by Kent Sterling
Kentucky is evil. They are wrong in the way they exploit idiotic NBA rules to build what is little more than a minor league franchise for the NBA. Kentucky is a 10-month way station for kids who have to wait for one year after high school to enter the NBA Draft.
The Wildcats are led by a man who makes just short of $4-million per year because of his ability to gather kids with no interest in education. Whether Brandon Knight, the all-world UK freshman, got a 4.3 GPA in high school (which he did) or a 1.8, he is at UK for one reason, and it has nothing to do with books and classrooms.
There is a philosophy in college sports that anything within the rules that allows for success is okay – and not just great but worth millions for the coach who manages not to be penalized by the NCAA for doing it.
Morality is dead at Kentucky, a program that only wants success without penalty. So they hired a man who is all about that. John Calipari has never been penalized personally by the NCAA, and somehow that’s meaningful to UK fans. Two of his teams were forced to vacate Final Four trips, but Cal was far enough removed from the evil that he avoided sanctions. That’s the defense used by Kentucky fans who want to win badly enough to check their values at the Rupp Arena door.
Indiana danced with that abandonment of values briefly when AD Rick Greenspan hired Kelvin Sampson – a guy whose desire to win sent his moral compass spinning like a propeller. Sampson’s arrogance made catching him easy, and the punishment of a five-year show cause was probably light.
Hoosier fans were ecstatic during the Bob Knight years when they won at an elite level despite operating by the letter of their own rule book – one that made the NCAA look lax. And that is what they are demanding now from AD Fred Glass and coach Tom Crean.
Winning is hollow without principle. If the only goal of a basketball program is to win, that’s not that tough. Go get players whose only goal is to win and play in the NBA. To hell with education – the very purpose of the university the players represent.
That’s Kentucky basketball, and that’s why whatever success they achieve under Calipari will be short-lived. He isn’t building a winning culture. Cal is deconstructing a collegiate culture where education means anything. That success is not sustainable, and it isn’t true success anyway.
Kentucky basketball may currently please fans thirsty for winning, but at some point the worth of victories without values will wane, and even Kentuckians whose lineage is filled with corruption, racism, and overall venality, will begin to feel the taint of winning this way.
Basketball is a game of balls going through hoops, and the winner isn’t always the group who does it the right way, but it sure is fun when that happens. And it will on Saturday afternoon, not because of the morality in play at Cook Hall, but because the Wildcats – for all their compromises – just aren’t very deep.
Calipari’s rotation only goes six deep, and the scoring generally comes from Knight and Terrence Jones. Both are typically special Kentucky players who fans should enjoy for the next three months, because they are going to the league after their freshman seasons.
Indiana rolls eight deep with between 14.5-to-29 minutes per game. That will give them an advantage late in the game, and that’s when games are won. The other advantage is that while Kentucky was shutting down Notre Dame in the second half last night, the Hoosiers were focused on preparing for UK. Idle for a week, IU will be ready to battle Knight and Jones – and their supporting cast.
The Hoosiers will win Saturday because they are the better team. That they are also the team that does things right will just make it more fun.