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


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.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.