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Kentucky crushed NCAA field, but is it one of the greatest?

Apr 3, 2012, 4:18 AM EDT

spt-120402-MKGpost AP

NEW ORLEANS – One shot.


That’s what Anthony Davis shot from the floor as Kentucky knocked off Kansas 67-59 in Monday night’s national title game. Mind you, that’s the National Player of the Year shooting 1-for-10. That the Wildcats were able to win this game in fairly dominating fashion — they were up by as much as 18 in the first half and 16 in the second half and never let the Jayhawks get closer than five down the stretch — without getting any offensive production from their best player should give you a sense of just how good this Kentucky team is.

Davis doesn’t need to score. His value to Kentucky goes well beyond his offensive production and his freakish ability to dunk anything within five feet of the rim. He earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award despite being his team’s fifth-leading scorer because he finished with 16 boards, six blocks, five assists and three steals in the final.

“It’s not hard to take a backseat, especially with playing with a great group of guys,” Davis said. “All these guys could play. I knew I was struggling. So I told to them, I’m going to defend and rebound, you all make all the points.”

And they did. Doron Lamb finished with 22 points. Marquis Teague had 14 points and three assists. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist chipped in with 11 and six boards. Terrence Jones had nine. All four of those guys will be drafted, and it could be as soon as this year. Darius Miller will get drafted as well. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist may end up going first and second.

Do the math, and Kentucky has six NBA Draft picks on their roster, and there is a real possibility that all six end up going in the first round of this year’s draft.

Kentucky set the record this season for number of wins in a season with 38, which lends credence to the argument that this group had one of the greatest single seasons of all-time.

But is this one of the greatest teams of all-time?

Frankly, it’s not a comparison that can be made. The reason that this championship is such a big deal is that it is not only the first time that Calipari has won, but it proves that it is possible to win a title by embracing the one-and-done freshmen.

But they are still freshmen. And regardless of how talented the freshmen are, they are not going to be able to matchup with some of the best players in the history of the sport when those players are upperclassmen.

Think about it: what would senior year Patrick Ewing do to freshman year Anthony Davis? What would Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon do to Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? What would the ’96 Kentucky team do to this team? I’m not even convinced that they would beat the 2005 or 2009 North Carolina teams. I think that the 2004 UConn team and the 1999 Duke teams would handle them as well.

Ten years down the road, we’ll probably look back on this team and wonder at the collection of talent that Calipari put together. Davis has a chance to be a once-in-a-decade talent. Kidd-Gilchrist has a chance to be an all-star caliber player. Jones too. But they are all young, no where near the player they will eventually become.

Back in 2010, Kentucky sent five players to the first round of the NBA Draft and Calipari said on live TV that it was the greatest day in the history of Kentucky basketball. His point was that those five first round draft picks would create a flood of talented freshmen entering the program. It would put them in a situation where they will always have the talent on the roster to compete for the national title. He believed then that it would lead to a dynasty, so to speak, where the Wildcats would field a different team each and every season that spends the year in the top ten and makes a run in the NCAA tournament.

With that would come their share of national titles, but he would be competing for those national titles with a freshmen-laden team year in and year out. In other words, Calipari is never going to field a team in Rupp Arena that will be legitimately considered among the best ever.

As long as he is hanging banners, that won’t matter.

  1. florida727 - Apr 3, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    Not that long ago a team of younger players all got together and decided they could put off the riches of pro careers and try and do something unique… win back-to-back titles. Florida. Joakim Noah, Cory Brewer, Al Hortford.

    Today’s players are wired differently. They all want the cash grab, and you can’t blame them, really. If I had a chance to secure my financial future for generations to come, I’d do it too. Most would. Calipari is right. As much criticism as he gets for the “one and done” thing, all he’s doing is following the rules, the rules that the NCAA and/or NBA have put out there. Until the rules are changed, this is the culture that’ll be promoted.

    How good is Kentucky? Hard, if not impossible, to compare eras. Of all the teams that Rob mentions above, he left off the last UNDEFEATED team in NCAA play… Indiana under Bob Knight. Kentucky showed (twice, in fact) that they could be beaten. Took a “perfect storm” to do it, but it WAS done. It’s always easy to crown the most recent memory as being the “best ever”. It rarely is. What it is, is the most recent, that’s all. Kentucky’s good, great even. Best EVER? Nah.

  2. 1historian - Apr 3, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    This is a good piece but he should have pointed out that Kansas had seniors aplenty and experience aplenty on their roster and they made a serious run at Kentucky in the 2nd half and Kentucky was a bit shaken but they did come back and win the game – No matter HOW hard they tried Kansas could not get any closer than 5 points.
    The same is true of Louisville – a much more experienced team and they would not give up but Kentucky still beat THEM too.

  3. tominma - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    For the question: HELL NO THEY ARENT!!

    for asking the question: what a STOOOOOOPID question !!!

    • florida727 - Apr 3, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      “what a STOOOOOOPID question !!!”

      Something tells me you do have the experience to know.

  4. ice90 - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    The quality of college basketball is WAY down with all the players leaving early to go pro. This UK team may not be in the Top 25 of “best teams”. That’s really not a knock on them, it’s just that the overall talent level of college teams is down with the “one and done” players on the top teams.

    Seriously, in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, do you think a Lehigh could beat Duke? Of course not. It’s not because the Lehigh’s and Norfolk’s are so much better than before, it’s because the Duke’s and Missouri’s aren’t as loaded as they used to be.

  5. bobbski - Apr 3, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    The question is a joke, right?

  6. atwatercrushesokoye - Apr 3, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    This Kentucky team isn’t as good or as deep as the 09 Carolina team, or the Florida team that won back to backs so if you’re not even the best of the last 10 years how can you be on of the all-time great teams?

    • mommatocharlie - Apr 3, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      or the KU 2008 team

  7. mommatocharlie - Apr 3, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    nope, nope, nope. Kentucky was just on their game last night. Unfortunately, Kansas was not. To echo the cry of Cubs fans, Wait till next year!

  8. bbil2012 - Apr 3, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    All season writers have been saying this is a relatively down year for mens college hoops.
    So how can this team be considered as oe of the best ever in the history of mens college hoops?
    For example.You mention the 1999 Duke team could beat them.
    They didn’t win the championship that year!Must have been tougher that year.

  9. thelonestarstats - Apr 6, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Here’s a post that shows a historical perspective on Kentucky’s season (chart).

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