BOZICH | Has Kentucky taken all of Duke's oxygen (for now)? You - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Has Kentucky taken all of Duke's oxygen (for now)? You bet

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Kentucky and coach John Calipari (right) have taken the attention away from unbeaten Duke and Mike Krzyzewski this season. Kentucky and coach John Calipari (right) have taken the attention away from unbeaten Duke and Mike Krzyzewski this season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – John Calipari has fast-forwarded 18 Kentucky players into the NBA, pushed the Wildcats to three Final Fours and delivered the 2012 NCAA title to Lexington.

There's more. But nothing I'd mention would be as astounding as Calipari's latest, greatest achievement:

John Calipari has turned Duke into the other Kardashian sister (either one).

The Blue Devils are Sham, Joe Biden, Ed McMahon, Prince Harry, Scottie Pippen, the ultimate second banana.

Duke is unbeaten, unchallenged and somehow remarkably unrecognized this season. Calipari has the world forgetting that Mike Krzyzewski has won four NCAA titles and that Cal has one. 

The Wildcats are so far ahead in the scramble for recognition and attention that if they don't win the 2015 national title, the first explanation will be coaching error – the way it was when the John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson team couldn't solve the West Virginia zone and Joe Mazzulla five seasons ago.

But today it's all fun, fun, fun for the Wildcats. The Blue Devils (10-0 after beating UConn Thursday) are as helpless as Ole Miss as the Wildcats take all the oxygen and gushing from the room.

Kentucky is getting 100 percent of the votes in the Associated Press Top 25 poll even though Ken Pomeroy told me that if UK and Duke played on a neutral court his computer formula would currently project a 69-68 Kentucky victory while putting the Wildcats' win probability in that game at 58 percent.

"I'm not surprised there is overwhelming support for Kentucky, but I'd expect there would be two or three people that would vote for Duke, especially voters in ACC country," Pomeroy wrote in an e-mail.

"It's hard to know what people are thinking when they vote, though. I think it's easy to make a case that Kentucky is better than Duke right now, but the resumes are pretty similar, which is my impression of what voters usually value."

I think they value performance, talent, potential, hype, depth and a few other things. It's a long list.

Cal's got more top players back from last season. That's where I start. The unexpected return of the Harrison Twins, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein started the narrative that Kentucky, not Duke, was the team to fear this season.
The Blue Devils got zero points in 30 combined minutes from four bench players against UConn.

Cal also has three solid guys inside, while the Blue Devils are likely to have issues without Jahlil Okafor, their splendid freshman center, on the floor.

Both are unbeaten and mostly untested. Both coaches must be creative to find minutes for all their talented players. But the debate about which team is better has not been a debate. It's been Kentucky by acclimation.

Consider it a credit to Calipari and his relentless work at marketing and selling his vision. He is the best.

I'd argue that Duke has the most impressive victory this season – a 10-point win at Wisconsin, another top five team.

UK's 32-point smackdown of Kansas was dazzling. But Duke won big at a venue where visiting teams rarely win big. The Blue Devils' double-digit wins over Michigan State and Stanford on neutral floors are comparable to Kentucky's victories over Texas and North Carolina in Rupp Arena.

Duke features Okafor, a dynamic post player many believe will be the first selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. Cal has three solid options inside. But he doesn't have Okafor, who is averaging 18 points and nine rebounds, while making two-thirds of his shots.

Duke has nine McDonald's all-Americans, one more than Calipari has available now that Poythress will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Duke has an alumni office at ESPN, where three of Krzyzewski's former players (Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Sean Battier) are employed.

And yet …

Kentucky earned all 65 first-place votes in the AP poll this week.

The Wildcats are a unanimous number one. The Blue Devils are not a unanimous number two.

Check the fine print. Thirteen voters have the Blue Devils ranked third, not second. Another, Ron Morris of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., ranks the Blue Devils fourth behind Kentucky, Arizona (OK) and Villanova (huh?). (I'm starting to understand why South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier stopped talking to Morris.)

Coaches are usually more difficult to impress. Not this season. The first-place votes in the coaches' poll favor Kentucky 29-1-1. Arizona is getting as many first-place as the Blue Devils.


I think so – and I've been voting the Wildcats number one since October.

One coach tried to tell me the difference was explained by how easily Kentucky is winning its games.

OK. Duke's average victory margin is 25.2 after the UConn win. Kentucky's is 28.2. Every 3 points matter. The Wildcats are a considerably more ferocious defensive team. They're better around the rim, too. They deserve the love.

Duke is a considerably better three-point shooting team. Duke has made better than 37 percent of its threes. Kentucky is shooting less than 30 percent. Three-point shooting is what will be required to defeat Kentucky.

But, for now, the Blue Devils are at the front of the line of the teams that are not Kentucky.

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