|John Calipari and Tom Crean agree to end one of the best rivalries in the country. (US Presswire)|
The Kentucky-Indiana series ending is another blow to one of the things that makes college basketball fun in November and December. I'll address that -- plus John Calipari's new contract, Ben Howland's new expectations and Josiah Turner's new home -- in this week's Five for the Weekend.
1. Are coaches who are hesitant to play interesting home-and-home series hurting college basketball?
They're certainly giving sports fans fewer reasons to watch in November and December, which by extension hurts college basketball. So I suppose the answer is yes. And it's too bad because I hate the idea that I spend 12 months a year thinking and writing about a sport that only has most of the nation's attention for about six weeks in February and March. But what can you do? Such is the reality of the situation. And until fans start demanding that coaches sign home-and-home series that create appealing nonleague matchups on campuses, the number of appealing nonleague matchups on campuses will continue to shrink by the year while more and more neutral-court made-for-TV events pop up.
|Five for the Weekend|
2. But shouldn't coaches just do what's best for the sport?
In theory, yes. But that's not practical because most humans -- not just most coaches, but most humans -- are conditioned to do what's best for them. If what's best for them also happens to benefit a greater cause, terrific. But people tend to look out for No. 1, and that's why pretty much any sport without a commissioner in place to oversee things is troubled. It's why it took so long for us to get a playoff in college football even though anybody with a brain who isn't tied to the BCS realizes a playoff would be better for the sport. It's why we might never get a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight even though anybody with a brain who isn't tied to one of the boxers realizes that's the fight the sport needs and has needed for years. And it's why coaches of elite college basketball programs -- John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, etc., -- will continue to shy away from home-and-home series even though anybody with a brain whose career winning percentage isn't tied to the outcome realizes they're crucial to attracting eyeballs in November and December.
Bottom line, Calipari, Krzyzewski and Boeheim do not benefit in any tangible way by visiting another team's campus. And not doing it doesn't cost them because it's not like Kentucky fans, Duke fans or Syracuse fans are going to refuse to buy season tickets because the home schedule features one or two fewer attractive opponents than it otherwise could. They'll pay the money and show up regardless. So Calipari, Krzyzewski and Boeheim -- and others with similar jobs and fan bases -- have no incentive to stack the home portion of their nonleague schedules, which means they have no incentive to make a home-and-home series of note. Again, it's too bad. But that's the truth.
3. Will Calipari's new contract at Kentucky keep him from listening if the Knicks call in a few weeks?
4. Is UCLA really a preseason top-10 team?
Based on personnel, yes. The Bruins will obviously be young. And Ben Howland is the only person in the program who has ever won anything of note. But Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams are wonderful building blocks to start any team with. Combine them with (let's just call it) a decent core, and there's no reason to make anybody other than UCLA the favorite in the Pac-12, and it's more than reasonable to place the Bruins 10th in our early Top 25 (and one). Now we'll just have to wait for the season to see whether they can prove us right.
5. So Larry Brown has his point guard of the future, huh?
Perhaps. But I'm not sure it's wise to rely on a kid whom Arizona coach Sean Miller had to suspend multiple times as a freshman ... or a kid who was just arrested on suspicion of extreme DUI. Sadly, Josiah Turner is both of those things. But he's also talented enough to compete in the Big East, which is where SMU will be when the one-time elite recruit becomes eligible after sitting out this season per normal NCAA transfer rules. So I don't blame Brown for gambling on him. But it's an undeniable gamble. So folks in Dallas will have to keep their fingers crossed. And, I guess, their car keys hidden.