Posted: 6:01 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013
By Hank Rippetoe
You can't have it both ways, Wildcats fans.
I was listening to the Matt Jones radio show the other day, and there were several UK fans who called in to complain about the one and done rule as one reason why attendance is down at Rupp. "We don’t get to know the players anymore and we don’t get to watch them grow and develop over the years," as one fan declared. My first thought was, "Do you want to watch players develop and "get to know them" or, do you want to chase after national championships?"
Since John Calipari arrived at Kentucky, the program has shifted its emphasis. Some fans want the program to go back to the old days where players stayed four years. Many felt it was a fan based program. That idea was a false paradigm. Kentucky never has been a program that was based on the desire of its fans. Kentucky basketball has always been based on the players, however long they stayed (see Rex Chapman and Jamal Mashburn who left early). Those who had NBA talent have always played in the NBA. It is the NBA who has changed and not NCAA basketball.
When the NBA began taking players straight out of high school, it was the NCAA and the member schools who howled the loudest. That caused the NBA to institute the One and Done Rule. John Calipari was one of the first to embrace the new paradigm. He not only embraced it, but he became the best at recruiting those players whose dream was the NBA.
Those who didn't embrace the new paradigm and change their habits were those who screamed the loudest and made the claim that you can't win national championships with such young teams. The mantra was "You have to have an experienced team to win national championships." That was the argument until 2012 when Kentucky proved them wrong.
The old paradigm still works as Michigan State, Duke and Louisville have proved by winning a championship or two with four year players. Louisville showed that just last year, but this was their first title since the mid-1980s. For elite programs such as Kansas and Duke, a final four is in the conversation no matter which paradigm is followed. Coaching and recruiting has everything to do with both schools becoming a part of the conversation. Both have had a mix of four year players and one or two one and dones.
Coach K also cries crocodile tears over the one-and -done rule, yet that doesn't stop him from going after top talent such as . Is that hypocracy or is it simply just a "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" attitude? Poor Coach K, he's been forced by the evil doer John Calipari to recruit some one and done players. Maybe Parker will stay another year so K will be vindicated. Coach K is viewed by the media as heroic while Calipari is still vilified. Calipari and his players, however, are crying all the way to the bank.
Will the Elite Freshmen carry their teams to the Final Four?
The class of 2013 has brought a new level of excitement to college basketball mainly because of four players:(Kansas), Jabari Parker (Duke), (Kentucky) and (Arizona). Let's take a look at these four players.
Andrew Wigginswas ranked as the #1 player by Scout and it was assumed he would make the biggest impact. Julius Randlewas ranked #2, while Jabari Parkerwas ranked #3 and Aaron Gordonwas ranked #4. Can these four players carry their respective teams to the Final Four? Maybe.
With the #5 () and #6 (Aaron Harrison) ranked players added to Kentucky's class along with #11 and #17 , many pundits predicted championship #9 for the Cats in the preseason. I cannot say that I have been one of those. Last season left me snakebit as did the 2009-2010 team. Both of those teams included the #1 recruiting class, if you'll recall. While the Wall-Cousins team made it to the Elite Eight, last year's team was a total bust and left a horrible taste in my mouth.
This is a different year, obviously, with an almost totally different team. It is, in reality, a very young team with lots to learn between now and the Big Dance. Statsheet.com has Kentucky listed as the #1 least experienced team. Right now, I have six teams who are capable of making it to the Final Four. They are Michigan State, Oklahoma State (who lost to Memphis on Sunday), Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas.
Of those teams, using a 7 man rotation, Michigan State is the most experienced with a total of 488 games combined. They are followed by Oklahoma State (417), Duke (412), Arizona and Kansas (192 ea.) and Kentucky (118). The experience level is based on the top 7 players in terms of minutes so far this season for each team. Are these teams as talented as Kentucky? Maybe not, but they have their share of former McDonald's All-Americans.
Brandon Dawson 2011
Le'Bryan Nash 2011
Wayne Seldon, Jr. 2013
Dakari Johnson 2013
Julius Randle 2013
Aaron Harrison 2013
Andrew Harrison 2013
Marcus Lee 2013
James Young 2013
Jabari Parker 2013
Aaron Gordon 2013
As you can see, the Michigan State McDonalds A-As are more experienced as are Duke's and Oklahoma State's. That makes them far more dangerous at this time of the year. We saw that in the Kentucky-Michigan State game. Come, maybe not so much. Regardless, you can see why Kentucky has to be included in any Final Four conversation, especially after the performance against Providence.
As for the top 4 players, Parker and Randle are shining brighter than the other two, but Kansas and Arizona have a lot of experienced players, as does Duke, to help out. Kentucky hasand Alex Poythress. I might add, however, that Kentucky has a stable of pretty good horses on the bench. The table below compares the super-frosh after Sunday's games.
For further and more detailed comparisons, I've called up a comparison of the four players from statsheet.com which is free, by the way. I've also put together a comparison of the four teams these players play for.
Cauley-Stein is an unexpected emerging star who is averaging 3.9 blocks per game which is tied for #69 in the country. That leads the schools mentioned above. Oklahoma State's Kamari Murphy averages 2.0 blocks per game. These two guys are the only ones from the schools above who average 2 or more blocks per game. I might point out that Alex Poythress is a flower that is in the stage of blossoming.
Kentucky, in my opinion, has the biggest upside because we are so young. I don't know who will be in the Final Four, but right now I see Michigan State and Kentucky there. You can pick and choose who the other two will be.