(Photo: Getty Images)
Before I get to today's stuff, I'd like to thank Brian Anderson and Chris Webber, calling last night's NCAA Tournament games in Nashville, for reminding viewers again, and again, and again and again that Nevada staged a 22-point comeback last Sunday against Cincinnati.
Appreciate it, guys.
Just as I'm sure UK fans are appreciating John Calipari this morning. Someone told me this morning that last night's loss was the most disappointing of the Cal era. I'm not sure I totally agree, because the Final Four loss to Wisconsin in 2015 and the Elite Eight loss to West Virginia (by what was Calipari's most fun Kentucky team) stand out as bigger disappointments, because those teams were much, much, better.
But still, last night was brutal.
The players are culpable, of course. The Wildcats were sloppy at the game's start, and disorganized all night on offense, turning the ball over way too many time against a defense that didn't exactly pressure the ball much. The bucket that gave Kansas State the lead came on an offensive rebound by a guard among Kentucky's bigs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander often played like he'd just been introduced to the game of basketball, and PJ Washington missed 12 free throws, putting up one of the most unique stat lines you'll see.
Free Throws: 8 for 20(!)
But Cal failed his team. He never got his team to pick up the pace against a undermanned team that dealt with foul trouble all night. Had UK been more aggressive, the other Wildcats would've had to ask their dumb-looking mascot to check in. If you're going to be willing to play slow - and Kentucky was more than happy to play the way Bruce Weber's team wanted - then you have to have some semblance of structure on offense, which Calipari's team never had.
And then there's the end of the game. K-State took a one-point lead with :18 remaining. Instead of calling a timeout, Calipari briefly turned his back to the court and let the youngest team in college basketball, which had played clueless all night on offense, play on.
Then, after the other Wildcats extended their lead to three, Cal finally called a timeout and drew up....a play that had Gilgeous-Alexander shake his man before lifting a three. At face value, having the team's three-point shooter take the final shot is not a bad idea, but he'd had a tough shooting night, and there was nothing done to help get him open.
None of this is meant to discredit Kansas State. Of all the teams remaining heading into the Sweet 16, they might have been the most unheralded, yet they came out looking like a team unburdened by a resume that included few wins against quality teams and intimidated by a favored UK team playing in front of a partisan crowd. They played most of the game without its best player and lost three guys to foul trouble, and they still pulled off the upset, setting up a regional final with Loyola that, of course, we all saw coming.
For Kentucky, the loss ended a weird, up-and-down season that seemed destined to end far deeper in March than anyone would've imagined in January. I think John Calipari did one of his best coaching jobs with an exceptionally young, inexperienced group of players.
He just failed them in the end.
Here's Some Stuff for today....
Here's my reasonable take on Vontaze Burfict. It'll be opposite of my guy Lance's take, which is that the Bengals should cut Vontaze. Ready? Here it is...
Maybe before the Bengals cut loose arguably their best defensive player, we should all make sure Vontaze has actually done something wrong.
Crazy, I know.
I share the same amount of exasperation that everyone else does with Vontaze, and I understand not being willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this particular infraction is way different than anything else he's been suspended for, and while you might not believe that Burfict simply took a prescribed medication to deal with injuries - including a concussion - he suffered late last season, we have had players mistakenly take a banned substance that doctors signed off on.
Is Vontaze guilty of not asking the right questions? Perhaps. Is he guilty of cheating? Maybe, although I doubt it. But we don't know for sure, so before we decide that the Bengals are better off without one of the best linebackers in the league, do you think that maybe, just maybe, we should make sure that he actually did something wrong?
Let's see what we've got, especially if we know what we have. This Reds season is all about seeing what they have, right? Which players are worth moving forward with? Which ones will make up part of the foundation of a winning team, eventually? We hope to have those answers by the end of this season.
Which brings us to the whole "four outfielders for three spots" thing. Among Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and Jesse Winker, who do we know the least about?
Who do we know the most about?
Who should get the most playing time, then?
Who should get the least?
Two and none? More like two and dumb. The Big East is pushing this proposal....
The Big East has recommended replacing one-and-done with a two-or-none policy in college basketball, along with NCAA regulation of agents and the creation of an elite-player unit to focus on "players with realistic aspirations of playing in the NBA."
The Big East's plan calls for the elimination of the one-and-done system, which is the result of an NBA rule that prohibits its teams from drafting players until they are at least 19 or a year removed from high school.
Two-or-none would be an NCAA policy requiring basketball players who decide to go to college to commit for at least two seasons. Meanwhile, high school players who declare for the NBA draft would forfeit future college eligibility.
This strikes me as unnecessary legislation. The answer to the one-and-done problem is simple: Let the institutions decide. If they don't want players likely to leave after one year of college, then don't recruit them. Plenty of college basketball programs thrive despite - and maybe because of - not having players bolt for the NBA after one year. One of them is the best program in the Big East. Jay Wright has been at Villanova for 16 years. His next one-and-done will be his first. Xavier, one of the best programs in the league, hasn't exactly reeled off one successful season after the other by bringing in players for a year then seeing them leave. In fact, since the reorganization of the Big East before the 2013-14 season, the league has had two players leave after one season in college?
So isn't the league proposing a solution to something that's not really a problem?
The one-and-done problem we hear about so much is not actually a problem, not for the Big East, and not for college basketball as a whole. Since the NBA implemented the one-and-done rule 12 years ago, the league has seen exponential growth and an increased quality in play, while the college game has benefited greatly from the likes of Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Anthony Davis, etc. stopping off for a year before being drafted.
There have been teams like UK's 2012 team or Duke's 2015 squad that won national titles on the shoulders of one-and-done players, but there have also been title teams like Villanova's 2015 squad or last year's North Carolina team that were dominated by upperclassmen. The sport is not being dominated by the teams that load up on one-and-dones, as evidenced by the fact that the two major players that have already declared for the draft after their freshman seasons - Trae Young of Oklahoma and Mo Bamba of Texas -both left the NCAA Tournament without their teams winning a game.
Over the last four years, 54 players have declared for the draft after just one year in college, an average of 13.5 per year. There are roughly 4,500 NCAA Division One basketball players active in a given year, so on average, 0.3% of college basketball players bail for the NBA after just one season.
So tell me exactly what problem the Big East is trying to solve.
Here's some stuff I like....
Ever wonder what it's like to be on the NFL trade block? Here's what it's like to be on the NFL's trade block.
If you're a golfer, or a fan or watching golf, or both, here's a nice way to spend your snowy spring weekend.