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Big Bracket Nation: Final Four

The fourth round of the single-elimination tournament to determine John Calipari’s most outstanding player

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

John Calipari hasn’t held an official position in the NBA since the turn of the century, but his fingerprints are all over the league as we know it. Coach Cal has just one NCAA title to his name, but in just nine seasons in Lexington, he’s turned the University of Kentucky into an assembly line for professional players—both in the NBA and in leagues across the globe. This week, we’re exploring Kentucky’s and Calipari’s impact on the basketball world, and whether or not his one-and-done blueprint has staying power at both the college and pro levels. Welcome to the Kentucky Basketball Association.


We probably should’ve seen this coming. While John Calipari has churned out pros at an unprecedented rate, there’s a clear divide between his very best prospects and the next tier. For instance, Karl-Anthony Towns, now in his third season, now has more All-Star appearances than Marcus Camby (i.e., an All-Star appearance); and while Derrick Rose has that MVP, John Wall already has more All-Star selections and, like, a future in the NBA. So it’s not a huge surprise, then, that after three days of voting, the four players left standing are the top four seeds.

But now it gets interesting! (And I’m not just saying that to get you to engage in the #content. … For the most part.)

All four former UKers are All-Stars this season (including two starters) and either in the midst of or preparing to be in the midst of his peak. We’ve got a player who received some preseason love as a dark-horse MVP candidate, a player who is probably the best challenger to James Harden for this season’s MVP, and a player that, if he ever puts it all together, should be in the mix for MVPs in future seasons.

Here’s a quick refresher on the careers of all four before you make your choices:

(1) Anthony Davis

Kentucky (one season): 14.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 62.8 eFG%, one national championship, Final Four MOP award, national player of the year, defensive player of the year, first-team All-American

NBA (six seasons): 23.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 52.6 eFG%, five-time All-Star, one All-Star Game MVP, two-time All-NBA selection

Reason for: Might be the best player in the NBA right now.

Reason against: Injuries. (Davis has played just 70 percent of the possible games over his NBA tenure.)

Best moment:

(1) John Wall

Kentucky (one season): 16.6. points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 50.3 eFG%, first-team All-American

NBA (eight seasons): 18.9 points, 9.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 46 eFG%, five-time All-Star, one-time All-NBA selection

Reason for: The best player on three playoff teams.

Reason against: The Wizards have a better winning percentage without him this season.

Best moment:

(1) DeMarcus Cousins

Kentucky (one season): 15.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 56 eFG%, second-team All-American

NBA (eight seasons): 21.5 points, 11 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 blocks, 47.8 eFG%, four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection

Reason for: One of the most offensively skilled centers in history.

Reason against: Has never made it to the NBA playoffs.

Best moment:

(1) Karl-Anthony Towns

Kentucky (one season): 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 57 eFG%, second-team All-American, 38-1 record

NBA (three seasons): 21.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 blocks, 57.6 eFG%, 2016 Rookie of the Year, one-time All-Star

Reason for: Has the potential (and so far, the durability) to rack up accolades.

Reason against: Hasn’t shown the necessary defense, or consistent desire, to rack up accolades.

Best moment:

And now, the voting.

A quick reminder: We want you to include the quality and the quantity of a player’s contributions at both levels into your evaluations, but we’re skewing more toward the consideration process for the Basketball Hall of Fame: College careers matter, but NBA careers matter more.

The polls for each round will open—both here and on Twitter (@ringer)—around 9 a.m. ET every morning, and close at 8 p.m. ET each night. The grand finale is Friday. You only get to vote once, so make it count.

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    (1) Anthony Davis
    (3936 votes)
  • 7%
    (1) John Wall
    (307 votes)
4243 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    (1) DeMarcus Cousins
    (2234 votes)
  • 46%
    (1) Karl-Anthony Towns
    (1968 votes)
4202 votes total Vote Now