As the college basketball season went on, there was an increasingly common debate about what would happen if this year’s Kentucky team played Indiana’s 1975-76 undefeated squad. Well, Billy Packer didn’t give much thought to this hypothetical scenario. Why? Because he knew that Indiana, with four senior starters and one junior starter – all of whom played in the NBA – would have won the game.
“We’re in an entirely different era,” the former CBS lead college basketball analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “People have to understand eras in all kinds of sports, but John (Calipari) has basically had freshmen players that he’s had for four months. Bob (Knight) had great senior players that he had for four years. So there’s no way that you can compare those things.”
Heck, look at what happened when Frank Kaminsky, an elite senior, squared off against Jahlil Okafor, an elite freshman. Duke may have won the game, but Kaminsky dominated the matchup, finishing with 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 39 minutes. Okafor, meanwhile, had 10 points and three rebounds in 22 foul-plagued minutes, repeatedly getting baited or schooled by Kaminsky.
“Even in the case of Duke, with an outstanding freshman center who has a lot of potential, you got to remember Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Patrick Ewing, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan – they all played as seniors in college,” Packer said. “So what Okafor does today shows potential. What those guys did in their era was basically show how you play the game. I don’t think there’s any way you can compare the era that we’re in now to the era of those great teams and players that played with veteran players.”
But do you want to know what’s really crazy? Imagine how unstoppable Kentucky would have been this year if not for the one-and-done rule. Imagine how dominant the Wildcats would have been if no one had left early.
“If you look at what John Calipari has done at Kentucky, right now he would still have Julius Randle, he’d have Anthony Davis, he’d have Enes Kanter, he’d have (Nerlens) Noel and he’d have Kidd-Gilchrist,” Packer said. “Randle is hurt, but they’d all be starting players in the NBA. Davis would be one of the five best players in the world. The other night, Kanter had a 31-point, 14 rebound game. Now, Willie Cauley-Stein would not start on that team, and yet, Willie Cauley-Stein is first team All-American.
“Now just think about that for a second,” Packer continued. “When you start talking about one college team has five guys that would still have eligibility that are starting in the NBA and are very valuable players and they’re not there anymore – and a guy who makes first team All-American would not even start on that college team. So I think fans need to go back and take a look at the era that people played. This is to take nothing away with what this Duke team did with their four freshmen or what Kentucky did, but it’s a whole different world out there.”