Kentucky shifts NCAA paradigm

Watching the national championship game Monday night, I liked to imagine that the evil geniuses in Indianapolis’ NCAA HQ had a moment of clarity similar to what many evil geniuses have in the movies. That moment when their robot army or horde of killer bees is beginning to cause mayhem and destruction and they think to themselves, "My God! What have we done?"

Kentucky’s all-star roster was the inevitable result of the NCAA and NBA’s paternalism. It’s what happens when you force 18-year-old kids to go to college in order to protect NBA owners from losing money on unproven high schoolers while promoting a false idea of amateurism that led, this year, to even the word “players” being banned in the tournament in favor of the euphemism “student-athletes.”

You create a team like Kentucky, which is more than happy to take advantage of a rule that shouldn’t exist to land the most talented recruits in the nation year after year.

It’s a bit difficult, as an 18-year-old who just wants to go pro, to ignore the nine draft picks in the last two years, a proven path to NBA riches that begins in Lexington. Now, with a national championship, the recruiting pitch just got even more foolproof. Is it so hard to imagine the Wildcats winning every year until the one-and-done rule is changed? As ESPN’s recruiting analyst Dave Telep wrote Monday, “Monday was the byproduct of the talent acquisition’s endgame. There’s likely to be more because this program plugged up the biggest hole in its recruiting pitch. Now you can be the first pick in the draft and national champion.”

I’m not totally sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I have a concern for the competitive balance of college basketball in the future, and of course, the general problem with whatever John Calipari did that caused him to leave his last two schools with vacated wins.

But on the other hand, I find what John Calipari has done to be very funny and, in a twisted way, admirable. Here we have a man who has truly cut through the BS of the NCAA, who has exploited a system to his and Big Blue Nation’s great reward. His recruiting pitch is unassailable. His school’s resources are limitless.

Indeed, the school’s webpage for potential recruits reads like a parody of a recruiting pitch. Under “Making Academics a Priority,” a quote from Calipari reads: “My jobs is to make sure there’s growth academically, and that they’re on line to graduate. It’s pretty obvious I’ve done that over my career as a coach.”

So obvious, John. And, then there’s this, a description of the “Wildcat Lounge,” an incredible looking space that looks like it was designed after combining Augusta National’s Butler Cabin with the Staples Center locker room: “Conveniently located next to Memorial Stadium and the Joe Craft Center, the Wildcat Lounge provides dormitory space for Kentucky basketball players and managers, as well as other UK students.”

Something tells me the regular student has as good a chance of getting housing in there as you or I do in K4 at Duke.

As a basketball fan, though, devoid of any morals or subjectivity, how could you not enjoy all this Kentucky dominance? The Wildcats were as entertaining as the Oklahoma City Thunder on a good night. They sprinted down the court at Mach 3. Their point guard, Marquis Teague, possessed a sixth sense with Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis, finding them constantly for thrilling alley-oops. They also played some of the most ferocious defense ever seen in college basketball—Anthony Davis, who went 1-for-10 from the floor Monday, still completely dominated the game, most likely fighting the urge to block his teammates’ and his own shots.

They also played together harmoniously, something amazing for a group of young kids who were used to being the stars on their AAU teams. “What a lesson for these young people, that if you share, if you give up something of yourself for those around you, if you care more about your teammates than yourself, it’s amazing what you can accomplish,” Calipari said Monday. “It doesn’t matter your age. That’s the lesson of this.”

My feeling is after the second or third national championship, we’ll see the rule change that needs to come. Embarrassed with the results, NCAA President Mark Emmert and David Stern will try to work something.

Until then, I, for one, welcome our new basketball overlords.


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