Charles Barkley has accomplished the rare feat of being a professional athlete that has been able to maintain his level of fame after retiring from basketball. It wasn’t a signature athletic shoe that helped buoy his popularity, nor was it a political career. For Leeds, Alabama’s favorite son, it is his sometimes jovial personality, self-deprecating humor and his penchant for saying whatever the hell he feels like saying, whenever he feels like saying it, and however he feels like saying it.
As has become a tradition, The Shadow League was in the building once again for the TNT/CBS NCAA Media Day in advance of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
It is an opportunity to speak with most of the sports broadcasters and personalities who will be spearheading their March Madness coverage. What has also become traditional in this space is Barkley holding court with his opinions and basketball hot takes. Here are a few of the gems he dropped on us.
On Covering the Tournament
“I’m actually relieved when the tournament starts. You have 10 or 15 teams that you know can win it all. Once the tournament hits it’s actually a relief. It’s like ‘Okay, these are the teams and we’re ready to go.’
On the Overall Quality of the Competitors
“I think this is the hardest tournament we’ve ever had going in. Sometimes it’s just them trying to make people think that everybody got a chance. 10 or 15 teams, I would agree with that. I’m out West and I tell people, Oregon and UCLA got just as good a chance as anybody. Kansas is terrific.”
“I’ve been hearing all year that the ACC is the best conference. It might be the best conference, but you look at their top three teams, I think the PAC 12 can compete with them. Me and Grant Hill both like North Carolina. Clark Kellogg, I think he likes Kansas. But, like I said, I wouldn’t be shocked if Arizona, UCLA or Oregon won this thing. Kentucky has been up and down, but that guy can really coach. Two things I’ve learned about this tournament; guard play is the most important part. The closest we had with a big guy impacting this tournament was Karl Anthony Townes and Frank Kaminsky, but every other year it’s been guard dominated.”
His Tenuous Pick to Win It All
“I picked North Carolina off the top of my head. You had to pick somebody. Duke is probably the most inconsistent really good team, you’ve got Louisville because they’ve got Rick Pitino. I really hope Notre Dame gets in. Virginia, if they can hold you to 60, they’ve always got a chance.’
On The Biggest Factors for Winning
“The coaching, I found out who can really coach. The one criticism of college basketball is a lot of these guys don’t make good in-game adjustments. They have a game plan and also, quick turnarounds. You don’t have any idea who you’re going to play. But the coaches who make the best in game adjustments are the ones where you’ll be like ‘That guy can really coach’. A lot of guys can coach just because they have the best players. That’s why you see so many upsets. What’s going to make this tournament so special is, you make a tweak here or there against the other teams in your neighborhood and you can win this thing.”