No. 1 Kentucky: Good Enough For The NBA?

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On Tuesday, the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats beat UT-Arlington by 48 points, 92-44. That's a blowout that might have qualified as unusual except that just two days earlier Kentucky beat Montana State by 58 points: 86-28. The Wildcats were rewarded in the most recent AP Poll with all but three of 65 first place votes.

Yahoo! Sports columnist Pat Forde joined Bill Littlefield to discuss Kentucky's dominant start.

BL: Pat, Kentucky coach John Calipari always recruits highly-touted prospects. What’s different about this Kentucky team?

[sidebar title="The No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers" width="630" align="right"] Trailing only Kentucky in the AP Poll, the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers owe much of their success to Frank Kaminsky, college hoops' "unlikeliest star." [/sidebar]PF: The big difference, Bill, is that some of the highly touted prospects stayed in school for more than a year, so they actually have some veteran players for once. They have the usual armada of great, talented freshmen, but they also have a couple of juniors, a couple of sophomores so they are loaded with not just talent but experience.

BL: What's the reasoning when sophomores or freshmen  -- like Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the twins who started in Kentucky's championship loss to UConn last season — make that decision to come back? That they're not going to go as high in the NBA draft as they maybe hoped they would?

PF: For most of them, yeah, that's the case. With the Harrison twins it was unlikely that either was going to be a first-round pick — or, if so, maybe at the tail end of the first round — and that's where the guaranteed contracts are, so they decided to come back.

BL: No player on the Wildcats is averaging more than 11.2 points per game or playing more than 21.5 minutes per game. Is that by design?

PF: Oh absolutely by design. John Calipari's actually playing a platoon system so far this year. We'll see how long it lasts but he is substituting five for five. It's almost like hockey. It's worked fine so far but it's an unusual way to do things. And I do think when they get into closer games against better competition — should they ever have any close games — that he will tighten the rotation a little bit.

BL: Well, after the Wildcats beat fifth-ranked Kansas by 32 points, Kansas coach Bill Self said, “Somebody’s going to have to play a great game to beat them.” Will they face any real competition?

PF: They will but not a lot of it. I mean the Southeastern Conference is a great football conference but it's a bad basketball conference. In the non-conference schedule they do play North Carolina, Texas, UCLA and Louisville, but I'm not sure, you know, any of those teams, how good they are necessarily.

They're good names, but North Carolina lost to Butler. Texas is still rebuilding after bottoming out a couple years ago. Louisville is obviously a very good program but doesn't match up well with Kentucky. Kentucky's gigantic and Louisville certainly is not.

BL: This performance by Kentucky at the beginning of the season  has given rise to the kind of story I love. There has been chatter that Kentucky could beat an NBA team -- especially the lowly Philadelphia 76ers — but Coach Calipari dismissed that idea:

Is he right?

PF: Yes, he's right. People love to throw that out there but here's the deal: there are 10 players on Kentucky's team who hope to one day play in the NBA; there's 12 on the 76ers that are playing in the NBA and most of them were first round picks. This fallacy out there that these guys could just walk right into the NBA as a group and win is crazy.

BL: I think people love to throw the fantasy out there because there's absolutely no chance the 76ers will take up that challenge.

PF: Yeah, right, get 'em together in Rucker Park or something? Just in case, it's a no-win situations for the Sixers, that's for sure. It's like if an 80-year-old man challenges you to a fight. You don't get much out of beating him and what if he beats you?


This segment aired on November 29, 2014.


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