Even on the day of college basketball’s huge opening event, the trolls are apparently attracted to the big scene like moths to a flickering light bulb on your front porch. In case you had no doubt. college basketball is out and so are the trolls. Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal takes trolling to a new level, suggesting that tonight’s game is a battle of everything is that is good and virtuous in college basketball versus Kentucky, the evil empire.
Michigan State’s date with Kentucky on Tuesday in Chicago is more than simply No. 1 vs. No. 2 in an early season showcase.
It is a clash of what’s right and wrong with college basketball, a contrast of both ethics and style, a battle between excess and old-school — MSU on the more virtuous end of all of it, even if a tad envious of its villainous foe.
Kentucky alone is not evil. Nor is its infamous coach, John Calipari.
They’re opportunists. An old-money program, with a slick and talented coach, playing by a rule that makes a mockery of college basketball.
One-and-done, folks call it. It’s not even an NCAA bylaw. It’s an NBA rule, stating players are not eligible for its draft until they’re a year removed from high school.
It’s immoral, self-serving — enacted only to protect the league from itself — and, if ever challenged, probably illegal.
To be honest, I would like to think that Couch’s article is tongue in cheek and written partly in satire, but Couch seems to genuinely not get or understand Calipari at all.
And Calipari’s whining and reputation make it worse. This week, the man who’s had two of his Final Four runs — at UMass and Memphis, respectively — vacated for NCAA violations, openly complained that an early season matchup against a seasoned club such as MSU was unfair. In essence, his kids don’t stay four years, so they’re too young to be ready.
Even as a joke — it’s not clear it was — it’s insulting to other coaches and programs.
Despite what the trolls say, I still like Tom Izzo a good bit and if I HAVE to root for a Big Ten team, it would be Sparty. Izzo and Cal are actually good friends. Here is a bit of what Tom Izzo had to say about the big time matchup with Kentucky. As far as Izzo is concerned, it’s a “win win” situation.
“There can’t be a negative,” Izzo said, “at least for me … whether you lose big or you win big.”
The No. 1 Wildcats (2-0) and No. 2 Spartans (1-0) will meet in the first of two huge games in the Champions Classic on Tuesday at Chicago’s United Center (7:30 p.m., ESPN). No. 4 Duke and No. 5 Kansas meet in the second game of the event, which is wrapping up its third year and will renew for another three starting next season.
“I think this whole week is an advantage to our program,” Izzo said, “that we’re in games like this, in a position like this.”
This is the first meeting of a No. 1 and No. 2 team since a 2008 game beween No. 1 Memphis and No. 2 Tennessee. MSU was last ranked No. 1 early in the 2000-01 season.
Izzo said the keys will be transition defense for both teams, rebounding and how closely the game is called — though he said both teams could be hurt if hand checks are called on the perimeter, taking key players out of the game.
Kentucky is led by freshman forward Julius Randle, who is averaging 22.5 points per game. Izzo said he has a “Chris Webber body” but handles the ball often.
“We haven’t seen anyone like that,” Izzo said of Randle.
Tom Izzo is not the only one that has been impressed with Kentucky big man Julius Randle. ESPN’s Chad Ford says that Randle is the “most NBA ready” player and some some huge praise for the UK freshman.
“Julius Randle has just been a beast. Two double-doubles. Killing everyone. He’s the most NBA ready of the prospects. Wiggins may have a little higher ceiling, but Randle is ready right now. I think he’d better than any rookie in the NBA right now.”
The analyst also said it was “too early to tell” whether he’d draft Randle over Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who remains No. 1 on his draft board for 2014.
Randle is averaging 22.5 points and 15.0 rebounds after his first two games as a Wildcat.