NCAA finals notes: Big 12 commissioner not buying what Calipari is selling

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 6, 2014 

ARLINGTON, Texas — So-called one-and-done players — the foundation of a Kentucky program on the cusp of a national championship — are an ill-fitting piece of college athletics, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Sunday.

"The problem is, colleges and universities are here to educate young people," he said. "And we're not here just as a forum for someone to shop their wares."

John Calipari has had 11 players enter the NBA Draft after their freshman seasons since becoming Kentucky coach in 2009. Bowlsby questioned that kind of reliance on players who stay in college only one year.

Speaking generally and not specifically about UK, he said, "I don't think it's good for that institution. I don't think it's good for college athletics in general."

Noting that each school is free to set its own standard on so-called one-and-done players, Bowlsby said, "As long as they're complying with the rules we have in place, then that's their problem."

More than once last week Calipari suggested that the label one-and-done had a negative connotation. He proposed the label "Succeed and Proceed" as a solution.

When asked whether such repackaging would make the issue of players leaving college after one season more acceptable, Bowlsby smiled. Then he laughed.

"Well, I think, probably, a horse by any other name is still the same," he said.

Conspiracy theory

That an athletic official affiliated with NCAA hierarchy would question the use of one-and-done players did not surprise Willie Cauley-Stein.

When asked whether he thought the NCAA opposed Kentucky's advancement in the post-season, he paused and then said, "I mean, I don't know. I don't know how to answer that question. I have a strong theory, but I'm not trying to say it to the media."

Cauley-Stein agreed with a reporter's premise that criticism of the one-and-done rule helped fuel an us-against-the-world attitude for Kentucky.

"Oh, no doubt," he said. "That definitely is what we thought when we were the 8-seed. There's a reason why they do it, and they definitely don't like the way we do things at Kentucky.

"I don't know. It really is us against the world."

No one should doubt that Kentucky had a difficult path to Monday night's championship game. UConn brings a 31-8 record into the game. That meant Kentucky's last five opponents had a combined record of 155-28 going into games against UK.

Aiming for Aaron

With Aaron Harrison having made decisive three-pointers during the final seconds of UK's past three games, UConn will be on high alert should the championship game go down to the wire.

"He's a great player and those are great shots," UConn guard Ryan Boatright said. "But, once again, experience and being a defensive player comes into effect.

"If you watched his last two games, he hit the same shot from the same spot."

Harrison's winning shots against Michigan and Wisconsin came from several feet beyond the three-point arc on the left wing.

"If you're up two (points), you've got to run him off the three-point line," Boatright said. "You take the two points and go to overtime. No matter what, you don't let them get a three-point shot off." Michigan's Caris LeVert contested Harrison's winning shot, while Wisconsin's Josh Gasser was late closing out on the UK player.

"In that situation, I would have got up in him," Boat right said. "If he's going to take the three, he would have to dribble. He didn't even dribble the ball (against Wisconsin). He (Gasser) gave him his space. He (Harrison) just squared up and shot it in rhythm. You've got to make him shoot off the dribble or make him attack the rim."

Joining Rupp?

If Kentucky beats UConn, Calipari will join Adolph Rupp as the only coaches to have won more than one national championship for UK.

"I could absolutely care less," Calipari said. "This is about the joy that these guys up here will get."

He was referring to the five UK players who joined him at a formal news conference Sunday.

"I've had a heck of a career and I've been blessed," Calipari said. "I'm now at a school that I can help kids more than I've ever helped any kids that I've ever coached."

Kissing Cal

One of the times Alex Poythress headed to the bench in the Wisconsin game, Calipari gave him a kiss.

When asked whether it felt good to be on the receiving end of a coach's kiss, Poythress leaned back against the wall, appeared uncomfortable, and deadpanned, "I wouldn't say it's a good feeling."

Good advice

Longtime coach Larry Brown has ties with Calipari and UConn Coach Kevin Ollie. Calipari worked for Brown at Kansas and the Philadelphia 76ers. Ollie played for him in the NBA.

"I had the opportunity to talk to him this morning," Ollie said of Brown. "And he just gave me some sound advice: Have fun (and) don't make it complicated."

Pep rally

The UK Alumni Association will host a pep rally from 4:30 to 7 p.m. CDT at Fishbone Grill, 816 North Collins Street, Arlington.

The cost is $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers who pre-register. A limited number of people will be admitted at the door; walk-ups will be charged $40. Admission includes food and beverages while supplies last.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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