Seth Greenberg, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, may not get a hero’s welcome in Rupp Arena on Saturday night when the GameDay crew comes to Lexington for the Florida-UK game.
It was Greenberg who talked about freshman in college basketball, including the ones at the University of Kentucky, as being from an entitlement culture on Sportscenter the day after the Wildcats collapse at South Carolina when they blew a 14-point second half lead.
Greenberg said coverage of college basketball leans toward coverage of star freshmen and not enough about how the best teams are doing.
“These guys are spoiled by the process by the time they turn 13 years old,” Greenberg said. “And they’re clueless in understanding how hard you have to play and what type of teammate you need to be. They’re not a good team because they are not connected, and you may say it is because they are freshmen, and that sounds great, but they aren’t connected because they are all about themselves instead of the good of the group.”
Of course, it’s the network he works for who put the fantastic freshmen – Kentucky’s and others – on a pedestal.
Case in point was Kansas State’s 18-point blowout victory over No. 4 Oklahoma (and freshman sensation Trae Young) on Tuesday. A friend of mine who, for full disclosure, is a Kansas State fan, had a rather interesting post on his Facebook page.
ESPN mentioned Young 14 times by name or pronoun in the one-minute, 24-second highlight video of Kansas State’s victory over the Sooners. Not one name of any players from K-State was mentioned in the 84 seconds of fame on ESPN. Of course, not all of Young’s numbers that they talked about were good. He set a Big 12 record with 12 turnovers and was 8-for-21 from the field (not bad, not great).
Being a fan of college basketball, however, I did want to know how Young – the nation’s leading scorer – did in that game. It made sense that if he failed to produce, the Sooners would be in trouble.
Greenberg said too much is said about DeAndre Ayton of Arizona, Marvin Bagley at Duke, and the freshmen at Kentucky. (I would interject here that I’m not sure there’s been that much talk about the UK freshmen although maybe I’m not listening close enough).
Meanwhile, teams like Villanova, Virginia and Purdue – all having tremendous seasons – aren’t talked about enough.
ESPN knows where it’s bread is buttered even if Greenberg does not. Fans love to watch these freshmen flourish (if you have them) and flounder (if you don’t). The best teams, if they are truly the best teams, will get their due when it matters in March.
Kentucky fans have become somewhat ‘of an expert on freshmen one-and-done players under coach John Calipari’s watch. While they like to complain if they don’t win every game and may not really know everybody’s name on the roster until March rolls around, it remains fun to have the best players no matter what class they happen to be.
Until the NCAA or NBA change its rules on eligibility, the majority of Kentucky’s fans still want to outduel Duke and Kansas for the best of the one-and-dones. (Because if the Cats don’t get them, they will).
Does it always translate into the best teams? Well, no.
Does it always translate into NCAA championships? Not really.
Does it give us something to talk (complain?) about in December, January and February? Always.
This season has not been that much unlike many of the others except that the Cats don’t have all (any?) of the best one-and-dones. A lot of the guys on this roster may not be done after one. But then, there’s no guarantee of that either. Kentucky has lost players before to the NBA that seemed like they had no business in The League.
But, as long as Kentucky is leading college basketball with players on NBA rosters (which they do now with 30 players), Coach Cal is going to be in living rooms talking to the best of the best incoming freshmen in the land. They see going to Kentucky as a steppingstone to their ultimate goal.
And, like it or not, Kentucky fans are getting used to it and they look forward to watching for the next great player on the Big Blue radar.