Progress of Alex Poythress is Key to Kentucky’s Success

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 23rd, 2013

Kentucky’s freshmen receive all the accolades. Kentucky was declared the number one team in the land by the coaches. NBA scouts may think James Young is the best player on Kentucky’s roster. Julius Randle may be the only bona fide NBA prospect and the best player in the SEC. The other freshmen, including the Harrison twins (Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison) and Dakari Johnson, may snatch up the other college basketball headlines. Yep, John Calipari’s latest freshman class is talented and deserves the publicity, but Kentucky needs to look to its not-so-distant past in order to mimic the program’s success with one-and-dones. When Kentucky achieved tremendous results (think Kansas, not Robert Morris), it wasn’t relying solely on first-year players.

For the Cats to return to glory, they will need contributions from more than just their freshmen. (AP Photo)

For the Cats to return to glory, they will need contributions from more than just their freshmen. (AP)

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a 6’9″ 18-year old freshman stepped into Rupp Arena and poured in 25 points in his first game in a Kentucky jersey. While Lexington certainly seems like a distant supernova in the basketball world, this moment in time wasn’t really all that long ago. It just seems like it was after a dismal 2012-13 season that resulted in a trip to the NIT. The freshman was Terrence Jones and the season was 2010-11. Jones went on to have a stellar first year in blue, dropping 29 points just two games later against Oklahoma, scoring 27 on Notre Dame, and in his second SEC game he put in 35, the most points ever scored by a freshman in Kentucky’s storied history. Jones was somewhat inconsistent that season, because after all he was a freshman; but the very next season, he was a key leader and “veteran” sophomore on a national championship team starting three freshmen. Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 8th, 2012

  1. The opening game in last year’s season between Michigan State and North Carolina took place on the deck of an aircraft carrier, an unprecedented location for a college basketball game in the history of the sport. Back by popular demand and the opportunities it provides to our military personnel, many more college basketball games (and practices) are taking place at military bases or other aircraft carriers across the world this year. On Friday, Florida will become the first SEC school to take place in one of these military-themed games against Georgetown on the deck of the USS Bataan in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville. When asked about the specifics, coach Billy Donovan stated that the outdoor temperature, unusual sight lines, and unique atmosphere of the game will not affect the Gators’ game plan at all. The temperatures will be a bit cooler in this year’s game, hopefully avoiding a condensation problem similar to what arose during the game action in San Diego last year.
  2. So what happened Tuesday night at Ole Miss? In non-basketball related news, Twitter conversations in Oxford regarding the presidential election results triggered university police to convene at the student union on campus to disperse an angry group of protesting students, some of whom were shouting racially-charged epithets according to a statement from the school. The result? Two arrests for disorderly conduct, one for public intoxication, and another for failure to comply with police orders were handed out. The university issued a statement stating the campus was ‘a normal day’ on Wednesday and all campus related events will go on as planned. Let’s hope so — Mississippi doesn’t have a history of racial enlightenment to fall back on here.
  3. Can Tennessee make it nine straight wins versus UNC-Asheville next week in Puerto Rico? The Volunteers have history on their side, but the Bulldogs want to schedule a home-and-home series with the Vols and hopefully end the streak that way. Separated by only 117 miles across the Smoky Mountains, both Tennessee and UNC-Asheville ironically will travel 1550 miles to Puerto Rico for their latest game in the series. UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach is hopeful that a new arena on his side of the divide could trigger a local rivalry with the Vols, but there were no comments from Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on the subject. Also, Volunteers freshman Derek Reese began basketball activities again on Tuesday after tearing his right labrum over the summer. Reese participated in layup drills using only his left hand.
  4. Mark your calendars appropriately: ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan has compiled a list of the must-see non-conference games before New Year’s Day. Which SEC schools frequent the list? Kentucky and Florida, of course. Kentucky and Florida have four games each on the list, followed by Missouri with two games and Arkansas with one. The only two games that are not on campus locations include Missouri’s games in the difficult Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament and Florida’s match-up with Georgetown on the USS Bataan, off the coast of Jacksonville. These games will not only make for great viewing but also good early tests for all clubs before conference play.
  5. What makes Kentucky coach John Calipari so successful? He has proven that he can corral the egos of mega-talented freshmen and mold them into a national championship squad using a style of play that best fits that specific team’s needs. In the 2010-11 season, Calipari used the reliable shooting of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb to push his team to a surprise Final Four run. The previous team was centered around the play-making of John Wall and the size of DeMarcus Cousins. But how do these recruits end up at Kentucky and why does the Big Blue Nation adore their coach so much? Jason King of ESPN.com dubs the Calipari persona almost ‘gospel-like,’ breaking down Calipari’s unbelievable ways of operating a blue-blooded powerhouse, including recruiting, his relationships with hip-hop moguls such as Jay-Z and Drake, and his uncanny ability to make time (when he has none) to raise a million dollars via a telethon for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
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Morning Five: Draft Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 28th, 2012

  1. For those of you just getting back from your annual vacation in Bora Bora, tonight is the 2012 version of the NBA Draft, also known as the reason that every single NCAA Division I men’s basketball player gets up and brushes his teeth in the morning. Alright, we’re guilty of hyperbole here. Every single high-major NCAA Division I men’s basketball player. Only 60 names will be called by David Stern and Adam Silver at the dais tonight, but the dream of each player to hear his name uttered and placed on the big board still motivates. When John Calipari infamously said at the 2010 draft that it was the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball, he knew that he had already set the wheels in motion from a recruiting standpoint to win a national title (remember that Anthony Davis, the cornerstone of last year’s championship team, verbaled to UK a mere seven weeks after that night). Oh, and he’s still doing it, for the record. It might be the NBA’s night, but it has a substantial impact on the college game in numerous ways. To that end, here are the latest and greatest Mock Drafts from around the web: DraftExpress, NBADraft.net, CNNSI (Sam Amick), ESPN (Chad Ford), CBSSports.com (Jeff Goodman and Matt Moore).
  2. As many as nine one-and-dones could be chosen in tonight’s draft, no doubt setting off another cacophonous round of complaints about how the NBA is ruining the college game. We’re certainly not indifferent to the one-and-done issue, as we’ve written about it many times before, but until the NBA finally realizes that pushing the league minimum to the age of 20 is in its own long-term best interests, nothing is bound to change. ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf takes a detailed look at how we got here — from the Korleone Youngs and Taj McDavids of the preps-to-pro days on through the present and future, which at least one prominent coach figures could get considerably more muddled by 2016 as the NCAA implements its progressively tougher entrance requirements. Check out part one and part two of the piece before you watch the latest crop of one-and-doners including Anthony Davis, Quincy Miller, Tony Wroten, and the others walk the stage tonight.
  3. Recognizing that there’s probably a lot more of these stories than are ever publicized, we still appreciate it when we read one. Kentucky forward Terrence Jones isn’t even a draftee yet but he’s already giving back to his fans and the community that supported him for two years in Lexington. A UK fan named William Bolden who met Jones while playing pickup basketball near the student dorms was in dire need of some dental work, so Jones paid out of pocket for the repairs. And when we say dental work, we’re talking about 12 cavities filled, two teeth pulled, and three new front teeth — a rather significant expense. Players are often (and rightfully in many cases) ripped apart for blowing through their newfound riches when they go pro, but we’re glad to hear at least one story involving a player not even 21 years old yet doing something positive for someone not as fortunate as him.
  4. To that end, there are always a number of stories on draft day about players who persevered through life’s crappy hands to get to that exalted point in their lives. In this year’s draft, though, nobody has had to deal with as much personal adversity as Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, which is one reason so many people in this business have rooted so hard for his success. If you don’t know the details, the LA Times revisits the tragic 25-day stretch in Robinson’s sophomore year when he lost his grandparents and his mother, leaving his 9-year old sister, Jayla, frightened and for all intents completely alone back in DC, some 1,100 miles away. Robinson’s driving force in life is to take care of that little girl, and you can count us among the many who will feel a real happiness when he becomes an instant millionaire tonight.
  5. The stars of tonight are today’s high school unknowns (at least to most of us). CBSSports.com’s Jeff Borzello looks to the future and rank-orders the top 14 players in the next three years of high school basketball (2013-15) as of right now. We really don’t know enough about any of these players to make any intelligent observations, but it’s certainly interesting that the player whom Sports Illustrated just put on its cover as the best prep player since LeBron James — Jabari Parker — is #2 on this list. Borzello has 2014′s Andrew Wiggins, a small forward and native Canadian who plays at Huntington (WV) Prep, as his top overall player in high school as of right now. See how it works? The biggest and best thing ever… until the next biggest and best thing ever… followed by the next biggest and best thing ever…
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Can All Six Expected Kentucky Draftees Find NBA Success? History Shows It’s Unlikely…

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

At this Thursday’s NBA Draft, expect to hear six former Kentucky players’ names called. But what are the chances that all six end up having strong pro careers? Four of the UK players are locks to go in the first round while two others are fringe picks, so there are high expectations for this group of newcomers. Has any past college team ever produced four or even five solid pros in the same draft? It turns out that 12 different college teams have seen at least four of their players get selected in a draft since 1989, when the draft shrunk from seven rounds to two. Unfortunately, none of these teams produced more than three successful pros, though the most recent examples include small sample sizes and show some promise. The bottom line is that history is working against the six former Wildcats, and it would be unprecedented for even five of them to pan out. Kentucky basketball has had a way of setting records recently, though, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if most or all of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller eventually become strong NBA players.

Can at least five Kentucky players from the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft end up having strong careers? (AP Photo)

Since the draft shrunk to only two rounds back in 1989, no college team has ever had six players drafted in the same year. It goes to show just how talented the 2011-12 Wildcats were, starting at the top with the expected #1 pick Anthony Davis.  The 2006 Connecticut, 2007 Florida, 2008 Kansas, and 2010 Kentucky teams are the only others to produce as many as five NBA draft picks, so the trend has been pointing toward this day.

Today we’ll break down the teams that have come closest to producing four quality pros, including the most recent teams which still have a chance to do so. In order to qualify as a successful pro, our criteria requires players to have enjoyed extended, productive NBA careers. Career scoring averages of around 10 points per game is a general floor. Statistics don’t always tell the tale, so minutes played and games started are also considered to generally mean that a player was useful to his team. A one-stop statistic is Win Shares, which calculates the value a player adds over accumulated time and can be easily accessed through Basketball Reference’s database. Players who aren’t ranked in the top 20 Win Shares of their draft class generally don’t qualify as contributors. We’ll note if exceptions apply for certain players.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Terrence Jones

Posted by EJacoby on June 23rd, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Terrence Jones

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’9.5” / 250 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward / Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Terrence Jones is really strong for such a versatile forward (AP Photo/M. Chastain)

Overview: Terrence Jones entered the 2010-11 season as one of Kentucky’s top two recruits, expected to become a potential one-and-done candidate with elite physical tools and versatile scoring prowess. But Jones decided to stick around for year two after a strong freshman season and was included on the 2011-12 Preseason All-American list, expected to be the leader of UK’s super crop of new rookies. While he was no doubt a key part of the Wildcats’ National Championship team, he regressed some as a player from his first to second year and fell off somewhat while his freshmen (Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist) and senior (Miller) teammates thrived more as team leaders. Jones averaged the fifth-most minutes on the team and saw his scoring and rebounding numbers dip from 15.7 PPG and 8.8 RPG to 12.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG, respectively. The loaded roster explains some of that regression, but Jones also displayed occasional poor body language with an inability to assert himself and fit in with the other stars during some games. He shot 85 fewer free throws as a sophomore and was at times an afterthought in the offense. But in other contests, he proved what a versatile beast that he can be, dominating the paint on both ends with his big, strong frame and extending out to hit some threes to keep defenses honest. He became a scouting report sleeper, not displaying any one skill that teams must account for but possessing the ability to do many things on the floor. His terrific defensive contributions are also notable, racking up nice steal and block numbers with an ability to guard several positions. Jones is strong and versatile but needs proper motivation to produce at a high level.

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SEC Weekly Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on June 15th, 2012

  1. On Thursday, multiple outlets reported that ACC All-Freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith would leave Virginia Tech for Florida. Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and 7 rebounds for the Hokie, but left after Seth Greenberg was fired. Finney-Smith will be eligible to play for the Gators beginning in 2013-14.
  2. As Missouri winds down its countdown to joining the SEC, a story broke this week surrounding Levi Coolley’s involvement with the team. Coolley “who had previously flown on the team plane and received complimentary tickets from players was arrested by the FBI at the Tigers’ hotel in Omaha, Neb.” as the Tigers were about the Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament. Following the arrest, Missouri launched an internal investigation and “found Coolley had no improper influence on players and did not give players gifts in exchange for the complimentary tickets.”
  3. Former Kentucky star Terrence Jones passed on turning pro a season ago citing a desire to win a national title. However, in a Monday story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Wildcats coach John Calipari  said Jones “had a second motive: to refine both his game and attitude, improving his NBA draft position in the process.” Based on how Jones capped his sophomore season, he looks to have to secured his spot in the lottery, possibly as high as seventh.
  4. As more non-conference games get finalized, Tennessee and Xavier announced the start of a home-and-home  series that will begin in Knoxville in December. For the Musketeers, this game represents their second against an SEC foe this upcoming season. They will face Vanderbilt in a return contest following last year’s overtime contest played in Nashville.
  5. With the NBA Draft less than two weeks away, there exists the real possibility that the SEC could have players selected 1-2-3 with Anthony Davis as the presumed top pick followed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal going to Charlotte and Washington in some order. No league has even boasted the top two picks since 1999 when Elton Brand (Duke) and Steve Francis (Maryland) out of the ACC topped the draft. The ACC was also the last league to have the top three picks of any one draft. In 1986, Brad Daugherty (UNC) went No. 1 to Cleveland; Boston selected Maryland’s Len Bias followed by NC State’s Chris Washburn going to Golden State.
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Morning Five: 04.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2012

  1. The news of the day on Monday was without question the surprising firing of Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg. Our ACC Microsite covered the news yesterday, ultimately coming down on the side of this being a very dangerous move for the Hokie program, and we can’t say that we disagree. If this move were made a month ago, Virginia Tech may have been in a stronger position to make a run at a John Groce, Frank Martin, Trent Johnson, or even (gulp) Larry Brown. By pulling the trigger on Greenberg now, Athletic Director Jim Weaver has put himself in a position where a home run hire is just short of impossible — the objective now must be to not completely soil the bed with the next choice. Dana O’Neil writes that Weaver’s resolve broke when yet another Greenberg assistant, James Johnson, became the sixth to leave the staff in the last four years.
  2. One of the top unsigned players remaining in the Class of 2012, Tony Parker, a 6’9″ forward from Lithonia, Georgia, announced that he will join UCLA’s star-studded class in Westwood next season. Parker joins top five prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson along with top 75 player Jordan Adams to form the nucleus of a group that will ultimately decide head coach Ben Howland’s fate as a Bruin. Recall that it was Howland’s top-rated Class of 2008 — full of transfers, headaches, and bad decision theater — that laid the groundwork for the disappointing string of seasons from 2009-12 after a run of three straight Final Four appearances. With a massive front line returning along with transfer Larry Drew and this incoming crew of elite prospects, expectations will be sky high in the a renovated Pauley Pavilion next season.
  3. Remember when Kentucky’s Terrence Jones went wide receiver on a long pass against Louisville in the Final Four, resulting in his plowing through a tiny Cardinal cheerleader in the end zone? After the UK victory, Jones went on record saying that he would find the girl later and bring her some flowers to apologize for the mishap. Showing his gentlemanly side, Jones on Monday kept to his word in bringing a bouquet of flowers to the young miss, Jerica Logue, and you can see their immediate interaction in this photograph taken by WHAS-11′s Maggie Ruper. We’ve noted this sort of strange bedfellows thing before on this site, but Kentucky and Louisville fans are sure making it hard to buy their bitterest rivalry meme when we keep seeing examples of class, mutual respect and decorum from both sides.
  4. It’s not every day you’ll read a college basketball column referencing the Stephen Sondheim Theater in New York City in addition to student-athletes and the 1-and-done rule, but Mike DeCourcy shows his range by doing just that in this piece examining NCAA president Mark Emmert‘s lack of clarity on the issue. Of course, we’ve grown long in the tooth arguing that Emmert and others who think eliminating 1-and-done is better for college basketball in the long run simply don’t see the big picture. It’s a bit disconcerting that, as DeCourcy points out, Emmert’s message has proven not only incapable of staying on point — what does he really believe? — but the hype and hysteria surrounding what amounts to a small handful of players leaving after one year each season shows that facts aren’t all that important to those decrying the rule. Everybody knows that 1-and-done is not an ideal situation for anyone involved — the players, coaches, programs, and the NBA — but if it’s the necessary rest stop on the way to a two-year rule that will satisfy both Emmert and the NBA Player’s Association (who is currently holding up the deal), we’ll take it.
  5. To close things out today, we’re a little less than a week from the official NBA Draft early entry deadline (April 29), so we won’t know the final list until then, but that didn’t stop Dick Vitale from dropping his latest Top 40 for the 2012-13 season. RTC will release its post-deadline Top 25 next Monday, but it says here that Louisville, Kentucky and NC State are overrated, while Michigan, Baylor and UCLA are underrated.
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Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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Morning Five: Tax Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 17th, 2012

  1. Three sophomores from the Big Ten announced that they were moving on from their current locations. The big move is comes from Ann Arbor where Evan Smotrycz announced that he was transferring from Michigan to Maryland. During his sophomore season, Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game including making 43.5% of his three-pointers. Having a big man who can grab a few rebounds and step out to hit outside shots should be a big addition for Mark Turgeon’s squad that lacked size last season. The other moves should have a much smaller impact as Ohio State announced that two sophomore would be transferring: J.D. Weatherspoon and Jordan Sibert. Weatherspoon only averaged 3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game while Siebert averaged 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last year so their numbers should not be missed too much. No information has been released about where either player is planning on going so where they will end up is anyone’s guess.
  2. Even with those transfers the Big Ten got a little tougher next season as Trevor Mbakwe was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will be returning to Minnesota. Mbakwe, who went down with a knee injury last season, was expected to consider entering the NBA Draft, but decided to return to handle “some unfinished business” (or his questionable NBA Draft stock). In either case, Mbakwe’s return should make the Gophers one of the better teams in the conference even if they are still probably just below the absolute upper-tier of the conference. At the very least, his return does mean that there should be some pressure on Tubby Smith to guide the Gophers back into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. The face of the SEC could change drastically over a 24-hour period. Well sort of. Yesterday, Alabama junior/transfer Tony Mitchell announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Mitchell is certainly athletic enough to get the attention of NBA scouts, but there are enough questions about his maturity and his all-around play that he is probably looking at a second round spot. As for that other team in the SEC–Kentucky–they will have a press conference tomorrow at 2 PM ET where five of their underclassman (Anthony DavisMichael Kidd-GilchristTerrence JonesDoron Lamb, and Marquis Teague) will announce their decision as to whether or not they will enter the NBA Draft. The first three players have always seemed like sure things to enter the NBA Draft, but the latter two seemed to be a little less clear. Now that they are announcing at the same time it seems almost certain that all of them will head to the NBA. This will be a huge loss for Kentucky who should feel the effects all the way until their next ridiculous recruiting class comes in.
  4. While the rumors surrounding a potential move that would bring Larry Brown to Southern Methodist persist we know that at least one member of his coaching tree will not be on his potential staff as Buzz Peterson announced that he will be staying on as head coach at UNC-Wilmington. Peterson, who will probably go down in history as Michael Jordan’s roommate at UNC, will remain a head coach for his 15th season during which time he has only been to the NCAA Tournament once (back in 2000 with Appalachian State). With Peterson firmly in place in Wilmington it seems like the new issue will be who Brown will bring along with him if he does indeed head to SMU.
  5. Two of the most successful programs in  college basketball had freshmen announce that they would be transferring and the effect should be negligible. Even though there should be a little more playing time available in the Duke backcourt next season Michael Gbinije has decided to transferring from Duke. Gbinije, who was a top 30 recruit coming in, only averaged 1.8 points and 0.9 rebounds while playing 5.8 minutes per game. Given his pedigree and the type of teams that were recruiting him he should have plenty of suitors. On the other hand Merv Lindsay may have a harder time finding minutes at a school of the caliber of Kansas after deciding to transfer from Kansas. Lindsay, who was much less hyped as a 3-star recruit, managed to land a scholarship at the school, but only averaged 0.9 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.2 minutes per game this season. While most freshmen transfers from a program as prominent as Kansas who leave without injuries or significant behavioral issues would usually be guaranteed a spot at another major Division I program that may not be the case for Lindsay who had few suitors of the caliber of Kansas prior to matriculating there.
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Charting Kentucky’s Defense in the Championship Game

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 10th, 2012

Individual offensive statistics are easy to find by perusing a post game box score or site such as this one, but locating advanced statistics on a players’ defensive game is much more difficult to access. David Hess and Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated conducted a defensive charting project to improve upon the absence of defensive efficiency numbers. The challenge is these statistics are only accumulated through reviewing game film to assign credit and blame to each defender based on their individual defensive performance, and so this information is less readily available because of the time and effort it takes to collect.

We are talking about defense, right? (AP Photo)

Hess and Winn provided the groundwork for defensive charting research, and using their original work, I tracked Kentucky’s defensive performance during its national championship victory over Kansas. Here are the definitions of the chart below using information directly from Hess’ blog, The Audacity of Hoops, which he adapted from Dean Oliver’s book Basketball on Paper, followed by my chart of Kentucky’s individual defensive statistics.

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He Won’t Admit It, But Kentucky’s National Title is Calipari’s Coronation

Posted by EJacoby on April 3rd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

After the Kentucky Wildcats captured their program’s eighth National Championship with a 67-59 victory over Kansas on Monday night, an unfazed coach John Calipari sat at the postgame podium and deflected all attention away from himself. “This is about them. It’s not about me. [...] I can just coach now. I don’t have to worry. If you want to know the truth, it’s almost like – done, let me move on.” Sounding more relieved than excited, the coach claims that nothing will change about his mentality or coaching style now that he’s finally a national champion. Whether fans believe him or not is up to them, but one thing remains clear: John Calipari has now elevated to the top step in college basketball coaching. As he tries to not make the victory about himself, we can take a moment to reflect on the significance of the 2012 National Championship and what it means for Calipari.

Coach Calipari Doesn't Want the Praise for the 2012 National Title, But He's Most Deserving of Such (AP Photo/D. Philip)

With the national title now under his belt, Calipari has validated everything he worked for in choosing to leave Memphis for Kentucky and recruiting the one-and-done type of players whom he encourages to leave for the NBA as soon as they’re ready. Cal still has his haters and doubters, such as this AP sports writer who can’t buy into the coach’s recruiting tactics. But those who watch the games understand that you don’t win national titles by letting top recruits play free-form basketball. There’s a reason why hoops is a thinking man’s game filled with elite athletes but only the most well-adjusted players succeed at the highest level. When Anthony Davis shoots 1-10 from the field and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t score a single point in the second half, they still have enormous impacts on the game because of their defensive prowess, how hard they play, and buy-in to the team game plan. It’s not easy to get 18- and 19-year-olds to reach their basketball potential in less than a year at a program, but Calipari got it done with this group in a big way.

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National Championship Game Showcases Rare Treat: The Nation’s Two Best Players

Posted by EJacoby on April 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

This year’s National Championship game not only features the two winningest programs in college basketball history, but from a more tangible matchup standpoint it also pits the two best players in the country against one another. After Kentucky dispatched of Louisville on Saturday and Kansas survived the physical battle against Ohio State, we now get that rare matchup – Anthony Davis against Thomas Robinson in the National Title game. Why hasn’t this pairing received a flood of media attention? When’s the last time the country’s two National Player of the Year frontrunners faced off in the finals? And will these two interior forces even guard each other during the game? We attempt to answer these questions to prepare you for one of the many great stories to track during tonight’s National Championship.

Thomas Robinson vs. Anthony Davis is the Headline Matchup, but Terrence Jones (Left) Must Check Robinson on Defense (US Presswire)

Think it’s a given that the National Title game produces stud players facing one another? Remember how difficult it is to advance this far in the NCAA Tournament, and history proves how rare the opportunity is. Monday’s game will mark just the fourth time since 1979 that two first team All-Americans face off in the National Championship, and that simply encompasses any of the five best players in any given season. With Davis and Robinson, we are talking about the two leading vote-getters for National Player of the Year; two players that have gone toe-to-toe all season to decide the best and most valuable player in all of college basketball. Magic Johnson (Michigan State) against Larry Bird (Indiana State) in the 1979 National Championship game is the benchmark example of the scenario, and that matchup is still famous as one of the great individual battles in college history. The most recent matchup between All-Americans came in 1999 between Elton Brand (Duke) and Richard Hamilton (Connecticut), which is another good one but certainly does not resonate as strongly as Magic vs. Bird, and Hamilton was not a consensus Player of the Year candidate. It’s still unknown what kind of legacy, if any, Davis vs. Robinson will leave, but both players are forwards that are likely to be drafted in the top five of the upcoming NBA Draft, with Davis a near-lock for the #1 pick. The narrative of comparison between these two players truly begins on Monday night.

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