National Columnist

Unique doesn't begin to describe the dominance of Kentucky's Davis


LEXINGTON, Ky. -- I didn't come here to write about Anthony Davis. If anything, I came here not to write about Anthony Davis. You know all about him, and besides, Kentucky has lots of other parts -- fascinating parts like the passion of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the shooting of Doron Lamb, the versatility of Darius Miller, the unpredictability of Terrence Jones. Truth is, I came to Rupp Arena hoping to write about the improvement of freshman point guard Marquis Teague.

But Anthony Davis ...

Come on.

Kidd-Gilchrist was passionately good Saturday against Vanderbilt. After slow starts, Lamb shot well and Miller did a little bit of everything. Jones was a mystery. Teague started weak, finished strong. They were who I thought they were.

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But 6-foot-10 freshman Anthony Davis was even better than I thought he was, and I already thought he was the best pro prospect in college basketball. But he's more than that. He's the best player in college basketball, and it's not even close between him and whoever's second. A handful of guys in college basketball profoundly impact the game on defense. Another handful profoundly impact the game on offense. How many players do that at both ends?

One. Anthony Davis.

And because he did it again Saturday, No. 1 Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 83-74 to clinch the 45th SEC title in school history. That's just another league title for the most dominant program in college basketball history, but this isn't just another player. Kentucky has had 52 players earn All-America honors and 100 get drafted by NBA teams, but Kentucky had never had an Anthony Davis. Almost nobody has. The only college player I've seen who was this dominant at both ends of the floor, as a freshman no less, was LSU's Shaquille O'Neal in 1990.

Different bodies, different games, but same impact.

For Davis on Saturday, the final tally was 28 points, 11 rebounds, five blocked shots. And that doesn't begin to describe his impact. He scored those 28 points on only 11 field-goal attempts and nine shots from the foul line -- he missed one of each -- and he altered at least as many shots as he blocked. He also had two steals.

"Every time they needed something, Davis got it done for them," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "He was spectacular."

Stallings was discouraged after the game, unusually so given that this was a loss on the road against the No. 1 team in the country -- a loss that will happen about 98 times out of 100 -- but he was hurting because this was a game Vanderbilt could have won.

Or rather, it was a game Kentucky could have lost. The Wildcats are notorious for keeping late hours -- they often send out Tweets with the Twitter hash-tag #TeamNoSleep -- and more than half the team slept through the first 10 minutes. Jones, the preseason SEC Player of the Year, was benched 13 seconds into the game for letting landlocked Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli go over him for an offensive rebound. Teague, who had a ratio of 44 assists to 14 turnovers in his last six games, was benched after committing three turnovers in the first three minutes.

Miller missed all five of his shots in the first half. Lamb was 1 for 4 from the floor. Kentucky was basically playing Vanderbilt to a standstill because of the passion of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the greatness of Anthony Davis, who had 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks in an almost perfect first half: 5 of 5 field goals, 5 of 5 free throws; only one turnover blemished his stat line.

The poor start concerns coach John Calipari, especially given that it came in a noon game. The Wildcats have been at their worst in noon games, including a 65-62 comeback win at Tennessee on Jan. 14 and an uninspiring 77-71 victory at home a week later against Alabama.

"Noon games, hard to play -- so?" Calipari said Saturday. "Guess what? In New Orleans [for the SEC Tournament], when will we be playing? Noon. OK. Then, in the NCAA Tournament, probably noon. We play early games -- so be ready for it."

Even if some of his players are snoozing, Kentucky has a security blanket in Davis, an electric defender who shuts down the lane and parts beyond. On one play in the second half, a pick-and-roll with Vanderbilt guard Jeffery Taylor, Davis closed out on the shooter like all big men are taught -- then did something you just can't teach. He closed out on Taylor and kept coming, floating, reaching ... and swatting the shot. That created a Kentucky fast break that Jones finished with a layup as Kentucky was surging to a 66-56 lead.

The Commodores wouldn't go away, scoring nine straight point to get within 66-65, but Davis provided a killer 10-footer at the shot-clock buzzer with 3:42 left. He did it again with 1:02 left, absolving a dismal possession by drilling a 19-footer with zeroes on the shot clock. That made the score 75-68, and it was over. Especially after Davis blocked Lance Goulbourne's shot on the other end.

"He's an all-around good player," Goulbourne said, which is nice but doesn't begin to describe Anthony Davis.

Ezeli came closer.

"He did whatever he wanted to do," Ezeli said.

Ezeli's words do justice to Anthony Davis on Saturday, but they don't describe me -- I wanted to write on Marquis Teague, remember -- which makes me an idiot. Because after this season, how many times will any of us be able to write about a college player like Anthony Davis? Not often. Maybe not again.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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