This Will Finally Be Calipari’s Year
Lets start with the obvious. Kentucky is entering the tournament as the #1 ranked team in the nation. They feature a team with the future #1 NBA pick Anthony Davis and the possible #2 pick in Michael-Kidd Gilchrist. Since John Calipari has arrived to Kentucky, the Wildcats have gone 52-0 at home and finished this season with a record of 32-2. They have beaten three top 10 teams including fellow tournament #1 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, the Big East Tournament Champion Louisville Cardinals and SEC rival Florida Gators. It has been years since any school has been picked so strongly by college analysts, and this team is well deserving.
Freshman Marquis Teague has taken the reigns of the team and has orchestrated the offense. He shoots 40% from the field and 31% from three though has sacrificed his scoring for the benefit of the team. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a the heart and soul of the team. He is a hard worker who averages 12 points, 8 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He fills up the stat sheet in ever way imaginable. Anthony Davis should win the Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and is expected to be the top pick in the NBA draft. Davis is averaging 10 rebounds, close to 15 points and a massive 5 blocks a game. He is an altering player who can dominate the game on both ends. He shoots 65% from the field and is still developing his offensive repertoire. On top of that, Davis hits on 70% of his free throws, an extremely impressive number for a raw freshman big man.
Incase this teams talent isn’t enough to convince you Kentucky is far and away the class of the field, their tournament history is second to only UCLA, a team that didn’t make the tournament this year. They have 14 Final Four appearances, turning 50% (7) into National Championships. They have also appeared in 52 tournaments and have compiled an outstanding record of 107-47. Not too shabby.
The X factor in all of this is their coach. John Calipari has taken a lot of heat over the past few years in his recruiting practices. he has routinely gone after players knowing their intent is to play one or two years, and jump into the NBA (John Wall). With this strategy, he has had a lot of regular season success but has too often fallen short in the tournament. His best chance came in 2008, when he took Memphis to the finals. He was seconds away from winning that elusive championship, but a few Derrick Rose foul shot misses and a Mario Chalmers three-point shot at the buzzer sent the game to OT, where Memphis and Calipari crumbled under pressure. Rose went to the NBA months later and Calipari took his act to Kentucky.
Calipari has also been involved in academic and business scandals leading to probationary periods for teams he vacated. Even Bobby Knight, one of the most controversial coaches in NCAA history has said “integrity is really lacking…you see we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two… schools on probation and he is still coaching…I really don’t understand that.” Many coaches believe his recruiting of one-and-done players is making a mockery of the phrase student-athlete.
Whether you agree or disagree with Calipari’s ethics, there is no denying he is an all-time great coach. With UMASS he won 5 Atlantic Ten Championships. He won 4 Conference USA Championships with Memphis and has 2 SEC Titles with Kentucky so far. His overall record as a coach is 509-152, the second most wins in any coaches first 19 years, behind only Roy Williams. He has been to 3 Final Fours and 1 final appearance.
With all that said, the talent of the current Wildcats roster, the storied history of the Kentucky program and Calipari’s tremendous success leads us to the conclusion that Kentucky will be the last team dancing this tournament. Calipari will finally cut down the nets, whether anyone likes it or not.