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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, November 26, 2022

Column: No, Kentucky would not beat the Sixers

Like many college basketball fans, I tuned into the Champions Classic, watched Kentucky destroy Kansas 74-40 and came away with one very strong conclusion: Kentucky is college basketball’s Death Star this year. They are literally and figuratively the biggest team in the country and it’s going to take perfect execution from something very specific to take them down (I’m thinking outside shooting from stretch forwards).

Unfortunately, some who watched that game came away with an even stronger conclusion: Kentucky is better than some NBA teams. This isn’t just Eric Bledsoe substituting school pride for rational thought; the majority of ESPN’s Sportsnation poll said the Wildcats would beat the Philadelphia 76ers in a 7-game series.

Come on, guys.

I feel like we go through this with every season in football or basketball, last example being “Could Alabama beat the Raiders/Jaguars?” Now, we have “Could Kentucky beat the Sixers?” Granted, this is about as extreme of an example as we’re going to see in this exercise, given the Wildcats’ draftgasm of a 2-deep at every position on the court and the Sixers attempting to pull off the biggest tank job in modern sports history.

But this still needs be said, then repeated, then recorded and blasted through a megaphone on a national bus tour beginning and ending in Lexington: Kentucky would last less than ten minutes against the Sixers.

In college the Wildcats are a Death Star. In the NBA, they’d be a crippled Ewok.

The NBA is merciless. Pretty much every big man is at least 6’10” with a Condorian wingspan and pretty much every guard has a vertical jump that would let them dunk if they were the size of Betty White. Because of this, the best of college players can crash and burn once they run into the pros’ wall of athleticism and skill.

Why don’t we just take a look at the Sixers’ active roster. We all know Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel were stars in college and could very likely be stars in the pros. Most know about those two. Let’s look at the stats of every Sixer under 25 in their last year at college.

  • Brandon Davies at BYU, 17.7 PPG, .522 FG%, 8.0 RPG
  • Michael Carter-Williams at Syracuse, 11.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 5.0 RPG
  • Nerlens Noel at Kentucky, 10.5 PPG, .590 FG%, 9.5 RPG, 4.4 BPG
  • Tony Wroten at Washington, 16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG
  • JaKarr Sampson at St. Johns, 12.8 PPG, .495 FG%, 6.1 RPG
  • K.J. McDaniels at Clemson, 17.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG
  • Joel Embiid at Kansas, 19.4 PPG, .626 FG%, 14.0 RPG, 4.5 BPG
  • Drew Gordon at New Mexico, 13.7 PPG, .542 FG%, 11.1 RPG
  • Hollis Thompson at Georgetown, 12.8 PPG, .430 3P%, 5.5 RPG
  • Henry Sims at Georgetown, 11.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG
  • Jerami Grant at Syracuse, 12.1 PPG, .496 FG%, 6.8 RPG
  • Robert Covington at Tennessee State, 17.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.2 SPG

Every member of the Sixers who has played in college in the last five years played at least at an all-conference level. Their bodies have also continued to develop and have been practicing against superior competition. But no, let’s act like Kentucky recruiting the most athletic high-schoolers in the country means they can beat these guys.

It doesn’t matter how good a college team can look amongst its peers, even the worst pro team will be better because it is in effect a college all-star team, but with better coaching and more time to devote to basketball now that the players don't have to go to class. This isn’t a debate. If you think it is, here’s the link you should be looking for.

It’s not even like Kentucky is the guaranteed title winner. Remember what happened last year? Kentucky’s regular season was disastrous. If it weren’t for some Triple-A hindsight bias brought on by reaching the NCAA Finals on the backs of several last-second shots, we’re spending this preseason talking about how it's is a bounceback year for the Wildcats.

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56 hours before it blew the doors off Kansas, Kentucky was losing 38-33 at home to Buffalo. Tuesday night Kentucky was unstoppable. Sunday, they were mortal.

Is Kentucky the best team in the country? Yes. But elite teams can still lose and, oh yeah, it’s still November. Let’s not go insane over a team just because of one extremely impressive night.

(Sees “Could Kentucky go undefeated?” headline.)

God damn it.

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