Myth of experience exposed by Kentucky

By now, anyone within earshot of John Calipari has been apprised of this tournament's great injustice: the fact that little old Kentucky has the youngest, least experienced team in the field.

"Of our top eight," said Calipari, "we have no NCAA experience."

The Wildcats are also saddled with five, maybe six, first-round picks.

John Wall, Calipari's latest point guard prodigy, will be the first selection in the draft. DeMarcus Cousins, another freshman, is a possible lottery pick. Patrick Patterson, the 6-foot-9 junior now playing small forward, and freshman Eric Bledsoe figure to go in the top 15. Even Darnell Dodson, a junior college transfer who'd originally committed to Memphis, could be drafted -- though the pros don't rate him nearly as high as backup center Daniel Orton, whom the Los Angeles Times predicts as the 12th pick.

"I'll tell you right now, Daniel will have options at the end of the year on what he wants to do," Calipari said the other day. ". . . They're looking at him saying, 'this kid is really, really good.' And he is."

For the record, Orton averages 3.5 points and 13.3 minutes a game, with a total 26 minutes of tournament experience. Worse still, he's another freshman.

In other words, it's a wonder that Vegas even gives the Wildcats a chance on Thursday against Cornell.

Never mind that Cornell doesn't give athletic scholarships. Or that the athletic department budget -- approximately $18 million for 36 varsity sports -- is a quarter of the funding Kentucky provides for 22 teams. Or that the commonwealth has allocated $9,269,344 in expenditures for men's basketball this year -- at least that's what's on the books, not including Calipari's deal, just shy of $4 million per -- which is probably a dozen times what Cornell spends.

Cornell, as you've been told, isn't your average Ivy League team. The Big Reds, if that's what you call them, are big and talented and only lost to Kansas by single digits. And who cares if there's not a single NBA player on the roster?

They start four seniors.

Wow. Isn't that great?

That's the problem with nonsense; you hear it long enough, you start to believe it. Four seniors? As Derrick Coleman once said, whoop-de-damn do. Nice story, but nothing to bet on. Sure, everybody likes to see hard-working upperclassmen beat a team of one-and-dones. But while experience might help at the so-called mid-majors, it's also the single biggest ruse come tournament time.

In March -- especially, in March -- talent trumps everything. And as college ball is presently constituted, "senior" has become shorthand for "not good enough." Show me a senior, I'll show you a guy who couldn't go pro.

This isn't meant to insult or demean, especially not those who still fulfill the student-athlete ideal. But the kids from Cornell know better than anyone. As point guard Louis Dale put it: "We've got eight seniors on this team, and we want to take this ride as long as we can because after this it's just nothing but babies and memories."

By the way, if experience counts for so much, then what happened to Kansas, with its senior point guard Sherron Collins, an All-American, and honorable mention center Cole Aldrich, both of whom played on the Jayhawks' last championship team?

(I was shocked to find out that Aldrich was only a junior, as it seems he's been around for decades. Then I realized: He used to be Eric Montross.)

And what about Villanova, another Final Four team with a senior, All-American point guard? How'd that experience thing work out for them?

It's worth mentioning that Villanova was a two-seed in the East, otherwise known as "The Duke Bracket." Just for the record, the Selection Committee has absolutely no bias for Duke. It's just a coincidence that the Blue Devils got the weakest two and four seeds in the tournament: Nova, which had lost five of seven, and the Robbie Hummel-less Purdue.

Nothing against the Boilermakers, but how can you bet a team whose best player is named Kramer?

Not to be outdone, the Duke Bracket's three seed, Baylor, has the most spectacularly named backcourt ever, LaceDarious and Tweety.

Yep, can't get enough March Madness. That's why I'm looking forward to the 96-team field.

It's about time Rutgers got an automatic bid.

You have a new favorite player yet? Me, I like the kid with the sideburns from Saint Mary's.

Looks like he just got off his shift at Jiffy Lube.

Dana White should sign him.

Anyway, don't mean to stray, but as long as I'm on the subject, I feel obligated to mention Mr. Sandra Bullock's mistress, who's ruining all the advances made by cool white people.

You know: she's the girl with the "WP" tattoos? The swastika is a nice touch, too.

Have you seen the pictures, though? I mean, how do you really know she's white?