Stop It, People: Kentucky Doesn't Stand a Chance Against the New York Knicks
I thought we were done, but then last night happened.
The Kentucky Wildcats completely obliterated West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament last night, and somehow, some way, we're back to square one. This time, instead of wondering if the Wildcats could beat the NBA's 76ers, the question is whether or not Kentucky could beat the Knicks.
This is stupid, so let’s end this debate once and for all.
The Knicks in College
First of all, the Knicks were all incredible in college, which is not surprising considering that’s generally a prerequisite for being in the NBA. Take a look at the stats the Knicks put up in their last year of college (or abroad).
Similarly, we can look at Kentucky’s first-round prospects and their stats.
As you can see, a number of the New York Knicks put up more impressive numbers than Kentucky’s projected first-rounders. Part of that is obviously the fact that Kentucky has four first-round picks on one team, and they need to share touches. But there isn’t a single player on Kentucky who has dominated statically the way guys on the Knicks roster once did.
In terms of a defensive presence, Karl-Anthony Towns has been fantastic, and many point to him being a key to matching up against an NBA team. It’s worth noting, though, that Cole Aldrich had 5.2 blocks per 40 minutes compared to Towns’ 4.5 (Aldrich played at Kansas, a major Big 12 school, for what it's worth).
The Age Curve
The average age of Kentucky’s roster is 20.4 years, compared to the Knicks’ 27.25. There's a huge age curve in the NBA, and it has been shown time and time again that players get better up until the age of 26 or 27. Looking at an age curve from WakimAnalytics.com, we see that players, on average, get an extra 60% worth of performance around age 27 compared to age 20. That’s a huge difference, and that’s strictly looking at NBA performance. Players have had an extra year of practice, game time, and experience in their rookie year in the NBA compared to their last year of college. This point can’t be emphasized enough, so I’ll repeat it again: Kentucky’s roster has an average age of 20.4 years, and 20-year-olds are not very good at basketball.
Another fact people seem to forget when discussing this topic is that Kentucky basketball players are not professionals. They're limited to 20 hours of practice per week, while NBA players’ lives are consumed with basketball. The conditioning alone of Kentucky’s players wouldn’t be enough to keep up with New York for a full NBA game. The game planning, offensive and defensive sets, and just about any sort of preparation would give New York a huge advantage.
One of the biggest reasons Kentucky dominates the NCAA is because of size. They're one of the biggest college basketball teams in the nation, and that works greatly to their advantage.
But, hey, guess what? They aren’t bigger than the New York Knicks.
Look at the Kentucky first rounders height.
|Kentucky First Rounders||Height|
The Knicks' starters provide a very good matchup in terms of size, much better than most NCAA teams do.
The Kentucky Wildcats have a very slight advantage here, but overall, the size of the two squads is very similar. To put that into perspective, look at West Virginia’s starters’ height from last night.
|West Virginia Starters||Height|
|Daxter Miles Jr.||6'3''|
On average, each Kentucky starter was 4.8'' taller than his West Virginian matchup. That's an enormous advantage that the Wildcats no longer have versus an NBA team.
Odds of a Kentucky Win
Las Vegas sports books do this for a living, and they’re almost always right. If the Knicks and Kentucky played on a neutral court, New York would be favored at 13.5 points.
NERD NOTES: If the Knicks & Kentucky played on a neutral floor with college rules, NYK would be a 13.5 point favorite. (via @Westgate_LV)— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) March 27, 2015
Thankfully, BettingTalk has looked how often underdogs win when the spread is 13.5 points or higher, and the result is 0.0% when rounded to one decimal point. That’s not to say Kentucky would never win, it just means they will win less than 0.05% of the time. If the line were to be set at 13 points, Kentucky would be expected to win 1.3% of the time. Percentages for different lines can be seen here.
So to answer the question, the obvious answer is yes -- anything can happen in sports -- but the chances of it happening are very close to zero. In fact, they're less than 0.05%.
And the chances of Kentucky beating the Knicks in a seven-game series are even smaller. Even if we gave them the benefit of the doubt and set the line at 13 points (they’d have a 1.3% probability at winning each individual game), the probability of them winning a seven games series is smaller than 0.0000001%, or less than one in a million. In an 82-game season, where each game is played against the Knicks, they’d win just over one game, on average.
This entire debate needs to end now.