Congrats to the Kentucky Wildcats, the 2012 men's NCAA basketball champs. If I remember right, they were the pre-season #1, and despite a couple hiccups during the course of a long season, they appeared to be the class of the field all along. Like them or not, they're certainly worthy champions.
Head coach John Calipari has come under fire here and there for running a "one and done" program at Kentucky, but perhaps that's unfair criticism. After all, Calipari and his staff just try to recruit the most talented prep hoopsters they can every year, the same as any other college team. Further, rather than being faulted, Calipari should be given credit for having many of those young kids NBA worthy after just a year -- or sometimes two -- under his system.
Calipari has had his scrapes with bending the rules in previous coaching stops, but no one should doubt he's a terrific college basketball coach when it comes to the players and how they perform on the court. Sure, Kentucky is legendary when it comes to men's basketball, and they probably have quite an advantage as far as getting 5-star recruits out of high schools -- but there's more to it than that.
If you watched some Kentucky games throughout the year, then into the tournament, then beating Louisville and Kansas in the Final Four, no small feat, it's obvious the Kentucky young-uns were not only talented, but had come together as a team. Let's not forget, their starting 5, for the most part, were freshmen and sophomores. Offensively, defensively, you name it, they flowed as one. And that's coaching.
Calipari is correct in saying it's not his fault many of his athletes "go pro" before receiving their degrees. That set of rules was set up by the NBA, and their players' union, not to mention the legal system weighing in with rulings about denying someone the right to make a living at their profession just because of their age.
Again, to Calipari's credit, he doesn't stand in the way of his athletes going pro. Far from it. He encourages it, if he believes they're ready.
And why not? Take Kentucky player Anthony Davis, only a freshman, for example. He's a newly crowned national champ, pretty much the consensus best player in college hoops, and likely to be the first overall pick in the next NBA draft. He'll probably get millions of dollars -- up front -- in a signing bonus from an NBA team, plus more millions in a guaranteed contract, before he ever sets foot on their court.
If that was YOUR kid, would you want him to go back to Kentucky, where a blown out knee or a ruptured Achilles tendon might be the next game away -- and watch all the millions vanish into the ether -- or take the money now? He'd have to be CRAZY to go back there, like some of his current teammates, and those that came before.
Still, it makes one wonder. If these guys are THAT good as freshmen and sophomores, can you imagine what kind of team they'd be as juniors and seniors, if they had to stay in school?
Dominant doesn't do it justice.
They'd be flat-out scary.