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Nets!

Last week, in his column, "The great debates," Dan Stalcup asserted that he would take the Connecticut women's basketball team against any 14- to 16-seed in the NCAA men's tournament this season. Though this year's Connecticut women's basketball team is probably the best ever in the sport, I disagree with Stalcup. I think the strength and size of a men's team would eventually win out, even against the most proficient women's team. Connecticut even could run its set plays to perfection, but unfortunately, playing the game of basketball better doesn't necessarily translate into a win every time. Senior Tina Charles is 6 feet 4 inches tall and averages 18.5 points per game, but she is the tallest Husky. Men's basketball teams' tallest players, on the other hand, generally will not be shorter than about 6 feet 8 inches, and I think that could swing the advantage toward the men if the teams were equal in other parts of the game. Also, a men's team that has made the tournament is a quality team that most likely has a winning record. Now, if the argument were instead that the Connecticut women could defeat a smaller Division I school that can only scrape together a few wins, I would certainly have to reevaluate the situation, but I still think the men's team would be too physically dominating. Then again, I'd still pay to see the matchup.

Stalcup's query made me think of another popular question I've bounced around in my head at different times with friends and family: Could a college sports team defeat a professional squad? In a sport such as football, I think the answer is unequivocally "no." The worst NFL team still has bunches of players that were great in college. The best team in college, on the other hand, has a handful of players that would not make it professionally. So even though it may be intriguing to watch, I don't think this year's Alabama team or one of Urban Meyer's national championship teams at Florida could beat the winless 2008-09 NFL Detroit Lions.

Basketball, however, is a different animal. Upsets are more frequent. When Appalachian State beat Michigan in football in 2007, it was unprecedented. In basketball, the little guy can topple the big guy more often. The game is more contained and, I think, more prone to chance, as a team's luck will have more of an influence during a game than it would in football. A college offense in football would have to move up and down the field consistently against a professional defense - a daunting task. But in basketball, a college team could possibly get hot shooting the ball, and there's no defense for a team that is feelin' it.

The worst regular season record in NBA history belongs to the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who finished 9-73. This year's New Jersey Nets are currently 8-63 with 11 games left, so they are in position to break this "record."

Could a college men's team defeat the Nets in a college-timed game of 40 minutes, using the college three-point line? First, which team would be a good candidate? A senior-laden, experienced team would've seemed like a good matchup for the Nets. I would say tournament-favorite Kansas, but it lost to Northern Iowa Saturday, so I think that would take the team out of the running. I have a lot of respect for what Northern Iowa has done, but I think losing to the Panthers excludes a team from having a chance to defeat an NBA team.

Probably the most impressive team in the tournament so far has been Kentucky, which cruised through its first two games, defeating East Tennessee State 100-71 and then Wake Forest 90-60. The Wildcats certainly have NBA talent; they are led by two freshmen in scoring - John Wall with 16.8 points per game and DeMarcus Cousins with 15.1 points per game - who likely will leave school early to pursue an NBA career.

So, could they do it? I don't think so. Could they get lucky and beat them one time in ten games? Maybe, but I still have a hard time believing it.

The two biggest reasons Kentucky would lose would be inexperience and size, the same reason the Connecticut women would have a hard time hanging with a men's college team.

Kentucky has no senior starters, and the starting lineup they've used for most of the season stands at 6-foot-4, 6-foot-11, 6-foot-8, 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-7. The players who have started the most for the Nets, meanwhile, look like this: 7-feet, 7-feet, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-7. Although Kentucky matches up remarkably well in this department, the Wildcats would have major trouble guarding one 7-foot player with a 6-foot-8 player, and the Nets' shortest player is still two inches taller than Kentucky's shortest player. The Nets' starting lineup barely outweighs Kentucky's, so the Wildcats would need to use this to their advantage to keep the game close.

Even if Kentucky could hang with the Nets physically, the experience factor ultimately would be the reason for its demise. Kentucky, though talented, is remarkably young, while the Nets don't even have one rookie in their starting lineup. The Nets have seen the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant up close and have had to defend against them, so there really isn't anything more that could surprise them now that they've seen the best. It would be a tall order for Kentucky to defend NBA players of any caliber.

And it's not like the Nets starters were college scrubs. Brook Lopez - who was selected in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft - attended Stanford and left two years early but was a third-team All-American his sophomore year, as he averaged 19.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Lopez was averaging 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season heading into last night's game against Sacramento.

Chris Douglas-Roberts was a second-round pick out of Memphis following his junior year. During his final year with the Tigers from 2007 to 2008, he averaged 18.1 points per game and was named a first-team All-American. The Tigers lost to Kansas in overtime in the NCAA championship game that year.Douglas-Roberts was averaging 10.4 ppg this season heading into last night's game.

Devin Harris - who, after leaving college after his junior year, was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Washington Wizards and immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks - is probably the best known of the Nets starters. Harris was recruited by Virginia coach Tony Bennett's father, Dick Bennett, and played at Wisconsin. As a junior, he averaged 19.5 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while being named a second-team All-American. This season, Harris is averaging 17.4 points and 6.7 assists per game going into last night's game.

I think the Wildcats possibly could keep it close for a half, thanks of course to their pure athleticism and raw talent, but eventually the physicality and NBA experience of the Nets would win out. The benches would play a factor, too. The bench of Kentucky is certainly not as NBA-ready as some of its starters may be, while the Nets' bench obviously has NBA experience.

Although the game would be fun to watch, I just don't think Kentucky could pull off the amazing upset.

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