April 8, 2013
DENVER — Now that an NCAA men’s basketball champion has been crowned and all that's left is sweeping up the mess, there is one question to answer.
How’s your bracket?
Feel free to toss it out. Next year will be so much easier.
Here’s an extra-early tip for March Madness 2014: Take Kentucky, all the way, until you can’t take Kentucky any further.
College basketball again is Kentucky's world.
Everybody else is playing for second.
This tournament was kind of worth watching — not for the basketball, which was slogging and slow and mostly star-less.
It was worth watching because roughly half of the field had a real shot at reaching the Final Four. The only surprise would have been if there weren’t a surprise.
That’s fun, I guess, for those who champion the underdog and are OK with the trend of leveling the playing field by mucking up the game. Me? I like when the best teams win.
Thanks to John Calipari’s otherworldly recruiting — a level of recruiting the game never has seen — the Wildcats will scratch out any element of surprise in 2014.
Calipari has a basketball dream, and it goes like this: 40-0.
Is 40-0 possible? Considering the roster being assembled in Lexington, you bet it is.
In 2013-14, six high school players from this year’s McDonald’s All-American game will suit up for Kentucky. That’s a record for one recruiting class.
“It’s the best (class) I’ve seen,” Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels told me Monday.
Under the safe assumption Nerlens Noel leaps to the NBA, two former McDonald’s kids return from this year’s Kentucky team. That makes eight high school All-Americans.
Andrew Wiggins, the top-rated high school senior, also is considering Kentucky. It would be an upset of Wichita State-proportions if Wiggins is not playing at Kentucky next year.
What Coach Cal wants, Coach Cal gets.
One NBA scout sees the potential for six first-round picks from Kentucky in 2014. That's without Wiggins, who, if high school players were eligible for the draft, would be the No. 1 pick this year.
This is the era to do it. What is being spun as parity is actually mediocrity. College hoops is as vulnerable to a dominant team as any point since John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty.
In Monday's national title game, I couldn't identify a sure-fire NBA starter on either of the finalists. Michigan plow horse Mitch McGary is close. On a good day, he's Joakim Noah.
In the 2012 draft, Kentucky was responsible for the No. 1 (Anthony Davis) and No. 2 (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) picks. In the 2014 draft, it is conceivable Kentucky could have the Nos. 1-2-3 picks.
As Calipari once joked, the draft’s green room could be renamed the blue room.
This NCAA Tournament produced the lowest scoring numbers since 1987, at least. Basic basketball skills (dribble, pass, shoot) often were overwhelmed by hockey combat (check, grab, hold).
During the Louisville-Wichita State semifinal, there seemed to be a foul whistled on every other possession. Why? Because there was a foul committed on every other possession.
Until the NCAA makes an effort, early in the season, to clean up hand-checks and body-blows, we will be subjected to scores in the 50s and 60s — a normal half for the Nuggets.
This NCAA Tournament served as a sloppy precursor to one of the most predictable national championship races in two-plus decades.
Since 1990, I can think of five rosters that so clearly were better than everybody else.
UNLV in 1990.
UNLV in 1991.
Duke in 1992.
Kentucky in 1996.
North Carolina in 2009.
There would be arguments for others.
Only one of those, UNLV in 1991, did not win the NCAA title. I will go to my basketball grave convinced the Runnin’ Rebels, on a 45-game winning streak, were playing for something other than championship glory when they lost to Duke in a national semifinal.
Kentucky's road to 40-0 will have its potholes: at North Carolina, Louisville at home, vs. Michigan State in Chicago and, possibly, three games against Florida, another top-10 team.
Kentucky has motivation in blue droves. Returning players carrying the embarrassment of an NIT loss at Robert Morris, incoming stars in a season-long audition for an NBA paycheck.
When the 2013-14 season rolls around, it will be Kentucky’s world.
Everybody else is playing for second.
Paul Klee is the Denver sports columnist for The Gazette. He can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter (@Klee_Gazette).
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