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

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NEW ORLEANS – One shot.

1-for-10.

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.

Christian Vital going back to UConn for junior season

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Dan Hurley is keeping his roster intact at the top.

Christian Vital, UConn’s second-leading scorer a season ago, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, he announced Monday via social media.

“Great Talk Today Coach! Appreciate The Wisdom You Have Let Me In On!” Vital wrote “I Think It’s Time To Get Back To Winning Ways In Storrs! I’m Going To Need That #1 Back ASAP! WE GOT (UNFINISHED) BUSINESS!”

The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be Vital joins Jalen Adams, who was the Huskies’ top-returning scorer, back in Storrs in Hurley’s first year. Vital averaged 14.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Adams previously announced he would return to school without declaring for the draft.

The return of UConn’s top two scorers underscores an even bigger trend under Hurley as the Huskies appear to have avoided any major defections from last year’s roster despite the coaching change.

UConn is coming off a 14-18 season that proved to be the last of coach Kevin Ollie’s six years with the Huskies that included a national championship but also back-to-back losing seasons.

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.

Georgia Tech’s Okogie to sign with agent

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Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, one of the big winners from this past weekend’s NBA combine, announced on Monday that he will be signing with an agent and remaining in the NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-4 Okogie finished his sophomore season averaged 18.5 points and shooting 38.4 percent from three. The numbers he posted during the athletic testing at the combine, as well as his 7-foot wingspan, makes Okogie an ideal 3-and-D wing at the NBA level.

“Josh is a tremendous young man and an excellent student-athlete,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “He has set a tremendous example, making the Dean’s List this past semester, and deserves a lot of credit for making himself a much better player over the course of his two years here. We will miss him in our program in many respects, from his performance on the court to the energy he plays with and brought to our team. We fully support his decision to take this next step, and wish him all the best.”