As the NCAA Tournament gets under way on Thursday, many NBA fans will be catching some of the excitement through the Final Four.
But while the play on the court is usually exciting, the bracketing of the event also conjures up some interesting hypotheticals.
A favorite at bars and dens throughout the globe is about which college boasts the best current crop of NBA players.
Unfortunately, Kentucky has made the argument a bit of a non-starter in recent times, as coach John Calipari has built a machine in Lexington, churning out NBA stars like a factory of blue-chip talent.
A starting five of John Wall, Devin Booker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins with a strong bench sure is formidable.
But would any other group of alums be able to give the Wildcats a game?
What about the boys from Westwood?
It’s easy to forget for young basketball fans, but Kentucky actually isn’t the best college basketball program of all-time. Or Duke. Or North Carolina or Kansas.
It’s UCLA. By a lot.
And sure, the glory days for the Bruins are largely long ago from the past, the Bruins have had some big-time talent launch their pro careers in L.A. before starring in the NBA.
Here’s a look at the potential starting five for coach John Wooden, who might consider coming back from the dead to guide this group.
Oh, just one of the favorites for the NBA MVP in a loaded season, that’s all.
Russell Westbrook will be controlling the ball for this group, as he does for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And while the knock on OKC is his lack of supporting cast, that won’t be a problem here, as he’ll have plenty of options on the court and strong defensive stoppers to help too.
Since we’re dealing in a hypothetical here, we can ignore the fact that our next player is currently injured and out for the season.
Zach LaVine was making major strides this season for the Minnesota Timberwolves in his third NBA campaign, averaging 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists before tearing his ACL in early February.
A high-flyer when healthy, his shooting percentage has gone up each year and he’s actually pretty good from deep, knocking down 38.7% of his 3-pointers this season.
Veteran Trevor Ariza of the Houston Rockets has proven to be an outstanding glue guy throughout his career and he’ll do the same for our hypothetical Bruins team.
Ariza helped Kobe Bryant and an underwhelming Los Angeles Lakers team to an NBA title in 2009.
Coach Wooden will look to Ariza to provide leadership, experience, scoring, rebounding and a few intangibles to this UCLA team.
Now in his second season starting for the L.A. Clippers, Luc Mbah a Moute might be one of the most important players in the league this postseason.
The defensive stopped for coach Doc Rivers, Mbah a Moute needs to be active against top Western Conference players such as Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward and whoever Rivers throws him up against on the Golden State Warriors.
He also might need to handle Davis defensively for his UCLA bunch if they meet Kentucky in the fake Final Four.
All the talk about Westbrook’s lack of supporting cast is taken care of here on this team by his former college teammate.
Just like LeBron James enjoys with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love would be the perfect complement to Westbrook, spacing the floor and giving a defensive and rebounding presence for the Bruins.
Bench players such as Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes and Shabazz Muhammad also should help with coach Wooden’s rotations, although admittedly the team is a little light in the post.
And don’t forget, Lonzo Ball will be on the way soon.