providing insight into (perhaps) the real motivation in this situation, Calipari whispered, “Off the record… I saw him wearing that red shirt, so I figured he was a Louisville lean. I can’t let Rick Pitino sign a native Kentuckian. These people will burn me at the stake.”

As I turned to walk away, Calipari stopped me, “Hey, be sure you post a link so they can buy my DVD’s too.”

Luke Warm Linkage

The world’s most trusted shark jumping expert has yet to weigh in.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass…

It's going to be a dramatic off-season in Lexington.

…The Kentucky basketball roster is shrinking by the second.

As many expected, Daniel Orton has declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, so he would have the option to return to UK should he not like what he hears. Talk to his father, though, and you’d be hard pressed to imagine Daniel being a Wildcat next Fall.

Larry Vaught of the Advocate Messenger interviewed Larry Orton, who had this to say:

“Daniel is going into the draft,”  his father, Larry Orton, said Wednesday.  ”He’s going into training. He’s going to drop his classes just in case he needs to come back (to UK), but the plan is for him to be in the draft.”

Someone should tell Larry that dropping courses this late in the semester is called “dropping out”. He continued:

“He has a lot of stuff people have not seen. If he had played more, he would have made DeMarcus look bad. I am not saying that because he is my son. It s just that I know what he can do. He’s very smart and very skilled.”

I’m pretty sure that Shaq wouldn’t make DeMarcus Cousins look bad, Larry. Put down the crack pipe.

To recap, not only is Daniel Orton leaving UK after averaging a staggering 3.4 points per game, but he’s also going to drop out of school and move to California to train for the draft. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Patrick Patterson can finish out their semesters, but Daniel is apparently too busy for that. Hello, scholarship reductions.

But wait… There’s more…

Kentucky Sports Radio is reporting that Darnell Dodson will also be entering the draft. Here’s what they had to say:

The second tidbit told to me was that Darnell Dodson would not be on the team next season. I looked into this for some time and cant get total confirmation, but all signs seemed to point to this being accurate. Then tonight, DraftExpress.com said that Demarcus Cousins told people in Columbus that Dodson was going to the NBA as well and that only four returning players would be on the UK roster.

It’s just laughable at this point. Between graduation and the draft, UK will likely lose Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe, Orton, Dodson, Stevenson, Krebs, and Harris. That’s nine players from a 13 player roster. That leaves Josh Harrelson, Darius Miller, John Hood and DeAndre Liggins as the only returning scholarship players with Stacey Poole and Enes Kanter as incoming freshmen.

Obviously, it’s not all gloom and doom for UK fans, as the Cats will likely sign as many as six more players. These signings should include #1 overall recruit Brandon Knight, as well as some combination of high school stars C.J. Leslie, Terrance Jones, Terrance Ross, Doron Lamb, Luke Cothron and Josh Selby. Based on Calipari’s track record, you’d have to think he signs at least 3 from that group.

Even in a best case scenario, though, the Cats will be looking at another year of a group of very talented but very young players holding the key to their season. This much turnover every year is not going to be sustainable moving forward.

Regardless, it’s going to be a Soap Opera Spring in Big Blue country.

Hoops for Haiti

Love him or hate him, we should all be John Calipari fans for today. The Kentucky coach has organized a telethon to raise money for relief in Haiti, following the devastating earthquake there earlier in the week.

The telethon will run from 12pm until 1:30 pm EST and will be broadcast locally on WKYT in Lexington. It will also be available world wide at coachcal.com and ukathletics.com.

In addition to traditional donations, there will also be meet and greet packages auctioned off featuring dinner with the UK Coach and his family, a meal cooked by Ashley Judd’s personal chef, and tickets to local camps and activities.

Current and former UK players will man the phones and appearances are expected from Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim, Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo, Texas Coach Rick Barnes and Gonzaga Coach Mark Few.

Coach Cal, in conjunction with several local business owners, plans to match donations dollar for dollar.

If you haven’t given to the relief efforts yet, then this might be the venue for you. Who knows… You might even get to discuss elbow drop techniques with DeMarcus Cousins.

College Basketball Preview, Volume 4: Pat Forde

You should see how long it takes me to get this look.

You should see how long it takes me to get this look.

After months of anticipation, speculation and vacations (of all types), the College Basketball season finally kicked off Monday night with a handful of warm up games that included the debut of Roy Williams’ revamped Tar Heels against Isiah Thomas’ FIU Panthers. Having gotten but a sniff of the appetizers, I feel like it’s time to go ahead and dive into what you should expect from the main course this season. Here’s the early-season edition of The Minutes, forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball.

Bluegrass Coach Swap

Let’s start off in Lexington, Kentucky, where change has been the name of the game this off-season for the Wildcats. Gone is (1)Billy Gillispie, who was indignantly dumped by the Big Blue faithful after only two seasons at the helm, and in comes (2)John Calipari, fresh off his second vacated final four appearance in as many trips.

With him, Calipari has brought in the highest pai… I mean… highest ranked freshmen class in the nation. Included in this heralded group of newcomers, is all-everything floor general (3)John Wall. Wall has been compared to everyone from Derrick Rose to Jesus Christ by those in Lexington over the summer. To say that expectations are high for the projected #1 over-all pick in the 2010 NBA draft would be a gross under-statement. It will be interesting to see how the unproven and slightly effeminate Wall matches up against the more experienced and better looking (4)Edgar Sosa when the Cats host the Cards in Rupp Arena on January 2nd.

Sharp Dressed Man

Did you know I helped write this? Oh yeah...

Did you know I helped write this? Oh yeah...

Speaking of experience and good looks, it’s been a rough off-season for (5)University of Louisville head coach (6)Rick Pitino. Not only did the top Card have to deal with the hassle of bumping up security around his house to account for John Calipari’s move to the state, but the Hall of Fame coach was also the victim of a pathetic extortion attempt by some random blond charlatan. Although it was obvious to everyone with eyes that this woman was insane, “the media” and “the police” still felt justified in ruining Pitino’s summer with a useless investigation into her allegations of rape and forced abortion. How anyone could suspect a man with such gentle, soft hands of committing such lurid acts is beyond me.

Despite the fact that (7)Ted Kennedy’s death and (8)9/11 have been forever marred by scandal, Coach Pitino has soldiered on like great men do and the Cardinals have to be one of the favorites this year in the Big East. Pitino was able to add a star studded class of his own to an already stacked roster and the Cards look hungrier than ever. Look for newcomers (9)Richie Phares and (10)Mike Marra to make a big impact this season for Louisville. Continue reading