Overheard on ESPN radio yesterday: a debate over whether the Philadelphia 76ers, as currently constituted, could beat any of the Final Four teams in this year's NCAA tournament. And this was an actual debate.
This is, of course, stupid, not the least of which being because they're never going to play them. It's "Could Superman beat up the Hulk?" for sports fans, only with more chest thumping and less data. (Comic book nerds cite original sources. It's part of their charm.)
But, leaving that sort of nonsense aside, let's look at the evidence for ten to fifteen seconds before we realize that no, a pro team - even a very bad one like these Sixers - is not going to lose to a college team on anything but a fluke.
Why? Part of it is because the pros have been living under pro conditions, with pro trainers and pro dietitians and pro workout rooms and all the support systems that money can buy. They are, to be blunt, bigger and stronger and tougher than a bunch of 19 year old kids, no matter how talented those freshmen might be.
And part of it is the sad calculus of professional sports. The guys the ESPN radio jocks were dissing were guys like Jarvis Varnado and Henry Sims. A couple of years ago, when these guys were in college, they were stars. They were monsters. They were the best of the best, or close to it; the names you had to prepare for and watch out for before taking the court. Varnado was one of two college players to get 1000 points, 1000 rebounds and 500 blocks. That's some pretty rarefied air. Caspar Ware was a pre-season Wooden Award finalist in college and racked up a list of credentials as long as your arm. Arnett Moultrie, a guy who can't get off the bench even for this bunch, was all-SEC.
In short, they were pretty much all stars in college. All names. And together, they're monster chow in the NBA.
Now put a single college team up against that. It doesn't matter how good a college team they are. They're not winning, not even if Henry Sims gets major minutes.