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Great college teams can't even beat the Harlem Globetrotters

Even great college teams are college teams, and even pro teams that like throwing buckets of confetti on people are pro teams.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What would happen if the best team in college basketball played an NBA team? It's a debate a lot of people feel like having, apparently, especially since Kentucky is 37-0 and walloping every opponent they face with force. They have a ton of potential NBA players on their roster -- could they beat the pros?

I've always thought the answer is pretty obvious: Kentucky has a few future NBA players, some of whom will be good NBA players, but they only have a few, whereas all NBA teams have entire rosters filled with NBA players. (ed. note: except the Knicks) Plus, those NBA players are older, train professionally and have done so for some time. Maybe an elite college team could squeak out an upset from time-to-time, but most of the time, even a bad NBA team would probably win.

Sadly, we'll never know, because NBA teams play NBA teams and college teams play college teams. However, I'd like to point out a little-known example of a college team playing a pro team as evidence that bad NBA teams would whoop even great college teams.

It wasn't just any college team -- it was the defending national champion Syracuse Orange. And it wasn't just any pro team -- it was the Harlem Globetrotters, a barnstorming squad best known for doing basketball tricks in exhibition games against a fake team paid to lose. The Globetrotters are real basketball players, but the squad is comprised of players who couldn't find NBA jobs or high-paying European gigs in more serious leagues.

And the Globetrotters didn't just win: they won comfortably, taking a 17-point lead in the first half.

Of course, the caveat is Syracuse was missing Carmelo Anthony, the No. 1 reason the team won the national championship the year before. But they still had future NBA draft picks in Hakim Warrick and Demetris Nichols, as well as a cup-of-coffee NBA player in Darryl Watkins.

The Globetrotters? Their star was a 33-year-old Cedric Ceballos, several years removed from his NBA days, bouncing around between stints in Israel, Russia and the Philippines. They also had NBA journeyman Darrick Martin, who had just been in the CBA before resuming an NBA bench role, and Bubba Wells and Juaquin Hawkins, who spent minutes in the league.

Long story short: a team of NBA washouts who spent a few minutes prepping real basketball stuff before going back to funny dribbles and trick shots, beat a very talented college team. Because they were older, professionally trained basketball players who play basketball all the time.

The Globetrotters did lose to college teams -- they went 7-1 in the year they beat Cuse, with a loss to Billy Gillespie's UTEP, and dropped a game to Michigan State when they were defending champions in 2000. But in 2004, the NCAA outlawed the Globetrotters' exhibition games against college teams, in part because a) blah blah blah amateurism b) it looks bad when your best teams lose games to a team that spends 350 days a year dedicated to throwing buckets of confetti and pantsing their opponents.

Now imagine a college team playing an NBA team. With NBA players.


So let's celebrate great college basketball teams for what they are -- great college basketball teams! And maybe give a shout out to the Globetrotters, who can actually ball.

SB Nation presents: Nobody can stop Kentucky's run for perfection