Take Five: College hoops’ best coaches

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You don’t have to love Kentucky’s Calipari, but you have to give him his due. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

My take on five reader questions or comments from the last week:

Who are the top three college basketball coaches in the game today? —David, via email

Wow — you’re not playing around, are you, David? That’s a big ol’ question and a difficult one to answer. I can think of at least 20 coaches who merit instant consideration, including aging rock stars such as Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Roy Williams; early-prime guys like Tony Bennett, Sean Miller and Bill Self; and non-major standouts Mark Few and Gregg Marshall. You probably could fill in the blanks with a dozen or more great names yourself.

I’m going with Kentucky’s John Calipari, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan. Those are in alphabetical order, by the way; I’m not sure I could rank them 1-3 if I tried. Calipari is a peerless recruiter and a great motivator, Krzyzewski has done more than anybody in the areas of building and maintaining a culture, and Ryan is the college game’s master of player and team development.

Your weekly guesses for the top NCAA seeds are interesting, but largely irrelevant. It will take a performance like that of Villanova in ’85 for any team (maybe Duke with its three-point shooters and Jahlil Okafor) to beat John Calipari’s crew. —William, via email

You had me at “irrelevant,” dude, though you are overstating the second part. Villanova shot nearly 80 percent and beat Patrick Ewing and that great Hoyas team by two points. If Duke (or Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Gonzaga, Villanova …) shoots 80 percent against Kentucky, Calipari’s crew will be blown out of the gym. Keep in mind, Ewing was a senior in 1985. Bill Martin, David Wingate, Horace Broadnax and Michael Jackson all were older players. The young Wildcats would be much likelier to wilt in the face of such marksmanship.

So when Cliff Alexander decides to stay at Kansas, does he first call a presser and pick up an NBA hat? —@illinistones

Oof — good one. Once probably is enough times down that road for Alexander.

I’ve seen some Illinois fans talking about “karma” since Alexander was sidelined last week as the NCAA investigates whether or not one or members of the former Curie star’s family received impermissible benefits from an agent. Karma, really? That’s kind of silly. I don’t even think it’s fair to criticize Alexander for actions his parents, or any other older relatives, may have taken. Alexander’s college career certainly is on the line, but unless we see proof that the player himself broke rules, “karma” is inappropriate and kind of mean. Too many young athletes are victimized by bad decisions made by the people who should be looking out for them.

Alexander should hope he gets the chance to stay at Kansas, because he clearly is unready for the NBA. He scored two points in 27 minutes over his last three games before being (temporarily?) shut down. He’s just a 19-year-old post player, and a 6-8 one at that.

How would a seven-game series between Arizona and Virginia go? Both pack-line defenses! —@DaveFarley1986

With or without Justin Anderson in the lineup? If we’re going to get all crazy-hypothetical — what fun, by the way — I at least want to know if Virginia would have the services of its best player.

In a seven-game series, I lean toward Arizona because of its ability to score in a variety of ways without having to rely on the three-point shot. Virginia is unbelievable at guarding the three-point line; the Wildcats are one of the best teams out there at creating good two-point looks. Maybe that sounds overly simple, but I think it would be decisive in a long series against a great Virginia squad that, with its great patience and discipline, makes every possession matter. Stanley Johnson leads the way in Game 7.

If Illinois had offered/pursued Tyler Ulis, would he have gone there? —@jkarzen

Short answer: No. Kentucky had Ulis’ heart from the moment John Calipari started coming around to see him. Well, that’s nearly accurate. Ulis told me last month that the first time Calipari expressed the belief that he not only could play in the NBA but could get there early, even at just 5-9, the marriage was essentially set. Calipari’s boldness with recruits seems to go an extraordinarily long way.

Plus, Ulis always intended to play college ball with best friend Devin Booker, who wasn’t about to go to Illinois.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg

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