Earlier this week, Larry Brown – the only coach to ever win an NCAA Championship and an NBA Finals – said that No. 1 Kentucky (35-0, 18-0) could make the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference. To be clear, he didn’t say that Kentucky could beat one NBA team on one night if everything went right; he said Kentucky could make the NBA playoffs – which, this year, would mean going pretty close to .500 over an 82-game season.
Is this statement pure lunacy, or might Brown actually be on to something?
“Well, first of all, I believe Larry Brown is one of the greatest coaches of all time, so when he speaks, he speaks volumes,” former NCAA and NBA champion Rip Hamilton said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “So yes, I do (think Kentucky could make the playoffs). They got everything. They got height, they got quickness, they got big guards, they got two starting fives – anybody on that team can go for 20.
“And the one thing I love about them, Coach Cal does a great job of taking the ego factor out of the game,” Hamilton continued. “Because when you got that much talent on one team, guys can argue or complain about time, shots and everything like that – especially when you got McDonald’s All-Americans. But he does a great job of motivating them and connecting them to each other.
“So yes, I do believe that they could (make the playoffs) – especially in the East. Because the East is not that good. They got a couple top teams up top, but the bottom of the East is pretty bad.”
Given how strongly Hamilton feels about the Wildcats, it’s a foregone conclusion that he thinks they’ll become the first team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated and win a national championship, right?
“Well, like I said, people don’t understand how hard it is to win a championship, a college championship,” he said. “You got to be on every game. Every game, you have to be on. And what Kentucky does well, they play defense. They defend. And when you defend, it always gives you an opportunity to win a game.
“Now, for me personally, I love Coach Cal,” Hamilton continued. “I love what they got at Kentucky. But I think Wisconsin will upset them. I really do. I really do. And the reason why I say that is, Kentucky and Wisconsin met last year (in the Final Four), and Wisconsin had a great team last year, too. Any time a team wins a championship, it’s alway the year before that they have a loss. In order for us to win the championship, we got to go through a certain team – and that team is Kentucky.
“It just happens that I think a lot of people expected them to be on both sides of the bracket so they could meet up in the championship. But in order for Wisconsin to win it, they got to go through Kentucky. So if Kentucky can continue to play well – like I said, they’re still a young team. And when you got a young team, especially in the tournament, if something’s not going right, guys might go on their own. So if Coach Cal could keep them (on the same page), then they’ll win. But if they don’t, I think Wisconsin will win.”