For Calipari and Kentucky, a shining season goes splat

Unbeaten no longer. (AP photo/Darron Cummings)

Unbeaten no longer. (AP photo/Darron Cummings)

Unbeaten no longer. (AP photo/Darron Cummings)

Unbeaten no longer. (AP photo/Darron Cummings)

Indianapolis — John Calipari is a really good coach. Let’s get that out of the way. He recruits better than anybody, Nick Saban included. He gets McDonald’s All-Americans to play as a team. He has won one national championship and has taken teams to six Final Fours. That said …

He’s not the world’s greatest tactician. In 2008, his Memphis Tigers had a nine-point lead inside the final two minutes of the NCAA championship game and saw Kansas snatch the title. On Saturday, Calipari’s unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats had a 60-56 lead inside the final six minutes and — pause for effect — committed three consecutive shot-clock violations.

I doubt any team in the history of the NCAA tournament — not even the lowest of 16th seeds — has ever committed three consecutive shot-clock violations. Somehow the 38-0 Wildcats, who were being mentioned as one of the greatest teams ever, managed to come undone at the very moment they seemed to have seized the game.

They didn’t miss free throws. They didn’t throw the ball away. On three game-changing possessions, they just couldn’t manage a shot that hit the rim. (Actually they managed to hit the rim once. Then they took the offensive rebound, fooled around a while longer and were called for another shot-clock violation.)

Said Calipari: “We didn’t slow it down. We were trying to post the ball, run the pick-and-rolls, the stuff we were running. They crowded a little bit, the guys got a little bit tentative. We were trying to still play.”

Got that? The nation’s No. 1 team was looking to score, as opposed to kill time, and not only couldn’t make a shot but couldn’t hit the rim. How does that happen? Did the pressure of being undefeated finally unnerve the Wildcats? If so, why did Kentucky override a nine-point deficit in the first half and an eight-point deficit in the second? Why did they wait until they had Wisconsin — for the first and last time all night — in retreat to fold?

Full credit to the Badgers: They did what Notre Dame almost did in Cleveland but didn’t quite. They outplayed Kentucky for most of the game and were in position to win. But these Wildcats were never a great offensive team, and that was ultimately their undoing.

Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the twin guards, were clearly unsure how to attack Wisconsin’s sagging defense. (It looked like a zone but might not have been.) So Calipari left them out there to fend for themselves, and for once they couldn’t. This is where a coach has to calm his men and restore order. Instead Calipari allowed the game to spiral back into Wisconsin’s lap.

Maybe it was just the law of averages catching up to the ‘Cats, who’d had five close calls en route to 38-0. And Kentucky fans will insist Nigel Hayes’ tying putback should itself have been a shot-clock violation. But here’s the bottom line:

You’re the nation’s No. 1 team. You have a four-point lead with six minutes remaining. You score four points over those six minutes. You commit three consecutive shot-clock violations. You deserve whatever you get, and what Kentucky got was its first loss of the season — and its last.

From myajc: Unbeaten no more — Wisconsin topples Kentucky.

Reader Comments 0

96 comments
5150POAD
5150POAD

My Non-REDNECK Boyz beez in da hood watching the CHAMPIONSHIP game with a bunch of Non-HOOD RATS playing...Dat beez Cool

gt1995
gt1995

I can't remember at what point it was during the game, but the analyst made the following comment (paraphrased)...


To beat Kentucky you have to force them to make basketball plays rather than athletic plays.


Kentucky has the most talented, athletic team in the country. Perhaps in the last 25 years. They ARE NOT the best basketball team. They do not consistently run sound offense or defense. They rely on the fact that they are bigger, stronger, faster. That works against the non-conference and weak a$$ SEC. That does not work consistently against top-flight competition.


These Wildcats would have lost at least 2 games had they played in the ACC, PAC-12 or BIG-10. Much like the UMASS and Memphis teams of Calipari, the league level of competition did not get them ready to execute during the tourney. We saw during the Cincy game, they could be beat. They took a punch but kept on. ND had them on the ropes but couldn't quite finish. The Badgers finally delivered the knockout blow. The Wildcats never played three opponents of that caliber in a four week stretch, let alone a four game stretch. Teams in the ACC, BIG-10 and PAC-10 play that level of competition once a week.

twentysixpointtwo
twentysixpointtwo

@gt1995 I agree with what you are saying about Kentucky's offensive game plan.  Too me it very often seemed the plan was to take a decent shot and crash the boards with a couple or three of your seven footers in order to get an offensive rebound and putback.  Even I could coach with that game plan.

Armydawg
Armydawg

I was at UK for two years in 91-92.  I was hoping they would be 40-0 since UGA could not beat them. But every UK fan everywhere should be ashamed of the way their fans acted after the game along State St in Lexington.  They vulgar chants to Wisconsin and the vandalism makes the whole Wildcat Nation look bad.  It reminded me of the South Carolina white trash students shouting in unison F U Georgia last year at Williams-Brice just before the infamous non Todd Gurley play.

BearCasey
BearCasey

Kentucky was an excellent team this past season but had they played in the ACC, they would have lost 2-3 games.  The "Greatest" label was the created hype of sports writers who must have missed Vegas '90, Indiana '76, and several UCLA teams 1964-75.  What's the big deal that UK lost?

MainDeal
MainDeal

when will kentucky suspend harrison for his racial slur???

5150POAD
5150POAD

@ClubShark Never it is a Black thing! You wouldn't understand...lol

Oklahoma kicks 2 WHITE Frat boys out of school for a song on a Bus in private but Kentucky will do nothing and we know why.

crackbaby
crackbaby

Mr. Bradley - My perception was that Andrew Harrison played well down the stretch.  He didn't get much help on offense.


Strategically, the Badgers were gassed in the second half but Kentucky couldn't see fit to take it to them.  Calipari didn't use deep rotation to advantage. 


Bo Ryan and the Badgers deserve full credit.  All their guys played well.

dlh82
dlh82

Somewhere a horrible actress in a white UK t shirt sobs unconvincingly. Yeah,I'm ok with that.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Kentucky lost their poise with 5 minutes left in the game. Never made another shot and took many bad shots as well.


Salute to Wisky.

birdrow
birdrow

Couldn't happen to a more classless and dishonest guy.  Thought it was funny how his team matched his lack of class after the game.  Within 3 years this program and this used car salesman coach will be on the front page of SI with a screaming headline "Cheaters!".  Sad thing is that he'll be long gone, and no one at Kentucky will really be all that ashamed.  Way to go Wisconsin.  Thank God for karma.

SomewherenSGa
SomewherenSGa

You can't beat heart, no matter how many 5 stars you have, That's why I like Coach Fox and his players. True champions come from the heart not, give me a team with heart anytime over a bunch of 5 stars. I can see that in the NBA

BobbyDawg
BobbyDawg

Three consecutive shot clock violations was totally uncalled for. This was one area that Calipari hadn't prepared for. This is where you learn. This is where you teach and execute a five minute drill to close out the game that does not allow such nonsense.

kenstallings
kenstallings

Stuff happens!


That's all you needed to write, Mark.


Stuff happens!

GTBee
GTBee

You wrote an entire article on the game but failed to mention the white boys won !!!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@GTBee

He doesn't want Jesse and Al dawgin' him for the rest of his life.

DawgNole
DawgNole

Pretty sickening how TBS coverage fawned over Calipari--focusing more on him than the game itself--while virtually ignoring Ryan.

StraightJacket
StraightJacket

Calipari forgot to make payroll to his players yesterday.  Otherwise, they would have won it all.  


He'll sign a new fab five and Kentucky will dominate again, but the real fix is still a long way off.


Until college basketball can become like college baseball with respect to eligibility and draft status, there will be WAY too much "pro" basketball in the sport of "College" basketball.  

odellgtpt
odellgtpt

As a Badger fan , I saw the game a little differently. Kentucky choked under the pressure. When they had the lead , they seemed to play like the game was over and all they had to do was run out the clock. I think part of that letdown was due to their inexperience.

The Badgers got their share of bad calls too, so officiating didn't decide it. When Wisconsin turned up the defensive intensity, Kentucky had no answer. Kentucky had 9 McDonald All America players on its roster, Wisconsin has ZERO. But that is just talent, and talent does not always prevail.

Wisconsin admitted they had been wanting to play Kentucky again after losing to them last year.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin pointing to Kentucky for so long may be their undoing against Duke. They may have a letdown that could cost them the title.

5150POAD
5150POAD

Well if Ashley Judd ever gets another acting job we know what she will use as inspiration to make her CRY for a scene. 

LakeDawg
LakeDawg

I will say again, I don't know why you and others in the media were touting this UK team as one of the greatest of all time. College basketball as a whole is down this year. While really talented, this UK team is young and were hit or miss offensively. They were undefeated, but played in the weak SEC. It wouldn't have surprised me if they won it all, but I picked Wisconsin to beat them. I think Duke is better than them, also. I guess memories are short. There are no great teams in the one and done era.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@LakeDawg You are correct, sir.  Even some sports writers (not talking about Bradley) have forgotten that prior to one and done you had great players staying for 4 years.  There is no way that UK was better than those TEAMS of great players with experience.

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Things are setting up nicely for Duke and the ACC to again take the National title.

It makes sense as the ACC is the best college basketball conference by far! I feel

sure Bradley is a big ACC supporter.

Aikendawg
Aikendawg

@LOGS1973  Don't forget about all of the degrees in basket weaving and electric train engineering they give out every year.

5150POAD
5150POAD

God Bless all those nice young men of KenSucky. They  now can go make millions of dollars and live their lives as Rich Racists. They have truly become just like the White people they HATE. 

atlfanman
atlfanman

@5150POAD There is no evidence of this team being racist or tattoo filled or earring wearing or unintelligent or undisciplined. However your words are jammed packed with racism.

5150POAD
5150POAD

Boy you read a lot into my post(that I didn't say of infer). The statement by Harrison screams of RACISM. That means the other players must say the same type of things when others are not around right? That is what Jesse, Al, Obama and all their supporters think and say.

A white kid hangs a noose on a statue at OLD MISS and it is a federal case. Only a few people saw it LIVE but Harrison makes a comment that hundreds of thousands hear and it is OKAY?

atlfanman
atlfanman

@5150POAD  Harrison did make a racist statement but so did you in your statements, "They  now can go make millions of dollars and live their lives as Rich Racists. They have truly become just like the White people they HATE." How do you know they hate white people? How can you automatically assume because they will become rich racists? I wasn't aware of the noose on the statue at Ole Miss, however there is a very violent and racist history associated with lynching. Anyone with a conscious should be respectful to that.  


Unfortunately, many people have turned this into a victory for good versus bad, white versus black, as oppose to a very good team just defeated another very good team.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@atlfanman: "Harrison did make a racist statement but so did you . . . ."

____________________

So that makes Harrison's OK?

atlfanman
atlfanman

@5150POAD My guess is that you don't know whether he is racist by this statement. Why does it have to be a national outcry? Where does white cops come in this conversation? However, you are correct about lynchings throughout the south.

atlfanman
atlfanman

@DawgNole I did, you didn't notice. Harrison's words were damning to say the least. He just had an emotional loss and the lack of better judgment got the best of him. Still, I can't condone his words. Yet, with that said, I am not trying turn a basketball game into a prism of black versus white bent on racist tendencies. POAD wasn't the only blogger to show their racist biases on this site.


Unfortunately, now what will be remembered from people reading this site, is not that the Badgers are a great team but that they are a white great team. For me it is not that important what color they make up, for me I enjoy that they are a great team.  

atlfanman
atlfanman

@DawgNole Yes I do. And to me it is calling it like it is stated, to you it is hypocritical.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@atlfanman @DawgNole

Again, dimwit, compare the multipost length and breadth of your chastisements of POAD to your six-word statement of the obvious regarding what Harrison said.

Do I have to lead you by the nose? Go back and read the posts--it's not that difficult.

atlfanman
atlfanman

@DawgNole It is difficult for you to understand that I addressed POAD's comments on this blog. Just like I am addressing your comments. I said what I wanted to say in the manner I wanted to say it. And I have addressed the ignorance of all statements including yours.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@atlfanman @DawgNole

Uh, no you didn't--and I did notice. I've already posted what you said: "Harrison did make a racist statement . . . ."

You call that taking him to task? Now compare it to your hypocritical badgering of POAD.

Hello?

5150POAD
5150POAD

@atlfanman HAHAAHA good....Great Come Back....you have won the argument for sure. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@atlfanman @DawgNole

Far less difficult than it is for you to understand that you're a lying hypocrite who has failed to address the ignorance of your own statements.

5150POAD
5150POAD

@DawgNole my post was to ATLFANMAN not you NoleDog (it was sarcasm). 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@5150POAD @DawgNole

Glad to know that, 51. I obviously missed the sarcasm part.

"NoleDog"? Who in the world is that?

Aikendawg
Aikendawg

@atlfanman @DawgNole  There has been a lot of positive publicity about the Harrison twins this season. What I saw coming from Andrew was very disappointing and a negative hit on his personality.

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@GHSFPS  I'm sure your video is nice and all that but it is completely irrelevant to this blog.  Please head on over to the FPS blog where you belong.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Superior discipline and intelligence defeats tattoos and earnings...simply amazing!

5150POAD
5150POAD

@RangeRover that sounds very RACIST...lol

You are a DOG fan so your school isn't very different from KenSucky.