Wednesday, May 20, 2009
A chain of events good for the quality of play in college basketball started on the final day of March when coach John Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky and concluded Tuesday when John Wall, the nation’s top recruit, committed to Kentucky.
The key event in the middle of those major happenings came when brothers Xavier and C.J. Henry, who had been looking forward to playing for Coach Cal at Memphis, committed to Kansas.
Think about it: Before Calipari changed jobs, Kansas was the smart pick for preseason No. 1, and Memphis was the fashionable pick for No. 2. Back then, the rosters Self and Calipari coached weren’t nearly as loaded as they are now.
Sure, Calipari lost the Henry brothers, but he compensated by landing Wall. Plus, had Calipari stayed at Memphis, he wasn’t going to get to coach Patrick Patterson, one of the nation’s top big men. Patterson averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a sophomore at Kentucky. Scoring machine Jodie Meeks hasn’t made up his mind whether he’ll stay in the NBA Draft or return to Kentucky.
Let’s assume Meeks stays put. Just in case Kentucky, No. 1 on college basketball’s all-time victory list, and Kansas, No. 3, play for the 2010 national title April 5 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, let’s look at the matchups.
A lot can happen in 322 days, so why start hyping the potential matchup already? Because members of both fan bases will spend a good portion of each of those 322 days fantasizing about such a title game. (For those who always wondered about the particulars of actress/Kentucky fanatic Ashley Judd’s fantasies, there you have it.) Calipari must trim the total of scholarship players from 17 (with Meeks) to 13, but we’ll leave it to him which players go the way of Tyrone Appleton and Quintrell Thomas.
Point guard: Long and blurry quick, Wall was considered by some to be the best player in the nation, the Derrick Rose of his class. Rose lost to a Kansas team in which sophomore Sherron Collins played the majority of minutes at the point. Collins is a senior now, Wall a freshman. Eric Bledsoe, a hotly recruited incoming freshman, provides depth for Kentucky. Self can turn to C.J. Henry or Elijah Johnson to relieve Collins or can shift Tyshawn Taylor over from shooting guard. Slight edge: Kansas.
Shooting guard: If Meeks comes back, Kentucky has a first-team All-American. Look for big improvement from Taylor. Big edge: Kentucky.
Small forward: Xavier Henry shapes up as KU’s first one-and-done player. Kentucky can counter with junior-college transfer Darnell Dodson. Edge: Kansas.
Power forward: Freshman Thomas Robinson, an ultra-athletic rebounding machine, will push sophomore Marcus Morris for playing time. Patterson blends the best qualities of both and has more experience. Big edge: Kentucky.
Center: Cole Aldrich defends and rebounds such large areas and steadily improves. Freshman DeMarcus Cousins is the nation’s No. 2 recruit, second only to Wall, according to Rivals.com. Slight edge: Kansas.
The outcome: The team with the player who hits a guarded three to send it into overtime wins.