Tuesday, March 23

Dino Gaudio: Kentucky's the best (of this era?)

Following a 30-point drubbing at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats, Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio proclaimed, “I’ve been in the ACC 10 years, that’s as good a basketball team as we’ve played against in the 10 years I’ve been here." That span of ten years includes four national title teams, one each for Maryland and Duke and two for North Carolina. If my team had been in a late season death sprial, I'd just barely beaten Texas and Rick Barnes in a battle of whose coach sucks less, and people were starting to talk about me being on the hot seat, I too would probably be eager to proclaim Kentucky the best. It makes explaining a 30-point loss a little easier. Gaudio's comments are actually not that unrealistic from a talent standpoint, but an aspect he didn't consider, it's a new era in college basketball.

While John Wall has been the showstopper (or starter depending on your perspective), being well-rounded makes this Kentucky team truly special. They've got NBA talent at virtually every position, something not available to most teams for the last decade. The addition of the 'one-and-done' rule by the NBA has made it so that talented big men are now forced to make a pit stop in college. There is little doubt that John Wall would have chosen to go directly to the L as well, but no one attracts attention from NBA teams like the 6'10" and over fellas. DeMarcus Cousins would have been a lottery pick this year and Daniel Orton could easily have been drafted instead of playing thirteen minutes off the bench for the Wildcats on the basis of size and potential alone. When three of the four ACC National Championships were being won earlier in the aughts, almost all potential NBA lottery picks with size were going directly to the NBA. In 2001, three high school big men, Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, and Eddy Curry were selected ahead of the undisputed leader of the National Champion Duke Blue Devils, Shane Battier. In 2002, following the Terrapins tournament championship two college big men, Drew Gooden and Terp Chris Wilcox, were taken before the first high schooler, Amare Stoudamire, but it's easy to judge who has had the most success at the next level. Players that would have made a huge impact in college, such as Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, and Kendrick Perkins all made the leap. Today, they wouldn't be allowed.

Perhaps no team better illustrates how much of an impact the one-and-done rule has had than Kentucky, but one need only look back to the 2005 championship team of North Carolina to see just how different history could have been. The Heels were led by Sean May, Raymond Felton, and Rashad McCants. They were joined in the starting lineup by Jawad Williams and Jackie Manuel, with Melvin Scott and future number two pick in the draft, Marvin Williams coming off the bench. Had the one-and-done rule been in place, J.R. Smith (taken 18th directly out of HS) would also have been on the roster as well as Dwight Howard. That would have given the Heels potentially five lottery picks and six first rounders. People may still be able to argue that Kentucky would be better from a talent stand point, there is no disputing that being led by a core of upperclassmen would be a huge advantage for Carolina over the current Wildcats (and the same goes for the 2009 championship team). It's why Kansas was the prohibitive favorite to win the title this season and not the team with some many future lottery picks... wait, that doesn't prove my point at all. Oh well, screw the Jayhawks.

At this point, this Kentucky team may be the most talented college team assembled in the last decade, but they're not worthy of being considered the best. If they fail to close during the final two weekends of the tournament, they're little more than the Fab 5, and they don't have a nickname to make them immortal like CWebb and crew. Dino may be right but to compare them to teams that won titles as recently as just five years ago is difficult, because it was a different era, not separated by time, but by one rule.

1 comment:

Cleet said...

Wait a second....that's Catfish's music

/glass breaks