Kentucky and the New Way of College Basketball

kentucky

Chances are if you’re talking college basketball these days, you’re talking about the University of Kentucky at some point in that conversation. This past weekend head coach John Calipari and his Wildcats wrapped up a perfect regular season finishing at a remarkable 31-0. Kentucky has 9 McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster including the identical Harrison twins and the monstrous combination of big men Karl Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein. The majority of people will be rooting against Kentucky and their quest for a 40-0 record. Everyone wants to see Goliath go down. Many just want to see the one-and-done system go down with him.

What many don’t realize is the 2009-2010 Kentucky Wildcats revolutionized the one-and-done system. Before them, one-and-done players in college basketball were looked at as juvenile and even egotistical. These guys weren’t suited for schools like Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky. You saw them coming out of schools like Memphis, Kansas St., and Georgia Tech. With a few exceptions (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love), these one-and-done guys were seen as individuals just setting up themselves up for the pros. They were bad teammates. Well the 2009-2010 Kentucky Wildcats set up the groundwork for what this Wildcats program is now built off of and how one-and-done players are looked at.

Seeing the one-and-done philosophy at a prestigious program like Kentucky gave it a different look. John Wall, Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe among others made people look at these kind of players in a different light. Over the next two years, Coach Calipari and Rupp Arena became a pipeline to the NBA, sending seven underclassmen to the league. Everyone would always say, “Man, can you imagine if everyone on Kentucky just stayed an extra year or two? They’d be unbeatable!” Well now it’s happening. They stayed, and now Kentucky is able to produce two of the best starting lineups in the country from within the same locker room. A team going 31-0 with a leading scorer of 11 points per game is scary. Talk about balance.

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As recently as a decade ago, one-and-done was probably just another term for a one night stand. Nobody left after one season to go to the NBA. Until 2006, players stayed their four years and progressed along with the team. Chances are the Fab Five of Michigan wouldn’t have a two-hour 30 for 30 documentary if they played today because they’d be off to the NBA before we could even blink. The culture was different back then. Players wouldn’t go to schools like that because they knew they weren’t going to be able to play until the stars finished up their four years. Now a program like Kentucky gets a handful of the top recruits from every class each season because they know the majority of the Wildcats’ lineup is leaving to go to the NBA. If you’re a high school recruit and you see how fast Coach Calipari can get you to the NBA, why would you not want to go there?

This is how college basketball is now. I wish we could watch teams fully progress over four full seasons but that’s no longer an easy find. Enjoy watching this Kentucky team for the next month. You may not get to see the Harrison twins play together ever again and you sure as hell won’t see a two-headed monster like Towns and Cauley-Stein again for a very long time. This team is a rare find in today’s college basketball. I’m not saying you should root for the Wildcats, but please, take pleasure in watching them. Everyone wanted David to win and probably still does; but no one ever said Goliath wasn’t fun to watch.

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