Remember when people actually thought the Kentucky Wildcats could make the playoffs in the NBA’s Eastern Conference? Thanks to SMU head coach Larry Brown, the media went into a frenzy when he spouted this contentious statement earlier last month prior to the start of the highly anticipated March Madness tournament.
Larry Brown isn’t a stranger to Eastern Conference basketball. Under his leadership and basketball acumen, the 2004 Detroit Pistons disposed of the heavy-favored Los Angeles Lakers in five games. But his notion that his protégé John Calipari could lead the Wildcats to the playoffs in the NBA was deemed asinine. However, many people sought to discredit Brown’s claim, but came up with their own opinion: Kentucky could beat the Knicks.
After the Wisconsin Badgers “upset” Kentucky, can we now stop all the madness? There is absolutely positively no way this team would come close to beating the Knicks. With or without Carmelo Anthony, the Wildcats would get embarrassed.
Many are people using the narratives surrounding the two teams to fuel their argument. This season, the Knicks have somehow managed to display a larger degree of ineptitude by “accomplishing a feat” no one thought would ever be possible as long as the great Phil Jackson’s name was attached to the franchise. They’ve already clinched their worst season in Knicks history and can continue to add to that record with some games still remaining on their schedule.
On the other hand, the Kentucky Wildcats were in the midst of an incredible season. After their scare against Notre Dame, the Wildcats were 38-0 and two games away from etching their names into the history books forever. They were on the brink of becoming the first team to have an undefeated season since 1976, when the Indiana Hoosiers experienced their coronation for accomplishing this feat. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Wisconsin had other ideas and decided it was its time to shine, defeating Kentucky and reaching the National Title game for the first time since the 1940-41 season.
So does this mean that the Badgers would be to seventh seed in the East? Should the Nets feel lucky that they don’t have to worry about Wisconsin because they would be their biggest threat to push them out of playoff contention? Or maybe the Knicks feel like the Badgers blessed them with a blueprint on how to defeat Kentucky, if these teams should ever matchup.
People who have adopted this egregious mindset fail to realize the difference in the level of competition both teams are up against. The Knicks are the worst team in the NBA and are on pace to solidify a top-4 pick. They are an absolute mess at this point and the season can’t end quicker for them. But, they are going up against a level of physicality and competitiveness that collegiate sports can’t compare to. The NBA is distinctly a different beast. These are grown men that experienced success at the college and/or high-school level that garnered attention and praise and ultimately propelled them to a professional team.
Kentucky was considered the best all-around team in the NCAA this season, prior to their loss, but was going up against teams who just couldn’t compete with them for a full game. So essentially, it boils down to one simple fact: The Wildcats were the best among a league of kids, and the Knicks were the worst among a league of tried and tested physical men.
The defending champions came into Madison Square Garden a few weeks ago and lost in overtime to a Knicks team that had been atrocious the entire year. We also witnessed them sour LeBron James’ return home with a victory at the Quicken Loans arena early in the season. As they have shown on some nights, they are a team capable of beating quality opponents, but they don’t have the roster depth and talent to do so consistently.
Kentucky’s loss to the Badgers shouldn’t fuel this argument or lead anyone uttering these egregious remarks to enter Wisconsin into the “college teams that can beat the Knicks” stakes. It should effectively put the entire conversation to rest, just like Kentucky’s hopes of an undefeated season.
The Wildcats came into the Final Four averaging 72.3 points on 45 percent shooting, but just 31 percent from beyond the arc. This is what they managed to do against teams that were significantly worse than them. There was no arduous route to the Final Four, don’t let the aberration we witnessed in the Notre Dame game fool you. Do you think that these stats would catapult the ‘Cats to success against an NBA team?
The notable differences when analyzing the college game versus the NBA game kill any thoughts of the Wildcats upsetting the Knicks. In the NBA, the three-point distance is 23’9” (22’ in the corner), compared to the collegiate level where this distance stands at 20 feet and nine inches. If Kentucky only shoots 31 percent in college, backing up the three-point would decrease their percentage. Their inability to score from downtown would derail their chances offensively.
They would also have to play eight more minutes over the span of two extra quarters. This could affect their fatigue since they aren’t accustomed to playing 48-minute games. Could they keep up with the pace of an NBA game? Absolutely not.
Performing well in college doesn’t always warrant the praise of aficionados in terms of being confident this success would pour over into the pros. We often see standout players at the collegiate level amount to busts in the NBA. Cleanthony Early scored 31 points for Wichita State against Kentucky last year. Where is he now? Injured. On the bench.
Shane Larkin was selected as the ACC Player of the Year in 2013. He currently averages a mediocre 6.1 points and 2.9 assists per game for the Knicks.
Don’t use the narrative of the Knicks being historically atrocious and Kentucky’s great season to fuel a foolish argument. In a seven-game series, the New York Knicks would annihilate the Kentucky Wildcats in a four-game sweep, while Carmelo Anthony cheered with pom pom’s from the bench with his suit on.