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Writer, Izzo Says Race An Issue With Anti-UK Backlash; Both Are Wrong

Yesterday, William Rhoden of The New York Times examined the “outrage” that has followed Kentucky’s winning of the national championship in basketball with a team featuring several one-and-doners.  Personally, while I have seen and heard debate about whether or not the one-and-done system is good for college basketball, the term “outrage” seems a bit strong to me.  But Rhoden took things much further than that word:

“If the core of the Kentucky team had been made up of white players with phenomenal athleticism and acumen at every position — operating in the context of a largely black sport — we would not be hearing the complaining.  Their success would not be seen as a debasement.  The team would be celebrated and feted — as Butler was, as Gonzaga used to be.”

Since this is a family site, let me just call “poppycock” on that one (but a stronger word is bouncing around my skull).

This writer doesn’t deny the existence of racism in the United States today.  It’s real.  Sadly it will always be real.  This nation will never, ever completely wash away the stain of its great original sin — slavery.

Some blacks will always mistrust whites and see persecution even where none exists.  Some whites will always mistrust blacks and claim America to be racism-free or — even more ridiculously — racist against the white men of our nation.

But the one-and-done issue has absolutely zip to do with race.  The one-and-done rule is a bad rule.  Period.  So says NBA commissioner David Stern.  So says the man who’s prospered the most by it — Kentucky’s very own coach, John Calipari, who said last week he’d like to see it changed.

Butler and Gonzaga are ridiculous examples for Rhoden to use in his argument.  Those schools weren’t applauded because they had more caucasians on their rosters.  They were cheered because they are tiny schools that most people never hear of outside the month of March.  Gonzaga has an enrollment of just 4,700 undergraduate students.  Butler — in whose gym the film “Hoosiers” was shot — has an undergraduate population of only 4,000.  Butler and Gonzaga were the Davids trying to take down the Goliaths of the hoops world.

But more importantly — and this renders Rhoden’s comparison totally moot — Butler and Gonzaga didn’t build their programs with three consecutive classes of one-and-done athletes.  He’s comparing apples to oranges.  Lumping Butler and Gonzaga into a comparison with Kentucky is absurd.  And Rhoden — a brilliant writer — must know that.

Unfortunately, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo went along with Rhoden’s black/white nonsense.  When asked “if he thought a highly talented, highly athletic team of white players would be viewed differently,” Izzo said:


“I want to answer that as honestly as I can.  I think it would be different.  I hate to say that.  It’s sad for me to say, but it’s probably the truth.”

That’s hardly a definitive answer.

If there is outrage over Kentucky’s winning of the national title — and again, I’ve seen nothing I would call “outrage” against UK — it likely has more to do with these two facts:

1.  Kentucky is the winningest program in college basketball history.  Many fans don’t like dynasties.

2.  Calipari is about as popular outside the Bluegrass State as Hepatitis-C.  There aren’t many college basketball fans who root for Coach Cal, fair or not.

The system is the issue here, not the color of Kentucky’s players’ skin.

A year ago, Connecticut won the NCAA Tournament.  Their biggest star was Kemba Walker who left school following his junior year and entered the NBA draft.  Their other stars last year were freshmen Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Roscoe Smith and sophomore Alex Oriakhi.  All were black, but all except Walker returned to school.  Do you remember outrage over UConn’s title?  Neither do I.

Black athletes winning and then leaving early is an issue.  Black athletes winning and then staying in school is not an issue.  Clearly, the trouble is the leaving early part, not the black athletes part.

The one-and-done system is bad for basketball.  Race has nothing to do with it.  Shame on Rhoden for trying to marry the two.

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Kentucky vs. Connecticut: A Brief Look At The Game

Kentucky
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Who will guard Brandon Knight tonight?  He could foul Kemba Walker out.

Eugene Tanner – AP

Who will guard Brandon Knight tonight? He could foul Kemba Walker out.

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I’m getting ready to head to Las Vegas for Turkey Day, and as a result, I haven’t been able to spend any time on the blog today.  But we need a quick preview of this game, although it will not be the full-blown affair we normally do.

How UConn Got Here

In the first game of the Maui Classic, the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Wichita St. Shockers by four points.  The Shockers out-shot the Huskies 56%-47% (eFG), but they turned the ball over more and allowed UConn an amazing 81% Free Throw Rate%.  That means for every ten shots the Huskies put up, they shot eight free throws.  UConn shot 73% from the line, and that was really where they were able to win the game.  Kemba Walker put up 31 points and shot a ridiculous 93% from the line, making 14 of 15 attempts.

Last night, the Huskies took on the #2 ranked Michigan St. Spartans.  This game looks much more normal, with the Huskies slightly outshooting the Spartans.  Once again, FTR% was a factor at 39-35%, but UConn shot them relatively poorly.  In the end, it was the Spartans’ turnovers that doomed them.

UConn Personnel


Connecticut Huskies Basketball Roster

# Pos./Start? Comments W H College
Kyle Bailey 55 G Sat out last season 170 6-3 junior
Donnell Beverly 2 G Returning – minor reserve last year 190 6-4 senior
Michael Bradley 25 C New 235 6-10 freshman
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel 4 F Returning – reserve last year 210 6-7 sophomore
Niels Giffey 5 G/Y New 210 6-7 freshman
Jeremy Lamb 3 G/Y New 185 6-5 freshman
Shabazz Napier 13 G New 170 6-0 freshman
Charles Okwandu 35 C Returning – minor reserve last year 255 7-0 senior
Tyler Olander 10 F New 225 6-9 freshman
Alex Oriakhi 34 F/Y Returning major reserve 240 6-9 sophomore
Roscoe Smith 22 G New 205 6-8 freshman
Kemba Walker 15 G/Y Returning starter, prime-time player 172 6-1 junior

As you can see, UConn is playing a four-guard starting lineup this year, although Niles Giffey could accurately be described as a small forward rather than a guard.  UConn is very much like Kentucky in that they had to replace a large number of players from last year’s team, and start two freshmen.

Prime time performers:  Kemba Walker (scoring, assists), Alex Oriakhi (rebounds, blocks), Roscoe Smith (3-point shooting, rebounding).

Kentucky vs. UConn — The Four Factors

 

As you can see by looking at the graph above, UConn has been a better offensive rebounding team and Kentucky the better shooting team.  Both teams take good care of the ball, and both teams get to the line a lot.  Ultimately, this game looks close in the stats, and the line is UK -5.5.

Overall Analysis

Like the Washington game, this game is all about defense, and is going to be primarily a test of wills between Kemba Walker and DeAndre Liggins.  If Liggins can keep Walker under around 20 points and everyone else plays their normal game, UConn is in tough.  Walker represents 38% of UConn’s scoring, and only one other player is averaging double-digits.

UConn can also win this game by holding Kentucky to under 40% FG shooting, or if UK continues to struggle from the free throw line.  Execution is important for this young Wildcat team, and if they execute the offense and surround Walker or force him to get in foul trouble, Kentucky should be able to win.

UConn plays a lot of players, and likes to run up and down the floor like UK does.  I am a bit concerned about the Wildcats having played such a tough, fast, physical game last night, because they will largely need to duplicate that effort tonight.  But UConn also played a tough, physical game against Michigan St., so I suppose that is a wash.

The big question is, who will guard Brandon Knight?  Whoever it is will likely wind up in foul trouble, and Walker will likely be forced to guard Liggins — not exactly a bargain either, given the size difference.

Go, ‘Cats


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How good is UConn’s Kemba Walker?

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(AP photo/Eugene Tanner)

(AP photo/Eugene Tanner)

Connecticut’s Kemba Walker has taken the Maui Invitational by storm, scoring a combined 61 points in wins over Wichita State and then No. 2 Michigan State.

Walker’s Huskies meet Kentucky in the Maui finals tonight at 10 on ESPN.

In the two games, Walker has made 18 of 35 shots from the floor, including five of 15 three-pointers. He has made 20 of 22 from the foul line. He scored 31 against Wichita, and 30 against the Spartans.

Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant:

Then Walker answered with his fadeaway and UConn had the lead for good. ”We had Kemba Walker,” Calhoun said. “And Tom didn’t.” And Walker had help. Giffey grabbed the rebound of Walker’s missed free throw seconds before Walker hit his decisive shot. Napier hit the three at the end of the half, was disruptive defensively and handled the ball, which freed Walker.

Chad Ford of espn.com writes:

After scoring 29 in the second half against a good Wichita State team on Monday, Walker has now scored 59 points in the past three halves. Remarkable. Walker scored from everywhere in this one. He hit four 3-pointers, drove to the basket at will and was relentless in pushing the ball on the break. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo threw a number of different defenders at Walker. No one, but Walker himself, could slow him down.

Jason King of Yahoo Sports:

Connecticut guard Kemba Walker played the first two years of his college basketball career with a constant smirk. He demanded the ball, taunted his opponents and talked trash whether he was making shots or missing them. Finally, as a junior, Walker is backing it up. The 2010-11 season is only two weeks old, yet after only four games, Walker has become a national story.

Andy Katz of espn.com:

Kemba Walker wasn’t ready to assume the role a year ago. He didn’t want the job of leader. And he wasn’t asked to take it, either. But Connecticut could have used his personality on a team that never seemed to find its footing. The Huskies were erratic throughout the season, knocking off Texas, West Virginia and Villanova and yet stumbling to subpar teams like Michigan and Providence and never grasping the urgency of the moment. UConn’s season ended in the second round of the NIT.

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