What a Kentucky Win Would Mean for College Basketball
By Geoff Preston
If you love college basketball, you should root like hell for the University of Louisville on Saturday night.
If that doesn’t work, get in Church on Sunday and pray that either Kansas or Ohio State (yeah, that’s how serious this is) is able to beat the Cats in the Monday title game.
The college basketball you and I grew up with is on life support, with John Calipari and Anthony Davis’ unibrow in full control of the plug. A national title in Lexington would be the ultimate vindication of the Calipari model, which states that you simply sign five McDonalds All-Americans every year after the five you signed last year bolt for the NBA. Re-load, not re-built, baby. The Calipari model is one of pillaging recruits no matter how committed they say they are to other coaches. “Strong verbal” are just words to Calipari, kind of like “relationship” or “boyfriend” are just words to a drunk girl at a frat party.
The one silver lining that coach Cal’s critics have is that the system has yet to work. Some would argue this, but no one in Lexington is. Kentucky is a place where banners are raised for Final Fours and National Championships. Final fours are nice, but Tubby Smith got to one of those. What separates good from great, or even adequate to good at Kentucky is one thing: National Championships. Plural. Calipari may have saved a sinking Billy Gillepsie ship, but he has only been to Final Fours. No National title banners adorn the rafters of Rupp Arena with his name.
So the critics (like myself) holler and scream, you can’t win a national title when 90 percent of your production comes from freshmen or sophomores. No matter how good they look in the regular season, March is a month of men, legally not just figuratively. This team however, seems to be the one that will smash all pre-existing rules about March. They play together, have by far the most talent in the country and have the folks in Lexington harkening back to a simpler time of dominance. This Kentucky team is the best that John Calipari has ever had. And that is awful news.
Maybe I have an idealistic view of what I want a college basketball player to be. Maybe the image in my head of someone who is 90 percent hustle and 10 percent skill, wants to stay in college for eight years instead of four, kisses the logo at center court on his senior day, and slaps the floor on defense doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe that player has been permanently replaced with players that care more about their “brand” (like Harrison Barnes) or getting to the NBA as quickly as possible. I always thought college basketball was a separate entity that occasionally produced NBA talent, not an amateur minor league system existing for the sole purpose of keeping this talent out of the NBA for one year. Draymond Green gave me hope that maybe- just maybe- my idealistic college basketball player still has hope for a prosperous existence. Kentucky stands for everything I don’t like about college basketball.
So if you love college basketball, please join me in becoming the biggest group of Louisville Cardinals fans north of Louisville itself. We don’t just need this because Louisville seems like a fine city, we need this because college basketball is in danger. Rick Riley called them the “Kentucky Voldemorts” in his latest column on ESPN.com. Not too much more needs to be said.