Owing to my good sense and busy conjugal schedule, I never watch college basketball until the madness that is March. Thus, I rely on trusted hoops associates to keep me abreast of developments and was recently apprised of the fact that Kentucky is unbeaten and unbeatable, and undoubtedly headed to status as the greatest team ever assembled.
So many issues at hand here, and, as a courtesy to my readers, I will deal with them one at a time.
Before we consider Kentucky’s eminence, let us consider the source of this high-flying marvel – John Calipari. Praised, rightly so, for being a one-and-done coaching wonder, Calipari has an ability to mold terrific team play even though key parts of his team are in town for just a semester or two.
Not to disparage Calipari – I’m sure he is a great “educator” within the modern context of an institution of higher learning bent on athletic repute – but the fact that he is so revered indicates how our Sports Nation has been in a reverse Darwinian evolutionary cycle for generations.
What a cultural undertow we have routinely accepted:
Before 1972, freshmen were ineligible to play men’s basketball at the varsity level; in 2015, one-and-done is the standard at a basketball powerhouse such as Kentucky. So we’ve gone from not letting players play for one year to not expecting them to stay beyond one year.
The freshman ineligibility rule was based on the quaint, ancient notion that it takes a year for an incoming student to settle in academically and adjust to college life.
Heck, when I was admitted to Maryland, it took me two years just to figure out where to park.
(Column Intermission: Gannon University of Erie, Pennsylvania, my Division II Team of Destiny, is in first place in the west division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, having won nine of its last 11 games. The Golden Knights, led by seniors Girbran Smith and Adam Blazek, are sort of like Kentucky – well, except these are STUDENT-athletes.)
(Column Intermission, P.S.: I tried to contact my stepson, Golden Knights freshman forward Isaiah Eisendorf, for comment, but once again could not reach him. I’m pretty sure he’s still enrolled at Gannon, because I see him sitting near the end of the bench every game.)
OK, so how great is this Kentucky team?
Sources tell me that every player on Kentucky is at least 6-foot-11, or appears to be at least 6-foot-11; boy, that’s an awful lot of tall General Studies majors under one Rupp Arena roof.
During its 17-0 season, Kentucky – employing Calipari’s two-platoon system – typically takes 30- and 40-point leads against the opposition.
But I am reminded of what the late, great Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson used to say, “No team is as good as it looks when it wins, no team is as bad as it looks when it loses.”
(Note: This also applies to most marriages.)
So, being a lifelong skeptic – moments after I was born, my first words were, “I bet our HMO doesn’t cover a C-section” – I have to conclude that, despite the Wildcats’ apparent prowess, they remain an underdog to become the first unbeaten NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball champion since Indiana went 32-0 in 1975-76.
I’ve been wrong before, but months ago I penciled in Kentucky for a loss at Florida on Feb. 7.
Just earlier this month, Kentucky had back-to-back games against Mississippi and Texas A&M that went to overtime and double OT. Math is not Couch Slouch’s strength, but that tells me if either opponent had scored one more point in regulation, Kentucky would’ve lost.
And last month, Kentucky trailed Columbia at the half, 25-23. Columbia! We’re talking about a school where student-athletes carry backpacks full of books instead of gym bags full of Nikes. And, hey, if a school that does not offer athletic scholarships can outscore Kentucky over a half, then a school that does offer athletic scholarships certainly can outscore Kentucky over a game.
Which brings me to this preposterous belief propagated several weeks ago that Kentucky is so good, it could beat the NBA’s 76ers. Please.
(But the Knicks? That’s another story.)
Ask The Slouch
Q. You condemn fantasy sports but you condone poker. What’s the difference? (Jay Brewer; Arlington Heights, Illinois)
A. I am no fan of fantasy, but I don’t condemn it. Still, I would advise poker types – many neck-deep in fantasy – to back off. Poker players are action junkies who think they always have an edge, which makes them among the worst gamblers in the world.
Q. Can I have my recent marriage overturned due to my bride’s failure to complete the process by fully executing a required bedroom move? (Gordon Moller; Grapevine, Texas)
A. My first wife had our marriage annulled under similar circumstances.
Q. Am I the only one rooting for “Paranoid” Rob Lowe to turn on “DirecTV Shill” Rob Lowe? (Dan Cantwell; Albany, New York)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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