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The Round Mound of Rebound. Sir Charles. Chuck. No matter the nickname you prefer, Charles Barkley’s playing and television career has spawned dozens of great quotes, commentary, and hilarious moments. To honor one of the greatest power forwards of all time and to look forward to his coverage of March Madness, we will pay homage to several of his best catch phrases in this weekly installment, reviewing some of the top anecdotes and stories from around the game of college basketball, in “What Would Charles Say?”
Pulling His Weight: Kentucky head coach John Calipari is not only pulling his own weight (generously measured at around 200 pounds), but he’s successfully pulling the burden of enormous expectations of an entire state of Wildcat fanatics behind him. And he’s doing it with aplomb. The third-year coach has the nation’s No. 1 team, both in the polls and in everyone’s minds. He has the nation’s best all-around player in Anthony Davis. He has a collection of talent surrounding Davis rivaled only by teams at the next level. And perhaps most importantly, he’s rebuilt UK into the “It” program in all of college basketball. Nearly every prep star wants to play there, and the media feeds the beast by slurping up everything the quotable Calipari says or does (case in point: ESPNU’s airing of a Wildcat practice session on Wednesday). And yet, despite all the pressure on “Coach Cal,” he and his players genuinely seem like they’re just having fun.
I Am Not a Role Model: Last Friday, the NCAA denied Connecticut’s appeal for a waiver that would allow it to play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The basis for UConn’s exclusion next year (note: the ban applies in 2013, not 2012) is simply that its Academic Progress Rate (APR) hasn’t been up to snuff over the last two years. With several players, including Kemba Walker, having left school without closing out their semester’s academic coursework, the Huskies are now likely to pay the price. Of course there will be problems with any measurement as complicated as “academic progress,” but the NCAA should be commended for sticking to its guns and showing that it’s serious about schools keeping its student-athletes eligible. They are this week’s role model.
That’s Turrible: Last weekend during ESPN’s College Gameday event at Vanderbilt, studio analyst Digger Phelps got on the microphone and chastised Kentucky fans who had gained entry to the free-to-anyone spectacle for, as he put it, trying to “ruin this.” The invasion of Vandy’s Memorial Gymnasium (UK fans dubbed it #occupymemorial on Twitter) was no different than what happens on college football Saturdays every fall weekend, without the overbearing sanctimony and condescension of Phelps. Loud and excitable fans are the essence of what makes college basketball great, and that includes the fans of both schools, not just the home team — if Phelps wanted to make a statement last Saturday, he would have been better served teasing Vanderbilt fans for allowing all the wild UK fans through the doors.
I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It: It says here that North Carolina, as talented as the Tar Heels are, will not make the 2012 Final Four. Roy Williams’ team certainly can make it to the last weekend of college basketball, and in a knockout tournament, nearly anything can happen. But despite a 22-4 overall record and a 9-2 mark in the ACC, their lack of toughness, guts, heart, moxie — whatever you want to call it — will end up biting them. It was bad enough that UNC was obliterated last month at Florida State by 33 points in a game where they seemed to not care. But also losing a home game to rival Duke after blowing a 10-point lead in the final two minutes shows that there’s something missing. One of those things is an appalling lack of offensive firepower in the backcourt — Kendall Marshall may be the best passer in America but his 6.7 PPG average is a problem. Outside of Kentucky, North Carolina has more future NBA talent than anybody, but it’s generally confined to the frontcourt and the Heels should be a more dominant team than what they’ve shown this year.
They Look Like My Daughter Colored Them: In the early 1990s, Barkley famously remarked the Philadelphia 76ers’ new (and hideous) uniforms that they looked like his young daughter designed them with her crayons. In a recent story from college basketball-crazy Kansas, a young girl named Emma Burton made national headlines for her stubborn (yet endearing) refusal to color a picture of a Jayhawk — the state bird — in her Kindergarten class. You see, the Burton family are die-hard Kansas State fans, and the six-year old was simply exercising her birthright as a Wildcat to hate on rival Kansas. She’s since become an Internet sensation, already receiving an “offer” of a scholarship from the K-State president and having her compromise piece — a Kansas State Powercat — shown on the big screen during a recent game. Kudos to Emma Burton, already a young lady of principle. You can read her mother’s telling of the story here (it’s well worth your time).
Check back next Thursday for another edition of Rush the Court’s “What Would Charles Say?”