No, UK could not compete with an NBA roster


Center Willie Cauley-Stein of the Kentucky Wildcats fights for a rebound during the first half of the game against the Hampton Pirates at KFC Yum! Center on Thursday, March 19, 2015 in Louisville , Ky. Kentucky leads Hampton 41-22 at halftime. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Kyle Arensdorf

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The first two second-round games at the KFC Yum! Center were both upsets, and both final scores were 60-59. No. 3 Iowa State fell to No. 14 UAB first, and then No. 6 SMU suffered an identical fate to UCLA right after.

The third matchup between No. 9 Purdue and No. 8 Cincinnati could have been the third-straight 60-59 finish at the Yum! Center Saturday. But down 57-59, Cincinnati elected for a two-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime.

And when UK finally took the court for tipoff against Hampton just before 10:30 p.m. ET, the non-UK contingent – half of one section in the lower arena – was primed for a third upset on the day.

But a 16 seed has never beaten a one seed for a reason, and UK ran away with the game pretty easily half-way through the first half. It didn’t come without a lackadaisical start from the Cats, however. The Pirates hung in with UK early and were tied 9-9. With 11 minutes to go in the half they were down only seven.

The Cats didn’t take Hampton seriously. If they had, the game would have gotten ugly quickly. But can we use this game to expel once and for all the ludicrous notion that UK could beat an NBA team?

SMU head coach Larry Brown became the latest public figure to pontificate on UK’s chances against the sport’s elite. He even took it a step further. “I think they’d honestly make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference if they were in the NBA,” Brown said at a press conference Wednesday.

Listen, the Cats are great. They’re the best team playing in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s not close. But saying they’d even be able to tread water against NBA competition is an insult to any player on an NBA roster.

And if they were to make the Eastern Conference playoffs, they’d need a record better than seven other NBA teams in the Eastern Conference. The Indiana Pacers are the first team out of the playoff picture in the Conference, with the likes of Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill at the helm.

Do the Cats have anyone to compete with them on a nightly basis, or even a one-game basis for that matter? They don’t. The Philadelphia 76ers – who lost 23 of their first 25 NBA games, causing these comparisons to start in the first place – would toy with the Cats.

And it’s not a knock on UK.

NBA basketball is a grown man’s game. It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. And these players are still just kids.

At least head coach John Calipari is able to keep it all in perspective. As he tweeted in November, “Let me be clear: If we played ANY NBA team, we would get buried. ANY.” Even the worst players in the NBA made an NBA roster because they were dominant at the college level, just as the Cats are.

And just like there’s a reason a 16 has never knocked off a one, there’s a reason the NBA is the NBA.