LEXINGTON, Ky. — ESPN’s College GameDay is in town for Kentucky’s game against Florida on Saturday night, and analyst Jay Bilas answered a wide range of questions from local media Friday afternoon.
Bilas talked everything from Rupp Arena ice cream to NCAA transfer restrictions.
Here’s the full Q&A.
Q: Why does GameDay enjoy coming to Rupp Arena?
Bilas: “Because of the reception we get here. Every time we’ve been in Rupp Arena for GameDay, they blow the doors off the place. There’s not a more passionate fan base in America than here at Kentucky, and we’ve never had anything but a great experience here. And Rupp Arena has soft serve ice cream, which as you know is Xanadu to me. As long as there’s ice cream, this is the mecca of college basketball and that will not change until the ice cream runs out.”
Q: How much ice cream will you have during the game?
Bilas: “However many they bring me.”
Q: How important is it for Kentucky to have Quade Green back and add what Jarred Vanderbilt brings?
Bilas: “Vanderbilt adds a skill player that’s got size and length, that can make plays off the bounce. He’s a good passer, so the ball moves when he’s in there. And Quade can make shots. Having another guard that can play point and take some of that responsibility off Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is important. Does it make them the best team when he’s in there? No. But having a player of his caliber is really important.”
Q: Your comments on Seth Greenberg saying some college freshmen have a “spoiled” mentality.
Bilas: “I haven’t heard that, but to the extent that people are saying somehow freshmen today are different than freshmen years ago, the way they’re different is they’re better. These players at an earlier age are better than they’ve ever been. If all you needed were older players to win, then people would only have older players. Coaches aren’t gonna do what’s not in their interests to do. So we’ve seen teams that have had really talented freshmen win national championships and go to Final Fours, Elite Eights and they’ve done really, really well.
“But the truth is, experienced teams have always done well. So you’re always gonna have senior-, junior-dominated teams. That’s not gonna change, because that’s the way sports is. But whether it’s basketball or football, who made the biggest plays in the National Championship Game in the College Football Playoff? Freshmen. So, I find it really curious people use the word ‘entitled’ with regard to unpaid amateurs. You don’t hear that coaches are making more than they’ve ever made. Are they entitled? I don’t understand what that means anymore. These guys work their tails off, they come to school, they play for free and they do a great job. There’s certain people who are entitled in every business. I don’t know if you’ve seen the media, but there are certain people in the media who are entitled [laughter]. To me, that’s just something people say.”
Q: There’s been some inconsistency with this Kentucky team. What’s the key for them against Florida?
Bilas: “Get older. Kentucky’s younger than they’ve been because they don’t have as many older players to lead the way. And so when you have nothing but youth, you’re gonna have some inconsistency. I don’t think that’s necessarily by design. But Kentucky’s done a really good job. The reason they’re not better is they’re not as talented as they’ve been.
“These freshmen here at Kentucky are outstanding players. They’d be outstanding anywhere, wherever they went. But I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out there’s no Anthony Davis on this team. There’s no Karl-Anthony Towns on this team. I don’t think anyone was too worried about youth when those guys were playing. Nobody was worried about entitlement when those guys were playing. This is a really good basketball team that’s continued to get better. It does not have the same kind of star power they’ve had in the past. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.
“This year, very good is good enough. If you’re very good at the end of the year, that’s good enough. That can win it this year because we do not have the same power teams we’ve had in the past. Maybe one will emerge, or a couple will emerge, but right now nobody’s great.”
Q: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the best player, but it doesn’t seem like Kentucky has a go-to guy. Do you see anybody developing into that role?
Bilas: “I don’t think you’re gonna have anyone develop into some kind of go-to star. I just don’t think that’s gonna happen. I think the best teams, period, the go-to guy is the open man. I think that can be this way at Kentucky. There’s nobody on this team you can hand the ball to and say, ‘Go get me 25.’ There are guys that can score 25, but they’re not gonna do it by themselves. It’s a little bit different.
“They’re very good. I think some people tend to take it when you say, ‘Look, they don’t have the same super talent the’ve had in the past,’ take that as disrespectful. I don’t think it’s disrespectful. I think it’s extraordinarily respectful to the players they’ve had in the past here. You can’t just say these guys are as good as the class in 2012. They’re not. They’re just not. But to me, that points to how dang good they were in 2012, and how good that class was, or 2010, or that group they had in 2015.”
Q: There’s been momentum for the NCAA to pass the unrestricted transfer rule. Do you think that’s something college basketball and football should move toward?
Bilas: “I think it depends on what the principle is. So, to me, it has to be based on a principle. If the principle is these are students who just happen to be athletes, and these are students to be treated like any other students, then what moral authority is there to say, ‘No, you have to have the equivalent of a non-compete and you’re gonna be treated like an employee. You’re not an employee, but we’re gonna treat you like an employee.’
“Because those that don’t want transfers to be eligible immediately are saying that we want to deter our assets from leaving. We want to retain our assets that we have invested in so we can reap the benefit of that investment by having them as older players here. Players are still gonna transfer whether they sit out a year or not. The idea that we would have anarchy if they’re allowed to be immediately eligible is simply not true. Because immediate eligibility is the norm in all but a handful of NCAA sports.
“Whatever excuse that the association uses, it’s just an excuse. We have to pick a principle and live by it, because if they’re assets that need to be retained and that they need to be subject to a non-compete provision, which is exactly what a transfer restriction is, then they should be allowed to reap the benefits of that employment and gain compensation whether from their name and likeness or from their services. If they’re just students like any other, you show me any other student that is restricted from transferring and accepting immediate aid anywhere else, and then I’ll buy in. But right now there isn’t that. There isn’t even that in other sports.
“I don’t see how we can say with a straight face that somehow we have to have this competitive balance, we have to have control of our assets in a couple sports, but competitive balance doesn’t mean anything in the rest of them. That’s belied by our policies, and the NCAA’s policies are without principle in this area. It’s an easy fix if they wanted to do it. All they have to do is say, ‘If a player wants to transfer, that player can transfer immediately and accept aid at another institution immediately,’ and that the school that player is leaving has no say in where they go — in conference, out of conference, no say. But if we want, for competitive balance reasons, the transferred player to sit out a year, that’s fine. But that needs to apply across the board in all sports.”