Nancy Armour, apparently a sports columnist for USA Today, has offered us an absolutely risible column this morning (Hat tip: Hank), and although we have many columns today worthy of a belly laugh or three, this one will be singled out because it is a true epic fail of reason, something we try to value here.
It is also representative of a line of thinking that seemed to crop up on opposing fan sites after yesterday’s game. While I generally give short shrift to that sort of blather, the column represents the kind of logic abdication that the commentariat should avoid, lest it feed the fever-dreams of the intellectually bankrupt and thus further pollute the Internet with nonsense.
Let’s start with the lede:
The question of the NCAA tournament has been answered: Yes, Kentucky is beatable, and Cincinnati just showed everybody how.
Push the Wildcats around. Beat them up. Make it ugly. Never back down.
Ahem. Am I being Captain Obvious here by pointing out that Kentucky beat the Cincinnati Bearcats by 13 points? This wasn’t a nailbiter, or a game in which Cincinnati led from start to almost-finish. Kentucky was always superior even though their shooters were cold, and it was obvious from beginning to end.
Kentucky withstood the challenge this time, but this was against Cincinnati, an undersized and lesser-skilled team that hurt itself far more than the Wildcats did.
"Hurt itself more than the Wildcats did?" What part of nine blocked shots and 2-1 turnover advantage escapes you, my dear? Cincinnati played very hard, and as well as they probably could given their offensive challenges against, and I must point this out, the best defensive team in the country.
Put this same game plan in the hands of an Arizona or Wisconsin, especially in an arena that isn’t Rupp West, and Kentucky is no longer guaranteed of becoming the first team to go unbeaten since Indiana in 1976.
I’m not sure where you get the notion that Kentucky was ever "guaranteed" anything. We don’t even guarantee our 5-star players any playing time at all, let alone expect to be guaranteed an NCAA Tournament championship. But we will address your assertion about this "plan" and the remaining teams in just a few paragraphs, I promise.
Now that might sound odd when the final score Saturday was Kentucky 64, Cincinnati 51. But the Bearcats lost this game as much as Kentucky won it, shooting a miserable 24% in the second half.
If we assume your premise that playing football rather than basketball is the way to beat Kentucky, as you seem to suggest, can we not also assume that Kentucky’s #1 rated defense had a little something to do with that low shooting percentage?
It probably escaped your notice, but Kentucky has held better teams than Cincinnati to under 20% for entire games — just ask the Kansas Jayhawks, who happen to be the #2 seed in the Midwest. You can also speak to South Carolina, who failed to shoot 24% against Kentucky for two entire games. While you’re at it, you can speak to UCLA, one of the hotter teams in the nation right now, who mustered a blistering 27% against UK for the entire game. Notice the bold, please. Holding UC to 24% for a half is hardly noteworthy in the annals of Kentucky 2015 accomplishments. In fact, given how offensively challenged UC has been all year, I think a convincing argument could be made that UK laid down on defense in the second half.
Kentucky has four players 6-10 or taller on its roster, compared with Cincinnati’s one. Yet the Bearcats outrebounded the Wildcats 45-38, including a 21-12 edge on the offensive glass.
This is so, but I think it’s also important to note that Kentucky has been outrebounded on the offensive glass in seven contests this season. Without donning my Captain Obvious uniform again, that statistic has not helped opponents win any of those games. See Texas, North Carolina, the aforementioned South Carolina et. al. Does it help them stay competitive longer? Usually. But being competitive against a Kentucky should not be the standard against which a supposed formula for victory is measured.
"I think they’re a very beatable team. You just can’t give them anything easy," Cincinnati’s Jermaine Sanders said. "They feed off of transition buckets and easy layups and things like that. So you just can’t give them anything easy. Make it tough for their big guys to score around the rim."
Without trying to be mean to Sanders, the hypothetical that Kentucky is "very beatable" has no evidentiary support whatsoever. Zero. And unlike his hypothetical, it is a demonstrated fact that Kentucky is not beatable, "very" or otherwise, by Sanders’ team.
Except this: Cincinnati showed there’s a way to beat Kentucky, and everyone who’s left has taken note.
Cincinnati showed a way to remain in the game for a long time, but not how to win. Other teams have done this very same thing during SEC play. None of them won. As an additional reminder in case you managed to forget while trying to make this non-existent case, Cincinnati didn’t win, either, and they didn’t even come within 13 points of doing so.
I think that’s a fairly important point, don’t you? Most teams don’t consider being within 13 points as particularly competitive, although against Kentucky this season, I can understand the reflex to revise that standard.
I am not arguing that Kentucky cannot be beaten, but the formula is not turning the game into a wrestling match and taunting them. We know from yesterday (as well as other games that apparently nobody but Kentucky fans watched) that doesn’t work, and there are really no teams remaining in Kentucky’s bracket that can play that kind of game.
Even if they could, consider this; Cincinnati has played this way all year long — it is their identity, who they are. Is it really likely that a team without this kind of identity can ape the Bearcats style and win? I don’t think a reasonable person would agree with that suggestion. So unless we have a better version of the Bearcats out there in Kentucky’s way, this formula is about as useful as a Mint Julep recipe — without the mint.
So, Nancy — may I call you Nancy? — your argument is facially flawed from inception to conclusion. It cannot be redeemed by facts, and even as an opinion it is so rife with a failure to comprehend what college basketball teams are and do that it falls short in that regard as well.
Would you care to try again?