John Calipari versus Jim Nantz. That's a cage match I'd watch.
The Kentucky coach and the CBS broadcaster were in opposite corners last month on the subject of college underclassmen turning pro. Nantz scoffed at the notion of comparing basketball players entering the NBA Draft to this year's winner of the Masters, Jordan Spieth. Calipari said that Spieth's decision to leave the University of Texas in the middle of his sophomore year was "really similar" to the turn-pro-or-stay-in-school choice several UK basketball players make each year.
"It's a different time right now in what we're dealing with," Calipari said of this age of premeditated ambition.
Justin Thomas, who turned 22 on Wednesday, seemed like a good person to provide perspective. The native of Goshen was a golfer for the University of Alabama. He turned pro after his sophomore year. He noted one big obvious difference between basketball and golf: money.
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A first-round pick in this year's NBA Draft receives a guaranteed salary between $4,750,000 (first overall pick) and $940,000 (30th pick).
"When you turn pro in golf, you start from scratch," Thomas said. "You're starting from the same place as anyone would be when they turn pro. That's the hard part."
Mike Thomas, the head professional at Harmony Landing Country Club for more than two decades, echoed his son's sentiment.
"The pedigree says they should do well," he said of college golfers like his son and Spieth turning pro. "It's not like NBA players whose pedigree says they should do well. But in case you don't, here's $15 million. ...
"It's a heck of a bigger step for a golfer to take that leap than it is for someone getting a guaranteed contract."
Here's another big difference: Thomas and Spieth played in PGA events as amateurs. As Nantz noted, Spieth made the cut in a PGA event as a teenager.
Thomas also competed against pros. "I played in six or seven tournaments," he said. "I played against the best in the world as an amateur. I kind of knew where my game was at."
Spieth played in a PGA event at age 16. He made cuts and finished as high as tied for seventh in PGA events as an amateur.
During his sophomore year at Texas, Spieth received an endorsement contract from Under Armour that was all but impossible to turn down. So he turned pro.
UK players do not have the same way of gauging how they'll fare in NBA competition. Hence the critics who questioned the wisdom of Dakari Johnson and Andrew and Aaron Harrison entering this year's NBA Draft. None are projected as picks in the first round. Going undrafted is not unthinkable.
Although drawing less second-guessing, Thomas' decision to turn pro was not universally applauded. "I think a lot of the reason people question basketball players more is there are more basketball fans," Mike Thomas said. "Five percent of golf fans questioned Justin's decision. That's a lot less people than five percent of basketball fans. Particularly in Kentucky."
One factor infrequently mentioned in the turn-pro-or-stay-in-school debate is the value of a college degree. Thomas initially saw himself as a so-called one-and-done player.
"We talked about that when he went to college," his father said. "He kind of made a comment during his first semester: 'I'm just going this year, and then I'm turning pro.'
"And I told him, 'You go win five or six college tournaments, and then the NCAA. Then we'll talk.'
"Lord knows that's kind of what he did."
Thomas won six individual events as a player for Alabama. He won NCAA Division I and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year awards as a freshman.
Of the decision to turn pro after a sophomore year, his father said, "He just felt that sitting here going to class is not going to make me better."
Thomas acknowledged that there are times he misses the relatively carefree life of a college student.
"I wouldn't trade where I'm at," he said. "But there are times I think about (college)."
Of course, those who defend underclassmen turning pro like to point out that the player can return to college someday and earn a degree. Easy to say. More difficult to do.
"It'd be great," Thomas said. "But, in reality, if I get going, I know I'm not going to need it. Which I hope I wouldn't, if I play well. ...
"It'd be fun to say I have my degree from Alabama, and, hopefully, someday I'll be able to finish it. But as far as now, I have some different things on my mind."
Spieth winning the Masters made Thomas happy. The two were friends as well as competitors as college golfers. Thomas also saw it as motivating. He said that Spieth winning the Masters at age 21 will encourage more golfers to turn pro before their college eligibility expires.
"That golf ball doesn't know how old you are," Thomas said.
A story in the Indianapolis Business Journal last week set an optimistic tone about a renewal of the Kentucky-Indiana basketball series. But IU Athletic Director Fred Glass said the publication overstated the chances of that happening.
"Right now, even (the label of) 'preliminary' is further along than we really are," Glass said.
UK Deputy Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy and IU assistant A.D. for basketball administration Jayd Grossman have spoken informally, Glass said. On a scale in which zero equaled North and South Korean intransigence and 10 being an agreement in place, Glass said the talks about a UK-IU basketball series were "pretty low digits."
Kentucky and Indiana played every season from 1970 through 2012. The series ended because the programs couldn't agree on where to play future games: UK wanting neutral sites, IU wanting home-and-home. UK rejected IU's proposed compromise of a four-year contract that incorporated two neutral sites and a game in each home arena.
Glass declined a direct answer when asked if IU would continue to insist on some games in Bloomington.
"If we're going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, we have to be careful not to come out with public positions on what's absolutely on or off the table," he said. "I hope at some point creative minds of goodwill will find a way."
Glass feels the same away about football. Kentucky and Indiana played 27 times between 1971 and 2005.
"One of my first expressions of interest when I got this job was to explore that," Glass said of a UK-IU football series. "... I'd absolutely love to restart that series. We'd do that in a minute, if we could."
Kentucky, which already has Louisville as a non-conference opponent, is not interested in also playing a Big Ten opponent.
Glass took solace in the buzz created by the Indianapolis Business Journal story about a revival of the Kentucky-Indiana basketball series.
"I'm sorry it's much to do about nothing in a way," he said. "The good news is there's a lot of interest in this, which I think reflects how we ought to try to get it back together again."
During an appearance on Louisville radio station ESPN 680 last week, former Kentucky player Derek Anderson questioned UK Coach John Calipari's formula for success and one of his in-game coaching strategies.
■ Calipari's reliance on so-called one-and-done players. In particular, Anderson wondered about players like Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and Dakari Johnson entering the NBA Draft despite not being projected as first-round picks.
"If Coach Cal wanted to keep these kids and develop them, he should tell them that," Anderson told host Drew Deener. "He's just running them in and out. It's not him. It's not just him. It's the parents. If my son is supposed to go second round, 'Son, you need to stay in school, get your degree in case something happens, and also finish the job. Make sure you make these people know you can actually play.'
"They're just running them out of here. Like Dakari Johnson. I hope he makes it, but he's a 7-footer who can't jump. What's he going to do with no degree when he's done in two years?"
Comment: Calipari is merely taking advantage of what the players want to do, which is to turn pro as soon as possible. So he sells that in recruiting: Come to Kentucky and be on the fast-track to the NBA. He says he stays out of the decision to enter the NBA Draft or stay at UK.
Kentucky has been to four of the last five Final Fours, the best such stretch in the history of the self-proclaimed greatest program in the history of college basketball. So, in that sense, the formula works.
■ Calipari's strategy in the 2014 national championship game against Connecticut.
"Why did Louisville beat (UConn) by 30? They pressured their guards," Anderson said on the radio show. "We let the kid Shabazz Napier — he walked the ball up and just shot in our face the whole night. I'm like, did you not watch the tape of Louisville beating them? They pressured these guys."
Comment: A fair question is did Kentucky have the players to apply pressure like Louisville did? And it's Louisville's system to trap and apply pressure. But that's not Kentucky's style. UK wants opponents to challenge shot blockers at the rim. What message would be sent if the coach makes such a radical change of style for the championship game?
Score one for the betting service Bovada, which made Billy Donovan an 11-10 favorite to be the next coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Ollie, who had announced he would stay at UConn, was the 9-4 second choice.
Long shots to be the next Thunder coach were former Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro and Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg at 15-2.
Former UK All-American Anthony Davis made a $1,000 donation to the Jonathan Krueger Memorial Scholarship, which was established in the name of the student photographer killed near campus last month.
Other donations included $500 from Kentucky Sports Radio, $250 from UK Media Relations and $100 from the University of Louisville.
In its first 14 days, the fund had received donations totaling $28,800 from 372 people.
Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/JonathanKrueger.
To Anthony Epps. He turns 40 on Monday. ... To Larry Steele. He turns 66 on Tuesday.