Mar 17, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks with forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the first half in the third round of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the KFC Yum! Center. Kentucky defeated Iowa State 87-71. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE
The Final Four tips off Saturday in New Orleans, and it's all about Kentucky. Louisville, Ohio State and Kansas have all been good, but they'll have to be great if they want to steal headlines from the Cats.
It must be pretty terrifying to be a Kentucky fan right now. Once the game starts, it's GREAT to be a Kentucky fan, because there are about 30 different ways they're better than anyone else in America. But I mean, right now, this moment before all that, has gotta be pretty stressful for UK fans.
All anyone can talk about is how dominant this team is, how it's "Kentucky's title to lose," how Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should probably go 1-2 in the NBA Draft this spring, what a John Calipari title would mean for college basketball. All the narratives you hear in sports movies ... Right before the big, bad dominating team gets shocked by the rag tag group of feel-good kids that everyone counted out (i.e. all of college basketball).
What I'm saying is, if this were Mighty Ducks 2, Kentucky is Iceland. The question is: Can Rick Pitino be Gordon Bombay? Can Peyton Siva be Charlie Conway? Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey are obviously Fulton Reed and Dean Portman. Maybe Jared Sullinger is Russ Tyler, the knucklepuck master that teaches the team how to play "for real" when he replaces Adam Banks.
FWIW, nobody is Adam Banks, because Adam Banks is always Duke.
And Julie "The Cat" Gaffney is just perfect.
This marks the end of our Mighty Ducks discussion.
Where were we? Final Four predictions. Right. SB Nation asked a few of us to come up with predictions for this weekend, and the easy answer would be Kentucky. Err... Actually, that's my answer. Kentucky. Everyone else in the Final Four is a college basketball player. Kentucky is a team that has three-to-four NBA players playing college basketball.
For example: Thomas Robinson is a superstar for Kansas and one of the two or three best college basketball players in the country. Once he gets to the NBA, he'll be one of the two or three best players on his team. Same with Jared Sullinger, DeShaun Thomas, Gorgui Dieng, etc.
On Kentucky, a guy like Terrence Jones plays the same role in college that he'll eventually inherit in the NBA. A solid third option. Then you have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis, a duo that would be deadly in the NBA for the next decade if they wound up together. Marquis Teague is the only one who still plays like a freshman, but he's every bit as talented as someone like Russ Smith or Tyshawn Taylor. And if that weren't enough, they've got guys like Darius Miller and Doron Lamb, two would-be NBA role players who... Yeah, they're role players at Kentucky, too. That's an NBA team right there.
People freak out anytime someone says that a college team could be a pro team, but Kentucky has been so good you can't help but wonder. When someone asked Gary Williams if Kentucky could beat this year's Wizards team, he weighed in this week with this:
I think one game — Kentucky couldn’t play in the NBA or anything like that — but one game at Rupp Arena, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kentucky win one game. Because you’re gonna have five players off that team playing in the NBA, and probably playing significant roles in the NBA. And that’s why I say that, for one game.”
I don't think they'd win even a game, though. John Wall would eat Teague alive, Jordan Crawford could go for 40, and Nene could neutralize things inside. HOWEVER... The difference between Kentucky and great college teams from the past is that you could make a pretty solid case that if you put this exact roster in the NBA and waited three years, they'd contend for a playoff spot. They'd definitely beat the crap out of this Wizards roster in three years. How many college teams have we been able to say that about since the Fab 5?
The Fab 5 never won a title, though. Which brings us to the final point. The Fab 5 lost to great college basketball teams. UNLV did, too, even they had a similar NBA makeup. Kentucky could be beaten, but it'll take a great college basketball team. Their biggest threat (North Carolina) lost its best college basketball player (Kendall Marshall) and is now watching at home. The other threat (Syracuse) had their best player (Fab Melo) declared ineligible. Among everyone else? There are All-Americans and Hall-of-Fame coaches, but none of these other teams look great. So the pick is Kentucky -- not because they can't be beaten, but because the team to beat them isn't here.
Ohio State 74, Kansas 66
Kentucky 82, Louisville 71