INDIANAPOLIS (CBSNewYork/AP) — Here are the numbers. John Calipari doesn’t care if you want to hear them or not:
Kentucky’s grade-point average: 3.1
Number of players with a 3.0 GPA or better: 13.
Number of players who have graduated over his first five seasons at Kentucky: 10, with four more coming this year.
The Kentucky coach spends large chunks of his time at the NCAA Tournament answering questions about one-and-done, and what that trend — growing everywhere, but most prevalent at his program — means for college basketball and its players.
He makes no apologies, and rattles off the facts as he sees them almost as quickly as the stats about his team’s academic achievements.
“These kids have a genius,” Calipari said Thursday, two days before the undefeated Wildcats play Wisconsin in the Final Four. “Our jobs are to help them grow on and off the court, to help them become better men, to be prepared for society, yet they’re chasing a dream and they have a genius.”
That genius could lead to their making more than $100 million playing basketball — an amount that has grown considerably over the last 20 years.
“You have to respect that,” he said. “We just try to make sure we make this about the kids.”
TRAVEL PAY: Bo Ryan thinks it’s about time the NCAA and conferences pay up.
He wants the NCAA to help cover travel expenses for the parents of players in every tournament game and league officials to follow the NCAA’s lead in conference tourneys, too.
Ryan, who serves on the executive committee of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, says it has been a hot topic within coaching circles for years. And after the NCAA stepped forward with a pilot program to cover parents’ travel costs for those in this year’s men’s and women’s Final Fours, he believes it’s already time to consider expansion.
The parents of each player in Indianapolis this weekend is eligible for up to $3,000. The winners of Saturday’s games could get another $1,000.
“Isn’t it amazing that the basketball, men’s basketball tournament — men’s basketball, period — pays 90-some percent of the NCAA’s budget, expenses,” Ryan said. “Football had a championship game. Correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t the parents get taken care of to go see their kids play in the football championship game?
“What I’m getting at is, all of a sudden football goes to a championship game. Oh, and then, for the men’s Final Four we’re going to take care of the parents for that, too. Well, thank you, that was awfully nice,” Ryan added. “But we think it should be for more.”
DANCE YOUR CARES AWAY: Twenty-four years ago, Grant Hill arrived in Indianapolis as a wide-eyed freshman whose Duke team was trying to take down a juggernaut from UNLV in the Final Four. He’s back as part of the broadcast crew for Saturday night’s national semifinals.
During an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Hill recalled several memories from that 1991 tournament, including one that illustrated just how loose the Blue Devils really were.
“The night before the game, me and a couple of teammates took a cab to downtown Indianapolis, to one of the malls,” he said, “and we were just going to hang out. We found this, like, karaoke thing, where you picked the song you wanted to sing, and we went into the booth, and they put the music on the background, and then you made a video, and we did this Prince song.”
While the parents were back at the hotel, watching game film and dissecting matchups, Hill and fellow freshman Antonio Lang were “gonna party like it’s 1999.”
“All the parents are like, a nervous wreck, and we have this tape and put it on, and it’s this horrible singing, horrible dancing, and we’re just having fun,” Hill said. “I remember that was the night before. We were that confident. That relaxed.”
The following night, the Blue Devils knocked off unbeaten UNLV in one of the biggest upsets in Final Four history and then went on to win their first title.
FEELING GOOD: It’s a year late, but Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein will finally get the chance to play in the Final Four. The 7-footer missed the last three games of the Wildcats’ surprise run to last year’s title game due to an ankle injury.
Cauley-Stein’s last game was in the Sweet 16 against Louisville. Kentucky went on to lose to Connecticut 60-54 in the title game.
“I can’t say that I would have made a difference in the game,” he said. “I’m not a fortune teller. … I mean, I would like to think so, but I can’t really say on that.”
BUDDIES?: They like each other, really.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski couldn’t resist having some fun with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo during the grip-and-grin portion of their news conference, playfully pretending to strangle Izzo as the cameras clicked away.
Izzo’s line while this scene was playing out: “This is uncomfortable.” But he said it with a chuckle.
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