We're a day late on this one (blame the American judicial system), but here's a round up of 10 thoughts from Monday night's NCAA Men's Basketball Title Game...
1) We said earlier that the NCAA's problems with the "student-athletes" label were not going to go away through the Tourney, and OH LOOK, JOHN CALIPARI WON HIS FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP. Calipari has figured out how best to ignore the "student-athlete" mantra and treat college basketball like a business, and college basketball media spent the week leading up to the game trying to reconcile itself to that fact. It will spend the weeks after trying to justify rewarding Calipari with a trophy, especially as we watch the major player on his team head out to the NBA. Not helping matters? Cal himself saying in his post-game statements that he'll be back on the recruitment circuit by Friday. The beast must be fed.
2) In their effort to reconcile with Calipari's success, some people in college sports media offered some qualified defenses of Calipari. Most of them boiled down to "at least he's honest about it". But he's not, not really; sure, he's ignoring the NCAA's edict that there are no "players", only "student-athletes", and sure, he lives peacefully alongside the "one and done" rule. But he still talks about how he's doing it all for the players, how they come first, how even the "one and done" rule is really for them. If you believe that Cal is really the guy who best understands that college basketball is a business- and I think that's a very convincing statement- then all of those statements are necessarily distortions.
3) Moreover, Calipari is the guy who understands the system the best, but he's still just working through the system. If he weren't around, it'd just be someone else. It's not like Pitino or Williams or Self are encouraging their players to go for a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering.
4) Nonetheless, this win is some vindication for Calipari. Note that Kentucky's biggest star, Anthony Davis, only had one field goal, and the team still scored 67 points. That means this wasn't just the triumph of a couple talented players, this was the triumph of an entire system of running a college basketball team. That all starts with Calipari. So you can't separate this from his moral...compromises. Or the NCAA's, for that matter.
5) Speaking of Davis. The guy only had 1 field goal, but 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 blocks, and 3 steals. That's domination. I'm not saying Davis shouldn't finish his education. I'm just saying that if he says he's ready for the NBA, I'm not sure I'm in a position to second guess him. And I rather doubt that David Stern or the NCAA (who have vested interests in the decision) are, either.
6) Still, this game helps you to understand why the NCAA gets to ignore these controversies so often. I mean, this wasn't even a good game, and I was hoping for controversy (it makes for easier blog posts) and I still got sucked into it for minutes at a time. There is just a sheer joy in watching skilled athletes putting it all on the line for the top honor in their sport. It's almost hypnotic. It's entirely wonderful.
7) A few notes on the presentation: first, I kinda liked The Frey, or at least give them credit for trying something different. We shouldn't be afraid to experiment with the Star Spangled Banner a little.
8) Is it just me, or are the student sections at these things shrinking? Looks like each school got a little area roped off just off of the floor, while the closest seats were reserved for...well, I don't know who those people were, but they didn't look like students. Similarly, would you have known this game took place in New Orleans at all if it weren't for the logos on the floor? Looks like all the Cajuns were pushed up to the 300 level.
9) CBS interviewed Obama at half time, and he spent most of it talking about women in sports. He's also recently talked up Title IX, so this is clearly something he's spent some time thinking about. I'm going to do the same thing, and hopefully have a post later.
10) There was a lot of talk last week about whether or not the Wildcats could beat the NBA's Washington Wizards. I can't really do a talent breakdown or go position by position, but I'll tell you this: the Wildcats get 11 more second each possession to find the rim, and get to take 3 point shots from 3 feet closer. That is a tremendous change in rules, and it probably makes any direct comparison very tenuous (it's also the reason the NBA game seems more "selfish"- you can set up more elaborate passing plays when you have more than half a minute to get a shot off).
And since I'm feeling generous, here's an eleventh thought- so, we're just going to invite Charles Barkley to every sporting event from now on, right?