Monday Muse

Some argue Tennessee is the best team in the country. Others prefer Duke. Both teams will be in the area this week. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The best team in college basketball comes to the state of Kentucky this week.

I’ll let you pick the team.

That’s more than a tease. That’s your weekly invitation to dive into the Monday Muse, where we’ll dance from Coach K to Anthony Davis to Tom Crean to Brendan McKay to (as always) Rick Pitino.

1. Show-Me Week for Louisville & Kentucky

This is a week that reminds you why this area is the center of college basketball universe. The best team in college basketball is coming to Kentucky.

You just have to decide which team I’m touting.

Is it Duke, which handled Virginia for the second consecutive time last Saturday? The Blue Devils will play Louisville Tuesday at 9 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. Duke opened as a 6 1/2-point favorite. At least eight NBA scouts have requested credentials to watch the game. A ticket broker site reported that the average price of a seat on the resell market is $300.

Or is it Tennessee, which actually has the top ranking in the Associated Press Top 25, a spot the Vols earned while winning 18 straight, including 10 in the Southeastern Conference?

According to Sports Illustrated, Duke has three of the first four picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, plus a point guard (Tre Jones) who will also be taken late in Round One.

Tennessee has no first-round picks.

In Las Vegas, Duke is the solid favorite to win the national title. VegasInsider will only give you 2-to-1 odds on a futures bets. You get 15-2 on the Vols, who are the fourth pick behind Virginia and Gonzaga.

On Saturday, when it announced its mid-season list of the Top 16 teams, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee picked Duke ahead of Tennessee.

Duke wins the beauty contest. Tennessee has supporters convinced the Vols look better away from the hype, under the hood.

In four ACC seasons, Duke has won four of six against the Cardinals, but only one of three in the KFC Yum! Center.

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and the 2015 NCAA champs beat Louisville at Second and Main, 63-52.

A year later, U of L beat the Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram team by seven. In 2017, the Cards beat the Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Allen team by nine.

Tennessee has won four of seven against UK since Rick Barnes took over in Knoxville, putting him on a very short list of guys with a winning record against John Calipari here.

This is the place to be in college basketball this week. Who’s the best team in the country? Ask me again Saturday night.

2. Dr. Dunkenstein On Cards

Darrell Griffith told me Monday that over the last decade whenever he filled out his NCAA Tournament bracket, there was a program that he typically picked to win a game or two.

That program was Xavier. (In addition to Griffith’s Louisville Cardinals, of course.)

“That’s how I started following Chris Mack,” Griffith said. “It seemed like his teams always did something.”

Add Griffith to the list of observers who have been impressed by the work Mack has done while coaching Louisville to its 17-7 start.

“They’re so close to having three or four more wins,” Griffith said. “Just a couple plays here or there. That’s how close they’ve been. I really like how hard they play and the way they share the ball. Chris Mack is going to do well here.”

3. Tom Crean Scores

On Saturday Tom Crean and Georgia lost their eighth consecutive SEC game, a home game by 16 points to Ole Miss.

On Monday, Crean did something Kirby Smart is supposed to do in Athens, secure a commitment from a wing player many believe is the top recruit in the Class of 2019 — Anthony Edwards of suburban Atlanta.

This has to be the highest-ranked basketball recruit at Georgia since … Cedric Henderson … Vern Fleming … Dominique Wilkins …

At Indiana, Crean struggled to keep in-state kids (like Marquis Teague and Trey Lyles) from signing with Kentucky. He’s off to a better start in Athens, even with 1-9 SEC record and blowback from his post-game comments after the Ole Miss loss.

Why Georgia for Evans?

It’s hard to get a straight answer in recruiting — and the answer usually depends upon which side you expected to win the tug of war. The kid is from Georgia.

But one narrative that emerged was Edwards has patterned his game after guys like Dwyane Wade and Victor Oladipo — not Anthony Davis or John Wall or Devin Booker or …

Score one for Tom Crean.

4. Jeff Van Gundy’s Take on Davis

Is it possible to earn more than $25 million a year and frown?

You bet.

That’s the situation in New Orleans where Anthony Davis and his representatives are unhappy that the Pelicans did not move him to the NBA address of his choice (read Lakers).

Davis has given the Pelicans the first seven seasons of his magnificent NBA career. But he wants to win a title. That will never happen on Bourbon Street. He reportedly wants to play with LeBron James. That requires a trip to L.A.

The Pelicans are not thrilled about the way Davis and his representative Rich Paul tried to force a deal. So Davis will finish the season on a team going nowhere and wait for New Orleans to make a deal before the 2019-20 season, his final year before free agency.

Davis isn’t happy. Magic Johnson isn’t happy. Pelicans fans aren’t happy. ESPN and TNT are not happy. And NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy is not happy. (The link.)

5. The Brendan McKay Decision

Former Louisville baseball star Brendan McKay will report to spring training for his second full professional season, and the Rays have finally tweaked McKay’s plan to be a full-time two-way player.

It appears McKay will primarily focus on pitching.

He will no longer play first base, although he will serve as a designated hitter.

Another check of McKay’s 2018 numbers suggest that is a prudent call. McKay delivered a solid season on the mound, striking out 103 hitters in 78 innings, while advancing to high Class A ball.

The hitting numbers need work. McKay batted .214 with only 15 extra-base hits in 242 plate appearances. That won’t work for a corner infielder.

So look for McKay on the mound, likely with the Class AA Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits.

6. Shawn Watson On The Move — Again

If you’re thinking about a career in college football coaching, may I suggest a second certification in real estate?

Ask former Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, the guy who tutored Teddy Bridgewater during the Charlie Strong Era.

After departing for Texas with Strong after the 2013 season, Watson has made four stops — Texas, Indiana, Pittsburgh and now Georgia.

Watson is no longer coordinating offenses. Apparently it was tougher scoring points and moving the ball without Bridgewater than it was with him.

He is an offensive quality control coach for the Bulldogs. I hope he’s had help with real estate commissions or was renting, not buying.

7. Steve Kerr Draws Rebuke From MLB

One of these days Bryce Harper will pick a team.

Philadelphia. San Diego. Washington. New York. The Bats.


And if somewhere turns out to be San Francisco, give an assist to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who heard the news that Harper met with the Giants last week and starting selling like Dabo Swinney.

8. First Grumbles About Brad Stevens

Strange times in Boston.

The Celtics added a healthy Kyrie Irving as well as a healthy Gordon Heyward to the group that lost to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals last season — they’re only 35-21, the fifth best record in their conference. After 56 games last season, Boston was 40-16.

For the first time in six seasons there has been grumbling about head coach Brad Stevens.

Better not grumble too loudly.

Stevens could get any college basketball coaching position he liked in five minutes or less.

9. Muting Bob Costas

Bob Costas thinks football has become incredibly dangerous for the brain health of the people who play the game.

It’s hardly a radical view. Many believe that, even prominent former players. There is plenty of research. There are plenty of examples. There is considerable debate.

Just don’t schedule the debate on NBC, which was out of the televising the NFL world for several years and never wants to risk being an outsider again.

Costas recently left NBC. As a national broadcaster, he had as much juice as anybody in the game. He should have been able to give his views on any sport or any player at any time.

Except the NFL.

10. Rick Pitino Tweet of the Week

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