I’m big on comparisons
When John Calipari, Roy Williams, and Ben Howland graced the sideline Saturday, each of their teams in action, the thoughts began to swirl.
My thoughts right now?
That will be the last time those three names will be used together in one sentence.
Saturday proved that one doesn’t belong.
In a matchup of the top teams in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats, and the nation’s fifth-ranked team, North Carolina, which we will all realize is really the nation’s No. 2, fans were treated to exactly what they deserve.
A matchup between two heavyweight coaches, two heavyweight programs, and some heavyweight players.
Kentucky won a back-and-forth battle in a game full of future NBA-ers, playing like their lives depended on it.
The Wildcats’ crowd was wild. Last year’s No. 1 recruit, UNC’s Harrison Barnes, brought his A-game. This year’s No. 1 recruit, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, made potentially the game-saving block.
The game exceeded the hype.
The game also put college basketball into perspective.
Anybody who doesn’t believe that college basketball is about recruiting and coaching, they have no choice but to be a believer now.
I can’t remember the last time that much NBA talent has been on one college basketball floor. Both Williams and Calipari have essentially transformed their programs into NBA proving grounds, a farm system for professional basketball.
Calipari has had five top 10 NBA Draft picks since 2008, including two No. 1 picks. That is not including Enes Kanter, the No. 3 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft who was supposed to attend Kentucky last season, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
Six top five picks in three years?
Needless to say, that’s impressive.
In addition, Williams and Calipari have outlined how to be successful with what could be considered college all-star teams. Neither coach promotes a system that revolves around a “star” player, surrounded by role players. Each team has a leader, Barnes for UNC and Terrence Jones for Kentucky, but there is no inkling that either player is more valuable than his highly recruited teammates.
In short, it was two incredible performances by two storied college basketball programs.
The same can’t be said for UCLA, formerly known as the greatest college basketball school in the nation.
I’ve called out players before. I’ve said it’s the recruits.
That’s not it.
It’s the recruiting, done by yours truly, Howland.
Am I the only one that feels like Howland’s players aren’t motivated to play for him, case in point, Reeves Nelson?
I don’t think Nelson is a great player, even worth the headache that comes with having him on your team, but I have seen him play motivated. And when he does, he’s effective.
Howland has completely lost him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he transferred at season’s end, if not before.
In Saturday’s loss to Texas, Nelson played 12 minutes. He finished the game scoreless and grabbed only three rebounds.
Howland commented after the game that Nelson was “fatigued” and had a “mental lapse” during the game.
Why is that his fault? You’re the coach!
It’s your staff’s job to keep players in shape and make sure they don’t have mental lapses. Don’t act as if those are solely Nelson’s issues.
Another issue that UCLA seemingly can’t escape is Josh Smith’s weight.
Let me guess…all Smith’s fault?
No, Howland’s fault!
What is up with Howland’s staff? Why can’t Smith lose weight? It’s beyond him at this point, there is something wrong with the system.
Or, just maybe, Smith isn’t motivated to work hard for Howland.
Do you honestly think that Calipari or Williams wouldn’t have Smith in the best shape of his life? Better yet, do you honestly think Smith wouldn’t want to be in shape for those guys?
Howland is simply not a likable coach. He’s defense-oriented, which is never fun for college players, and he blames players for issues that he helped to create, especially with Nelson and Smith.
More players have transferred out of the UCLA program in recent years than I can ever remember.
In fact, when have players ever transferred out of UCLA?
So far this year, in seven games, Howland’s team has one win over a Division I team, Pepperdine. The other victory came against Division II Chaminade.
In five other games, five double-digit losses, yesterday’s by 10 to Texas in front of 6,000 fans.
Think fans aren’t taking notice of UCLA’s declining program?
Over 24,000 fans came out to see UNC play Kentucky.
UNC versus Kentucky draws four times the amount of fans that UCLA versus Texas draws?
Neuheisel’s firing was the first step on the path to redemption.
Now, there is one more step that desperately needs to be made…