Welcome to a world where models’ faces are never Photoshopped, foods are not copyrighted by Monsanto and college basketball players stick around their universities for four years. The NBA has to forfeit some bright young talent in this dream realm, but man, the NCAA tournament would have been dynamite this year.
Just for fun – no political statement, no op-ed piece – let’s look at some of the teams that would have danced into March Madness with talent intact from the past four recruiting classes. Here is a sampling of those teams, with both early entries (restored to their proper campuses; NBA clubs listed) and noteworthy current players.
Connecticut: Andre Drummond (Pistons), Jeremy Lamb (Thunder), Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright
Duke: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Austin Rivers (Pelicans), Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood
Florida: Bradley Beal (Wizards), Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Casey Prather
Gonzaga: Kelly Olynyk (Celtics), Robert Sacre (Lakers), Sam Dower
Indiana: Victor Oladipo (Magic), Cody Zeller (Bobcats), Yogi Ferrell
Michigan: Trey Burke (Jazz), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Knicks), Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III
North Carolina: Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Kendall Marshall (Lakers), Reggie Bullock (Clippers), Marcus Paige, James Michael McAdoo
Ohio State: Jared Sullinger (Celtics), Deshaun Thomas (France), Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith
Syracuse: Michael Carter-Williams (76ers), C Fab Melo (NBA D-League), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair
Let’s pause for a moment while Jim Nantz dabs at a tear and Steve Kerr stares dreamily to the horizon.
When I undertook this exercise, those teams were exactly what I pictured: powerhouse collections of experience and energy. But when I filled the rosters, the post became something else entirely. It became the story of the Kentucky Wildcats dynasty that never was.
To make it sound like this ever really could have happened rings false because (1) it simply didn’t happen, and (2) no way John Calipari ever could have kept this roster together. People would have transferred. Teammates would have fought to the death over loose balls because they weren’t getting enough shots.
But again, just for giggles, your 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats:
Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nerlens Noel (76ers), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Enes Kanter (Jazz), Brandon Knight (Bucks), Terrence Jones (Rockets), Marquis Teague (Nets), Archie Goodwin (Suns), Doron Lamb (Magic), Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein
Final Four? I’m thinking NBA Eastern Conference semifinals.