Twenty-two months ago, Kentucky Basketball coach John Calipari led the Wildcats to their eighth national championship and fifteenth Final Four. Just the year before, Calipari led the Wildcats to their fourteenth Final Four, ending a program worst 13 year run without a Final Four appearance. The year before that, Calipari returned the program to glory by reaching its first in-season #1 ranking in a over a decade and led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight. Since taking over in Lexington, John Calipari is 142-31, a 76.5% winning percentage, which matches the legendary Adolph Rupp’s record through the same amount of games. And yet, for all that, some of the Big Blue Nation are questioning the Calipari Way.
After the 69-59 defeat to the Florida Gators on Saturday night (only Calipari’s third home loss in nearly 5 seasons), it’s understandable for Kentucky fans to be disappointed. No one wants the team to lose. But the disappointment in this current edition of the Wildcats has been magnified with the expectations that were lauded on them in the preseason. There was the number 1 preseason AP ranking. There were the now infamous “40-0″ T-shirts. There was the talk of this class being the greatest recruiting class ever. Look, we all bought into it. I did, you probably did too. And we know the media did. And Calipari himself did, calling this team one of the best group he’s ever coached. However, contrary to popular belief, Calipari did not, at the 2013 Big Blue Madness, proclaim that this team would be perfect. That being said, we all bought into the hype of this team before any game, in part, to get the memory of last year’s NIT-bound team out of our collective minds. This class was rated better than the 2011-2012 Wildcats? It was too good to be true.
As Chuck D and Public Enemy implored the nation not so long ago: Don’t believe the hype.
Individually, each member of the Kentucky team is supremely talented. We’ve seen both Harrisons, Andrew and Aaron, be dominant in attacking the basket. We’ve seen James Young get hot, singlehandedly keeping up the Cats in games (like LSU and Michigan State). Willie Cauley-Stein started off the season on pace with Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel in terms of the UK single season block record. Julius Randle has, quite simply, been a beast, a double-double machine. Much maligned sophomore Alex Poythress has finally found his niche, coming off the bench and contributing nicely. Even crowd favories Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood have shined under the spotlight. But, for all that talent, the team part of the equation has been elusive. The guys don’t seem to be a cohesive unit yet and, as the calendar is set to flip to March, time is quickly running out to right the ship.