John Calipari. It seems as if the only flaw this man possesses is a last name that rhymes with calamari, but even I’m a huge fan of calamari. He’s a mythical legend, a coaching genius and a devious mastermind. He’s a man among boys in the world of coaching. No team has ever been favored as much as Kentucky in this year’s March Madness.
However, Calipari will not be the winner of the 2015 NCAA Division I basketball championship anytime soon. The Kentucky Wildcats will not be hoisting the hardware come April. As good as Coach Cal is, Kentucky has flaws that even he won’t be able to overcome.
I apologize for just pulling the ultimate buster on your bracket, but who doesn’t love seeing a quality upset during the time of year known for them?
Kentucky is undefeated. Teams that coast to the finish line unscathed certainly belong in the lore of college basketball. The last team to pull off this heralded feat was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, winning the championship with a perfect 32-0 record. I wouldn’t even know this fact if it weren’t for the many sports analysts who think this year’s Kentucky team could be next in line. Thus, the Wildcats have the pressure of breaking a 30-year record on their shoulders.
With that said, the team is composed of about 70 percent freshmen and sophomores. Picture yourself as one of these young athletes on a national stage; all eyes are on you. It’s hard for such a young team to live up to the expectations of an entire nation, regardless of the level of talent the Wildcats possess. If I were a freshman prodigy who played for Kentucky and lost in the tournament, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself for at least a month after — it’s just too much pressure for a young player.
I wish Kentucky lost the SEC championship just to have one loss going into March Madness. Imagine how much pressure would be taken off these young players. The team has gotten too complacent, and tacking up one in the loss column would’ve given it the drive needed to finish the fight.
This complacency will without a doubt rear its ugly head before the Final Four. The NCAA selection committee has handed Kentucky a tray of delicious cupcakes to freely feast on until the Final Four. None of the Wildcats’ potential opponents before the Final Four have a realistic chance of even competing with Kentucky.
The Cats have only been really tested four times this season. You’ll never guess the four teams, either: Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU and Georgia.
But Kentucky had the unique ability to muster up its bulky ball of talent to dispose of these measly teams in the final few minutes. What will happen when Kentucky plays a decent team in the Final Four? The Wildcats won’t even know what hit them. They will look up at the scoreboard toward the end of the game only to find that there is still work to be done. But it will just be too little, too late for these magical Cats. Frank Kaminsky and the Wisconsin Badgers and Stanley Johnson and the Arizona Wildcats provide a bigger test than the four teams mentioned above, possessing too much firepower to submit to Kentucky’s reign.
If that’s not enough, I’m a huge fan of history, so let me throw some numbers at you. According to USA Today, only four teams ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll prior to the tournament have gone on to win it all in the 30 years that the NCAA has used the 64-team field. Four out of 30? That means that 13 percent of the top-ranked teams have won the tournament in the past 30 years, a historical trend that Kentucky will have a hard time contesting. I think I’ll side with history on this one.
If the Kentucky Wildcats indeed go 40-0, they will go down as arguably the best team ever in the annals of college basketball, and the true glory of Calipari will only be reaffirmed. However, Calipari cannot coach age, regardless of how good of a coach he is. His prestige has nothing to do with how young the players are and the pressure they will face under the limelight during the Final Four, and this will be evident when the mighty Cats fall in Indianapolis.