Kentucky’s latest one-and-dones – done one game from the Final Four

De’Aaron Fox after what was surely his final collegiate game. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

MEMPHIS — We know that it’s possible to win an NCAA title with one-and-dones. Kentucky did it in 2012 (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague). Duke did it in 2015 (Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones). These are facts. So, too, is this:

No matter how gifted your Ones are, it’s not easy to win a national championship with one-and-dones.

We’ve just seen as much. The heralded Duke freshmen – meaning Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles; Marques Bolden was no factor – were gone in Round 2, eliminated by a South Carolina team that lost six of its nine games heading into the Big Dance. The UCLA rookies – Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf – were gone in the Sweet 16, beaten by Kentucky, which got 62 of its 86 points from its freshmen. And now the Wildcats are themselves gone, beaten by a North Carolina team that Had Been There Before.

Credit Kentucky for giving itself a chance in a game where, as matters unfolded, it should have had none. Credit the Tar Heels for turning a punch to the figurative gut – Malik Monk’s tying trey with nine seconds remaining after Justin Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 – into the regional-winning basket. They knew what to do, what they’d been coached to do, and they did it.

Afterward Kentucky coach John Calipari bemoaned his team’s late failures against Carolina’s zone, which is something Carolina rarely uses. “Five minutes to go, I told the staff in the huddle, they’re going to go zone,” he said. “Some guys argued. I said, ‘They’re going to go zone.’ And we did not quite execute. We weren’t in the spots we were supposed to be in, and it kind of started from there.

Then: “I told (his players) they’ve got to self-reflect because we made some plays, some individuals made some plays down the stretch, like, ‘What were you thinking?’ But … young kids.”

Well, yeah. Six empty possessions saw Kentucky plummet from five points ahead to seven behind, and when finally Monk did the Monk riff – two outrageous treys in 30 seconds – they only forged a tie. When Theo Pinson fled downcourt after the second Monk bucket, when Luke Maye took Pinson’s pass and rose to shoot from 18 feet away, the Heels were operating knowing the worst they could do was go to overtime.

The great Kentucky frosh – Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo – had had a difficult night. Each had two fouls before halftime. They finished with 38 aggregate points, nine coming in the last minute. The Carolina veterans – and Carolina is essentially the same crew that lost the national championship game to Villanova on an eerily similar transition basket – outdid Cal’s one-and-surely-dones. You know … young kids.

On Saturday, Calipari spoke of that 2012 title: “It took off all the negative stuff, and then when another program (meaning Duke) did it, it became nonexistent. So now we can worry about the kids instead of worrying about what everybody is saying.”

Before Kentucky broke through five years ago, the widespread belief was that you couldn’t win a championship with freshmen. (Michigan’s Fab Five hadn’t quite done it, had they?) The Wildcats and then the Blue Devils put the lie to that, but it’s worth noting that neither of those programs – the heaviest traffickers in one-and-dones – have won since. And what folks missed about that Kentucky team was the presence of sixth man Darius Miller and sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. They weren’t the biggest names, but they were essential names.

Should we be shocked that teenagers who were playing in high school state tournaments a year ago – and who’ll be in the NBA next spring – couldn’t find a decent shot against a zone defense with a Final Four berth on the line? We know that freshmen can and have won it all. What we forget is that almost everything has to go right for that to happen. Kentucky had six dry possessions at the worst possible time. You know … young kids.

Further reading: Maye in March – North Carolina stuns Kentucky at the frantic end.

Reader Comments 0

16 comments
OedipusTax
OedipusTax

What a bunch of losing sour puss whining babies comment here. I hope they're all wearing diapers and have mommy around to wipe their noses.

Dooner46
Dooner46

One thing for sure UNC needs to have a couple titles taken from them. But Ole Roy never knew anything about anything. And all Tech athletes are all brain surgeons.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

Still waiting for the NCAA hammer to come down on UNC.  Still waiting.

TruthSpeaketh
TruthSpeaketh

I'd be willing to bet not one of the UK Playas have seen the inside of a class room! So glad they lost. Coach Calimari is about as sleazy as they come!

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

Wow Mark!  Reading this article you'd think Kentucky didn't make the tournament at all like Georgia usually doesn't.  Who according to you does it's program the right way! Blah!  The rest of the SEC thanks Georgia for extending Fox!  And so USC makes the final 4 and Georgia doesn't even make the dance.  What are you vaping today Mark?  

tipstotips
tipstotips

The NCAA infractions committee sure moves slow. The Tarheels should already be on probation.

AdmiralObvious53
AdmiralObvious53

@tipstotips If the worst happens and they win it all hopefully the gutless NCAA will have to strip them of their title!

TOJacket
TOJacket

Student Athletes rule!!!!

Mulk
Mulk

When these "young kids" plays lights out, Calipari looks and acts like a genius. But, when they don't quite get the job done, he wants to point to youth as a possible reason for not being prepared for a zone defense. Somebody needs to give "ole Roy' some credit for calling for the zone and designing a plan that virtually shut down Monk and Fox for most of the game. 


And, declining to call a time out in the last 9 seconds was vintage Roy and it worked regardless if the guy makes the shot or not.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Mulk

YEAH--and Mark didn't say he wasn't good!

;-)

North Georgia
North Georgia

For the most part, they are all thugs.  If you got talented thugs, the school gets a trophy.


Some schools get the better thugs due to basketball tradition.  It is just entertainment and an industry...nothing more.


News flash, GT truly believes their thugs will work for NASA one day.  GT has an easy track for their players so they can play and pass.  Trust me, i had family that tutored them...not a bright bunch as a whole.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

Only took you 3 hours to catch that one, TOJ--but you still beat me to it. Aarrgghh!!

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

So "fake classes U" advances.


KY vs UNCheat, the poster child game for everything that is wrong with college round ball these days.