Sweet 16, 26-10, freshman of the year (in Julius Randle), but the Wildcats underachieved, right?
In all honesty, it depends how you look at it. The perception of the Kentucky Wildcats in the preseason versus the end of the season was night and day. Or sun and moon. Or (put blatantly) good and bad. 40-0, undefeated season, player of the year. People thought that could happen. People thought that this was the greatest recruiting class for one school in college basketball history (and I still agree with that). But 26-10? A #8 seed? That wasn't going to fly with die-hard and semi-knowledgable Kentucky fans.
It wasn't going to fly with Kentucky fans, but it has. It's been a fun year and an extremely interesting year. The ups and downs of Julius Randle and the Harrison twins, the ebbs and flows of the frustration in which John Calipari displayed on the sideline; It really was interesting,
And to see all of that come full circle in undoubtedly the greatest college basketball game this year -- and if you try to argue that I really feel bad for you -- was truly refreshing.
It's hard to root for the Wildcats. Just like, assuming you aren't a fan, it's hard to root for Alabama football. Fantastic coach, storied history, and raucous fans surround each team and program. But to see 5 guys who are all future NBA players and all special talents come together, it was purely refreshing.
You can point to many sequences. Memorable moments such as the unselfish pass up the court from Julius Randle to Aaron Harrison for 3, the lob from Andrew Harrison to Willie Cauley-Stein, and even the extra pass to James Young for the three, all define the progression of this team. The players are enjoying playing and competing in the game they love, and Andrew Harrison greatly expressed that in saying, "It was just a joy to be out there. Even as it’s going on, you knew it was a special sort of game."
Even John Calipari is happy. Did he think his team would get to this point prior to the SEC Basketball Tournament? I doubt it. And because of that, you get the feel -- in a sense -- that he's playing with house money.
After winning the Kansas State game in the second round, Calipari was introduced at the press conference and his first words were, "We're happy we're still playing. (Laughter). Thank you. (Laughter)." Calipari was happy, and he even praised the other coach, said, "I've been through what he is going through, trying to keep a team focused in staying in the moment when you are undefeated and you are trying to run the table. Very difficult. And he's done a masterful job. A masterful job."
It was masterful. Wichita did have a masterful run. But so has Louisville throughout the last few weeks of the season. And although Calipari is "enjoying life," I would bet the house he doesn't praise Rick Pitino in today's press conference.