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Kentucky is too good, and everything else we learned from ESPN’s College Basketball Tip-Off Marathon

Clay Jackson/cjackson@amnews.com

Photo courtesy: Clay Jackson Photography (http://www.claysdaze.com/)

Now that RoundballDaily.com founder and creator Kels Dayton has a day job (check out WTNH-TV’s Sportzedge.com to see what he’s been up to), he doesn’t get a chance to sit in the home court/office, pouring over hours of college basketball tape like a cross between Dick Vitale and Ron Jaworski, dissecting the ins and outs of Manhattan College’s press defense.

But, he did watch as much of the 24-hour college hoops tip-off marathon as was physically possible on Tuesday (he’s now in the fetal position in the channel 8 newsroom), and shares his thoughts as only he could on this fine basketball website. Enjoy.

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What we learned from ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon:

This season isn’t going to be fun if you hate Kentucky.

The Wildcats' front line, which includes Johnson (44) and Willie Cauley-Stein (15), is so deep it's not even fair. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Wildcats’ front line, which includes Johnson (44) and Willie Cauley-Stein (15), is so deep it’s not even fair. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Wildcats are ridiculously deep, ridiculously talented, and quite honestly, I’m not sure how in the world John Calipari convinced all those McDonald’s All-Americans to play together on one team. It’s like he’s the only coach who’s ever gotten a player drafted before.

Calipari has so much talent that he’s got to play his guys in “platoons,” like an eighth-grade basketball coach trying to get everybody in. When Dakari Johnson (11 points in 20 minutes Tuesday) comes off the bench, that’s scary. When Marcus Lee is a role player, well…there’s nothing even left to say.

Kentucky made KANSAS, the No. 5 team in the country and a squad with plenty of highly-rated recruits and McDonald’s All-Americans itself (including top recruit Cliff Alexander), look like a Division II team in their 72-40 destruction of the Jayhawks Tuesday. The Wildcats were three inches taller and 20 pounds of muscle heavier than KU at every position. They might as well have been playing Pittsburg State.

The wave of Wildcats completely exhausted the Jayhawks, who shot an abysmal 11-of-56 from the field (19.6%) and 3-of-15 from the three-point line. KU scored just 12–TWELVE!–points in the second half, and were hounded, harassed, and humiliated by Kentucky’s seemingly endless wave of 6-10 studs coming in off the bench. Kansas looked about as comfortable on offense as I am with this Novembeard I got going on right now.

The Jayhawks pulled down more offensive rebounds than Kentucky (20-15), but that’s only because they missed so many shots. The Wildcats scored 19 second-chance points, the most Kansas has surrendered in any game since the beginning of last season.

The Harrison twins have that confident look in their eye. (USA Today Photo)

The Harrison twins have that confident look in their eye. (USA Today Photo)

But it wasn’t just Kentucky’s length, depth and defensive capability that did in the Jayhawks. Guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison played like two of the best floor generals in the country. They’re only sophomores, but after carrying Kentucky on last spring’s championship game run, the Harrisons look like cagey veterans out on the floor. Both of them walk around with that obnoxious, Dwyane Wade, Derek Jeter-level confidence. (Not that Jeets was obnoxious).

You know the kind of swagger that allows for stars to have complete control of the game, no matter the situation? These guys have that. You can see it in their eyes. And that’s a scary thing for the rest of the college basketball world. It’s even worse that neither twin plays on the same “platoon,” which coach Cal compared to “tanks coming over the hill” after their dominant win Tuesday night. That means one of them is in the game at all times, and since they’re twins, well, they’re basically the same person. That’s how that works, right?

None of this is good news for the rest of college basketball. This Kentucky team is more talented than last year’s squad that featured NBA lottery pick Julius Randle, and it seems to have figured things out before Thanksgiving. We may not have gotten out of the starting blocks on this college basketball season yet, but it’s pretty fair to say that this Wildcats squad won’t be given a No. 8 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

SMU had a rough offseason

Losing Markus Kennedy really hurts SMU. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

Losing Markus Kennedy really hurts SMU. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

As recently as July, it looked like head coach Larry Brown was about to turn SMU–SMU!–into a national power, as the Mustangs on the verge of cracking the Top 10 in preseason polls and were in the conversation as a dark-horse Final Four contender. But that’s when everything imploded in Dallas. The nation’s top-ranked recruit (by many services) in point guard Emmanuel Mudiay sensed looming eligibility issues and decided to bolt overseas for a one-year layover before taking his talents to the NBA.

And just this week, the Mustangs’ best frontcourt player, junior Markus Kennedy (12.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) was ruled ineligible for the first semester after facing academic eligibility issues of his own.

The American Athletic Conference, not to mention defending national champion UConn, desperately needed SMU to be a legitimate Top 25 team this season, not only to bolster its national RPI profile but to give the league some much-needed respect. So SMU’s soap opera-like struggles don’t benefit the league, either. With Memphis down (the Tigers were blown out by Wichita State Tuesday afternoon), and Louisville gone, UConn may end up being compared to Gonzaga (a high-major power in a mid-major conference) this season. The ‘Zags blew out SMU, 72-56, as part of the marathon late Monday night.

Kels Dayton

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