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Prince: Kentucky couldn't compete with NBA teams

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Larry Brown is the only coach to win a title in the NBA and college. Given his vast experience, his proclamation about Kentucky's chances to compete for a playoff spot in the NBA came as something of a surprise.

"I think (Kentucky would) honestly make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference if they were in the NBA," said Brown, the former Pistons coach now at SMU.

That's lofty praise, given the youth on the roster and physical demands of playing an arduous NBA schedule. Kentucky is 36-0 and is four wins from completing a perfect season. It faces West Virginia in the Sweet 16 tonight in Cleveland.

"I don't think that's true, but Larry's a smart guy," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Wednesday. "I don't think a team of 18- to 20-year-old guys — no matter how talented they are — is going to be able to get it done.

"If they kept that team together, three years down the road in the NBA, obviously they'd have extreme talent."

Kentucky has four players 6-foot-10 or taller, and several contributors from last season's team that lost in the title game to Connecticut.

Tayshaun Prince and Jodie Meeks, who played at Kentucky, and are the only Pistons players whose alma mater still is alive in the Sweet 16. For Prince, comparing the Wildcats to any NBA team is not worthy of discussion.

"Not close," Prince said. "It's cool to have that conversation about those guys and the way they're playing and whether they would hang in the Eastern Conference, but no, not a chance."

"They're just too young; they wouldn't withstand the 82-game season and being able to be prepared to play four games in five nights. (Not) with 18-year-olds all on one team trying to do that … if it was two of them (maybe)."

Van Gundy and Prince agreed Kentucky is the odds-on favorite to win the title, but would be hard-pressed to do it against NBA talent.

Missing in action

After scoring 18 in the first half against the Raptors, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope left Tuesday's game with a thigh contusion. It's another Pistons starter on the mend, adding to the absence of Greg Monroe, who has missed five games with a knee train.

Van Gundy didn't have much of an update on Caldwell-Pope, given the Pistons didn't have a full practice Wednesday.

"All we did was lift weights, so he seemed fine and wasn't complaining about anything; we'll find out more (today)," Van Gundy said.

As for Monroe, Van Gundy said he's not expecting a return because the starting forward has been limited in practice. Monroe was doing some light workouts Wednesday.

"I'm not counting on him (for Friday) but it would be a nice bonus to have," Van Gundy said.

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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