There may be no more startling contrast of teams in the NCAA Tournament than Kentucky-Princeton. A year ago, coach John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats reached the Elite Eight, the had four freshmen declare for the NBA draft. Guard John Wall was the top pick of the Washington Wizards and three of his teammates went in the first round. This year, the Wildcats reloaded with more one-and-done freshmen — Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, who could easily follow Wall's hightops to the NBA.
If a Princeton basketball player heads to Washington, D.C., after his career ends, it's usually to play with the real Senators.
In 2005, the NBA declared that a player must be 19 or complete at least one year of college to be eligible for the draft.
Calipari knows the rule is bad for college basketball, but he's used it to full advantage.
"Sometimes I don't think people will listen when I say this: I don't like the rule. I don't like the one-and-done," Calipari said. "I don't think it's good for college, I don't think it's good for the NBA. But it's a rule we have to live with. I recruit the best players I can recruit and I don't try to hold them back.
"Now the option is, why do I recruit such good players? Because they want to play for me and I want to coach them."
The fourth-seeded Wildcats are heavily favored over Princeton, a senior-laded team that has been together for four seasons and just hung their first banner as Ivy League champions.
Imagine how good Kentucky would be if Calipari could keep his best players from leaping to the NBA.
"I tell kids, you know, early on I would say if you want to do what's right for you and your family, you probably should put your name in the draft," Calipari said. "If you want to do what's right for me and my family, why don't you stay a couple more years so we can win a whole lot more games."
STAGE FRIGHT OR FLIGHT?: Princeton has more experience but is making its first NCAA appearance since 2004. Coach Sydney Johnson believes his team will be focused.
"There's a lot of bright lights, it's a big arena, it's a fantastic opponent that we're playing, we're on CBS, but my expectation is that we're going to be very focused," Johnson said. "I'll be very frank, I'll be very disappointed if we're caught up. It's not the kind of group we have. It would be a strange thing for me to be watching a team that looked nervous or didn't have their composure because that's just not who we've been all season long."
Calipari said he has no clue what to expect from UK.
"When you're starting three freshmen and three players who were inexperienced prior to this season and you jumble them all together, they can get off kilter at any point," Calipari said. "What I'm comfortable with is we're playing as well as we've played all season."
HANGING TOUGH: Johnson and the Princeton players acknowledged Wednesday that Kentucky is a more athletic team and that will be an issue.
"That's something obviously that's highlighted in our scouting report," Princeton guard Dan Mavraides said. "I can't give away any secrets about how we're going to stop that."