Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 2:10 PM
The fine folks at Kentucky sold their souls to the devil to win an eighth NCAA basketball championship and are just two games away from knowing if it paid off but a few years away from finding out if it was worth it. Kentucky has embraced its role as a one-and-done NBA farm club and that means for the first time in college basketball history the NCAA Tournament Final Four is made up of just three college teams plus a professional club.
Kentucky (36-2), an admitted NBA prep school, meets Louisville (30-9), a college team, in the first semifinal game Saturday while two additional college teams-Ohio State (31-7) and Kansas (31-6)-meet in the second game. Kentucky is an 8 ½-point favorite and Ohio State a -2.5-point choice.
It may seem harsh to say modern day Wildcats faithful have sold their soul to the devil, considering Kentucky was the first school ever given the death penalty in any sport by the NCAA for the 1951 basketball point-shaving scandal that involved several players. That was more than 60 years ago and the school has worked hard to walk the straight and narrow, and has with a glitch or two.
Kentucky basketball fans are the most rabid in the world, all the result of a proud blood line that began in 1930 when a nasal-twanged high school coach from Halstead, KS, via Freeport High School in Freeport, IL, arrived in Lexington to take over the program. Adolph Rupp's reign would last until he was forced at the age of 70 to retire 42 years later in 1970.
Adolph Frederick Rupp, the Baron of the Bluegrass, was truly basketball royalty. He was a reserve on outstanding Kansas teams in the early 1920s, playing for the legendary Forrest "Phog" Allen who in turn was assisted by his former coach James Naismith who invented basketball. Bluebloods, all of them.
When Rupp retired, he had an 876-190 (82.2%) record at Kentucky and in his 41 seasons had:
Coached the Wildcats to four NCAA championships.
Coached the Wildcats to six Final Fours.
Coached the Wildcats to 27 SEC regular season championships.
Coached the Wildcats to 13 SEC Tournament championships.
Coached 32 All-Americans.
Coached 52 All-Southeastern Conference players.
Coached 44 future NBA draft picks.
Coached two National Players of the Year.
Coached seven Olympic gold medalists.
Coached four members of the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Additionally, he was a four-time National Coach of the Year and a seven-time SEC Coach of the Year, and was voted into seven different basketball halls of fame.
And he did it with players who came to Kentucky to be student-athletes for four years.
Three Who Followed Also Won NCAA Title
It is an absolute understatement to say Rupp was a tough act to follow. Kentucky fans were used to winning and since Rupp left they have gone through seven coaches, three of which-Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith-won national championships the right way. Hall was eventually forced out because he was not Rupp, Pitino left and now coaches at Louisville and Smith has his Minnesota Golden Gophers in the NIT championship game.
Pitino and Smith took their talents elsewhere when they faced the realization that whatever they did was short of expectations. Too much was never enough in Lexington.
Now enter John Calipari who was hired at a salary of $4,565,200 per year, plus bonuses, to win an eighth national championship. Calipari is a good basketball coach who has a record of building winners and then moving on when the NCAA rules committee catches up with him. He has managed to avoid blame for the problems he caused at Massachusetts and Memphis, as a fall guy always stepped forward to take the blame.
The schools were penalized and Calipari always had them in his rear-view mirror.
Kentucky knew what it was getting when they hired him and if history is any prediction of the future, the Wildcats will one day watch Calipari leave town in a cloud of dust.
Calipari Is An Embarrassment
The media makes much of the fact Calipari lands so much blue-chip talent for each of his stops but never seem to understand how he does. For openers, please understand Calipari tells his recruits, always the cream of the crop coming out of high school, he will prepare them for the NBA.
He has benefited from an NCAA/NBA rule that puts a modest restriction on the age a player much reach before he is eligible for the NBA. The rule was put in to stop players from heading to the NBA right out of high school and means most of the blue-chippers have to spend a year at some college.
Calipari makes no pretense that he is not recruiting student-athletes but tells them he will make them better NBA candidates after a year of playing for him at Kentucky. In the process the school has become a one-and-done university.
Calipari makes a point to make certain everyone knows he is not breaking rules in prepping players for a year and then sending them on their way to the pros-and he is right. If he had a conscience, he would at least make some pretense of being a college coach but he does not care.
It also means players have to go to class for just the first semester of school, since they have to make the grades to remain eligible. It also means they don't have to do more than enroll in classes for the second semester. The basketball season is over before second semester grades are out and that means they don't have to attend a single class.
Calipari and the Kentucky faithful have made the decision to go this route and we will know in a few days whether it delivered a national championship, but it is going to be a few years before the school and its fans know if it was worth it.
Connecticut, last year's national basketball champion, went down the same path Kentucky is on and has been banned from playing in the NCAA Tournament next season because it failed to meet required graduation rates. It will take Kentucky two or three years to reach that point but it will get there.
And Calipari will be on his way to the next basketball win-at-any-cost whorehouse to play his game all over again.
If this column sounds a bit personal, it is. I lived in Lexington for several years, was involved in Kentucky athletics and knew Rupp personally. It is quite sad to see the program he built placed in the hands of such a shyster and for the fans to buy in.
Tonight's Betting Menu
50-Unit TV Play On College Insider Title Game
Mercer vs. Utah State
I took down the money again last night with a 50-unit play on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1) Nit semifinal overtime win over Washington, 68-67, and am coming right back tonight with a 50-unit play on the College Insider Tournament championship game that finds Mercer (26-11) at Utah State (21-15). The betting line on is rock-hard but my figures say the winner will be the team capable of doing one thing (my secret). Win this game for just $50, charged to your major credit card. The game will be televised national on the Fox College Sports Network and will begin at 9:05 P.M. Eastern Time.
15-Unit NBA Showdown Game Tops 2nd Straight 2-0 Night
My Best Bets Club took down the money against last night, going 2-0 in winning a 15-unit play on the Oklahoma City Thunder (-5) with their 109-95 victory at Portland and taking down the cash with a 5-unit win with the Milwaukee Bucks (-2) with their 108-101 decision over Atlanta. It' right back tonight with more of the same-a 15-unit showdown play, plus another 5-unit best bet. I am again confident I will take down the money in both of games and you can win them for just $15, charged to your major credit card.
50-Unit NBA 2-Team Parlay Set To Break Bank Tonight
There are 10 NBA games scheduled tonight and two of them have all the ingredients that should permit us to win another 50-unit parlay-20 units on each winner and a 10-unit parlay of those winners at odds of 13-5. My figures say the numbers are quite soft on the two teams and that each should get it done with plenty of points to spare. Win this 50-unit 2-team parlay for just $25, charged to your major credit card.
All games also available toll free at 1-800-755-2255.