Villanova winning a second national championship in three years made some precincts of the Big Blue Nation turn green with envy.
Kentucky fans who long for a return to the days when college players matured into champions over multiple seasons saw the Philadelphia-based Wildcats make this back-to-the-future dream come true. If the wistful thinking actually played out, UK Coach John Calipari would stop relying on one-and-done players and follow the Villanova model of success.
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla believes his friend Calipari and another one-and-done devotee, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, might secretly want to follow Villanova’s example.
“I think deep down, Hall of Fame coaches like Coach K and John probably wish they could go back to the days where they knew they were going to have a player around for two or three or four years, and watch them grow and develop,” Fraschilla said.
So why don’t they make it happen?
Because they are conditioned to recruit the prospects with the greatest potential. Long before the current one-and-done era, to not recruit the best gettable players was coaching heresy.
“The next time Anthony Davis or Marvin Bagley is coming through that door, neither Coach Cal nor Coach K is turning those guys down,” Fraschilla said. “Top coaches and programs are always going to try to get the most elite recruits they can.”
And even though these players leave for the NBA after one college season, it’s not like Kentucky and Duke have been unsuccessful. Each has had one-and-done players lead a team to a national championship within the last seven years: UK in 2012 and Duke in 2015. Most other years, UK and Duke were contenders.
But the addiction to top recruiting prospects carries a danger of overdose. An over-reliance on freshmen can leave a team vulnerable to a more seasoned opponent.
When it was suggested that Calipari and Krzyzewski are prisoners of their own success, Fraschilla laughed and said, “You can quote me on that. They’re prisoners of their own success, because who wouldn’t want to play at Kentucky or Duke if you’re a top-25 player?”
Villanova, which had five juniors among its top six scorers, is not wedded to its formula for success. This year’s champions would be interested in following the example set by Kentucky and Duke.
“We can’t get the one-and-done guys,” Coach Jay Wright told The Wall Street Journal. “We’re trying. We really are.”
Interestingly, Fraschilla recalled Villanova trying to build a championship contender with would-be stars. “It didn’t pan out,” Fraschilla said. Villanova had a 13-19 record in 2011-12, the year Kentucky won the NCAA Tournament led by freshmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis. The hope of the losing season serving as a springboard to glory faded for Villanova when Dominic Cheek (a McDonald’s All-American) and Maalik Wayns were early entrants in the 2012 NBA Draft.
“Maybe now Jay Wright can move into that (one-and-done) realm because of their recent success,” Fraschilla said. “But something tells me they’re not going to deviate from their formula all that much.”
And Fraschilla saw a potential downside should Calipari abandon the one-and-done model.
“If Kentucky had the 11th-best recruiting class in the country, Kentucky fans would assume they lost the recruiting season regardless of whether those guys turned out to be great college players,” he said. “There would be people complaining that John had lost his magical touch.”
Bottom line: Villanova’s formula works. Kentucky’s formula works.
“There’s no right or wrong way of doing it,” Fraschilla said. “It’s almost to each his own.”
▪ Kentucky averages a national championship every 10 years (eight titles in the 80 years of the NCAA Tournament). So John Calipari is better than the norm with one title in nine seasons as coach.
▪ The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Villanova’s last five recruiting classes had an average ranking of No. 37 nationally according to 247sports.com.
▪ Jay Wright joined Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (five) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (three) as the only active coaches with multiple NCAA titles.
Wright is only the 14th coach with more than one championship. In addition to Krzyzewski, Williams and Wright, other coaches to win multiple NCAA tournaments are John Wooden (10), Adolph Rupp (four), Jim Calhoun (three), Bob Knight (three), Denny Crum (two), Billy Donovan (two), Henry Iba (two), Ed Jucker (two), Branch McCracken (two), Dean Smith (two) and Phil Woolpert (two).
UK is No. 1
For those who want Kentucky ranked No. 1 in all basketball categories, there’s this: If college programs could be bought and sold like pro franchises, Kentucky would command the highest price: $246.6 million.
That was the conclusion of Ryan Brewer, an associate professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus.
But the value Brewer placed on the UK “franchise” had decreased by 28 percent from a year ago. Brewer calculated a 7.4-percent decrease in the value of college basketball programs nationwide even though cash flows had increased by 7.1 percent.
The Wall Street Journal published Brewer’s findings on Tuesday. He attributed the decrease in value to questions raised by the ongoing FBI investigation of college basketball.
“The FBI investigation attacks the very heart of the industry,” Brewer told The Wall Street Journal. “The reason for the drop in the valuation is that new risk.”
After UK, the other programs in Brewer’s top 10 in terms of value were Indiana ($243 million), Louisville ($233.6), Kansas ($191.2), Duke ($169.8), Wisconsin ($160.7), Syracuse ($149.6), Ohio State ($143.3), Arizona ($133.9) and Maryland ($131.9).
With the NCAA and NBA each having separate rules regarding a player placing and withdrawing his name in the draft, it can get confusing.
Here’s a quick summary:
▪ The NCAA deadline for withdrawing from this year’s draft is May 30. To withdraw, a player must send a written request to the school’s athletics director.
The NCAA does not limit the number of times a player can enter and withdraw from a draft.
▪ The NBA deadline for withdrawing from this year’s draft is June 11.
The NBA limits the number of times a player can enter and then withdraw from a draft at two.
Be the aggressor
On a broadcast the first night of the NCAA Tournament, analyst Jon Crispin of Westwood One radio was asked to assess the bracket and what it would take to survive and advance.
“I said, ‘This is going to sound ridiculous, but it really comes down to whatever team comes out as the aggressor and plays well; they’ll have the best chance to win,’” Crispin recalled. “And they laughed at me because that’s such a vague analysis.
“But I think that’s how this tournament has played out.”
Crispin felt vindicated on the second weekend of the tournament as he remembered his initial analysis. He saw Kentucky’s loss to Kansas State the night before as additional proof of the aggressor having an advantage.
Kansas State was not the same team against Kentucky in the Sweet 16 as it was against UMBC in the second round.
“Against UMBC, they were so afraid to lose that they almost played not to lose,” Crispin said. “And then against Kentucky, they became the aggressor because there’s less fear in losing against that opponent.”
Crispin did well with his predictions for what teams would advance to the Final Four: Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and “whoever comes out of the South. That’s a total toss up.”
‘Strange confident feeling’
Jon Crispin played a key role in one of Kentucky’s more surprising home losses in the last 20 years. He and brother Joe Crispin led Penn State to a 73-68 victory at UK on Nov. 25, 2000.
When the game came up in a recent telephone conversation, Crispin did not need his memory jogged.
“You don’t forget those,” he said. “That was a special thing.”
The brothers combined for 57 points with Joe scoring 31 and Jon 26. They made 13 of 23 three-point shots.
“The entire game, for some reason, we felt like we were going to win,” Jon said. “That didn’t make any sense. Even when we got down, we just felt like we were going to win.
“It’s a very strange confident feeling. You wonder where that comes from. But it’s what allows you to shoot well. It’s what allows you to play fearlessly. In that game, I think we did.”
Kentucky recruited him, Jon said. UK stopped showing interest when multiple stress fractures prematurely ended his high school senior season.
“There was a weird motivation,” Jon said of Penn State playing at Kentucky. “I wanted to prove I could play at that level.”
Joe is the coach at Rowan University, a Division III school in New Jersey. Jon is the lead analyst for the Big Ten Network and worked the NCAA Tournament for Westwood One radio.
The brothers remain close, literally and figuratively. Their backyards in Glassboro, N.J., meet.
“He texts me during games to make sure I get all the things I’m missing,” Jon said. “And he’s usually right.”
Belated happy birthday
To Brian Long. He turned 26 on Monday. … To Jarred Vanderbilt. He turned 19 on Tuesday.
To Hall of Famer John Havlicek. He turns 78 on Sunday (today). … To Kyle Macy. He turns 61 on Monday. … To Nerlens Noel. He turns 24 on Tuesday.