Clark: Kentucky victory brings forgettable college basketball season to an end

I stationed myself in front of the television and prepared to watch one last blowout of the college basketball season Monday night.

The top-ranked and rightfully favored Wildcats of Kentucky@@ were primed and ready to cross their final victim off the 2011-12 schedule and return to Lexington with the program’s first national championship trophy in 14 years.@@[email protected]@

As you all know by now, No. 1 Kentucky did just that against a gritty bunch from Kansas, accomplishing what everyone across the country had predicted back in November. It was Kentucky 67, Kansas 59, in a game that never felt as close as the final score indicated.

Freshman sensation Anthony Davis@@[email protected]@ put the finishing touches on one of the most dominant rookie campaigns college basketball has ever seen. Head coach John Calipari@@[email protected]@ secured the NCAA title that painfully escaped his Memphis team back in 2008.@@[email protected]@ And if you kept up on the Twitter-sphere in the hours that followed, you already understand just how crazy Big Blue Nation became.@@[email protected]@

There was no stunning upset here, no second-half collapse by the younger team. Rather, the far-and-away better team accomplished exactly what they’d set out to do, and they did it with three freshmen and two sophomores leading the way for 40 straight games.

Davis, Doron Lamb,@@[email protected]@ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist,@@[email protected]@ Marquis Teague@@[email protected]@ and Kyle Wiltjer@@[email protected]@ — five of the six freshmen on Kentucky’s roster@@[email protected]@ — played in all 40 games for the Wildcats,@@[email protected]@ and all but Wiltjer averaged more than 31 minutes per night.@@[email protected]@ By comparison, only seniors Devoe Joseph, Garrett Sim and junior E.J. Singler@@[email protected]@ averaged more than 21 minutes for the Ducks this winter.@@[email protected]@

Make no mistake, I’m not comparing the two programs or their players. I think we can all agree it would be apples and oranges after the star-studded NBA talent that Calipari corralled last offseason. He and his staff will have to restock the shelves in the coming months as Kentucky’s top six players prepare to enter the NBA Draft in June.@@[email protected]@

You have to figure Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist to be surefire first-rounders, and you never know who will take a chance on Portland’s own Terrence Jones later in the round. Darius Miller@@[email protected]@ will enter, too, leaving Kentucky with Wiltjer (5.0 points per game)@@[email protected]@ as the program’s leading returning scorer heading into the offseason.@@see [email protected]@ The last five players that saw action for the Wildcats this season combined for 15.2 minutes and 2.1 points per contest.@@see [email protected]@

Needless to say, there’s going to be a massive rebuilding process for the winningest program in the history of college basketball. This is where I continue to wonder: How can Calipari and the Kentucky program keep this up annually?

I’m not here to get into the intricacies of the one-and-done rule and the effect it’s had on the overall quality of college basketball in recent years. I, like most of you, I assume, would welcome high school-graduated seniors straight into the NBA. As long as they’re physically and, hopefully, mentally ready.

The topic was discussed at length throughout the week, and I generally have to agree that the one-year rule isn’t helping anybody. As NCAA analyst Jay Bilas@@ (always keepin’ it trill) pointed out, high-caliber players are essentially exposed to one term of college courses in the fall, devoted solely to basketball for five months and begin preparing for the NBA in the spring. Meanwhile, the NCAA turns an insane profit off its monthlong March Madness television deals.

People tuned in all year to see the best players on the court, and this year, Kentucky, more often than not, had all five. I personally relished the opportunity to watch Davis swat away countless shot attempts and Kidd-Gilchrist transform into the player he was projected to be coming out high school.

Kentucky aside, can we agree it was yet another less-than-memorable college basketball season?@@er…@@ Syracuse always seemed to find a way back into the negative spotlight, Xavier and Cincinnati brawled while North Carolina and Michigan State were on a boat.

Yes, these last two weeks helped me stomach the whole thing for another year. But now, it’s time for the grown man’s game — Miami vs. Oklahoma City, LeBron vs. Durant — who ya takin’?

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Lucas Clark

Lucas Clark