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Entries in John Calipari (2)


Resurrected Program Is Big Blue's Silver Lining

John Wall

Special To One Great Season

I expected nothing less. The final whistle blew and the cat calls and claps reached a crescendo. I’d taken numerous jabs from complete strangers for most of the night in multiple Indianapolis drinking establishments as my beloved Wildcats' remarkable season came to an inauspicious end. I heard a female voice I couldn't visually link with a face exclaim, "I don't care who wins, as long as it's not Kentucky." The statement was followed by a high-five that reverberated throughout the hollows of my soul.

More than 600 miles away in a Syracuse locker room, Ramon Harris refused to remove his Kentucky jersey. The senior forward's eyes were red. It was the last time the Alaska native would wear the blue and white tank top that so many little boys from Pikeville to Paducah dream of donning.

EXTRA: Complete NCAA Tournament Coverage

I expected nothing less from the rarely used player who, by many Big Blue faithful estimations, was not the caliber of athlete we'd expect to see in Kentucky blue. What I didn't expect was that every eye (from all accounts) was red at some point Saturday night. That includes the eyes of the young men who will voluntarily never wear a UK uniform again.

Say what you want about DeMarcus Cousins' maturity. He still gets it. Say what you want about one-and-done players like John Wall. He gets it. No one would question that Patrick Patterson gets it. They all get what Billy Clyde Gillispie did not, that there's a responsibility that comes with bearing those eight letters across your chest on a basketball court. Players told reporters they let their "brothers" down. Several also apologized for letting the fans down. 

They did not.

When many eyes finally dried in homes and bars across the Commonwealth, perspective slowly crept into the collective conscience. The fact that Wall, Eric Bledose, Darnell Dodson and others could not hit the broadside of a rural Perry County barn doesn't matter. We will neatly put aside the fact that Bobby Huggins and West Virginia took apart UK's much-vaunted defense. Few will remember that, for the first time, John Calipari's kids showed their youth. There, I said it. Because what one awful night cannot take away is what this team has done for Kentucky basketball:

+ 35-3
+ SEC champs again
+ Relevant again
+ Feared again

In 1992, after the entire state went into mourning following Christian Laettner's figurative stomp on our chests, perspective was gained. John Pelphrey, Deron Feldhaus, Richie Farmer and Sean Woods became "The Unforgettables." Four young men put aside personal goals and stayed at a program that was at its lowest point. This year, Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe and Patterson put aside ego for something greater than themselves. They resurrected a program out of the ashes. I'm sure someone will come up with a name for this fab four. They were truly unforgettable.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Saturday, I received a text from a friend of mine. He's a Kansas fan. "Go Big Blue Nation," it read, dripping with sarcasm. The haters are back. I expected nothing less.

Jackey is a die-hard Kentucky fan who lives in Louisville and is now eagerly awaiting the World Cup.


College Basketball Notebook: Tar Heels In Trouble

Roy Williams

One Great Season

With exactly two months left until Selection Sunday, it's about time I start posting on college basketball.

Let's do it in notebook fashion, shall we?

+ Defending champion North Carolina is in trouble this year. The Heels only lost four times last season, but already have five losses this year, three of them by double figures, including last night's 83-64 dismantling at the hands of Clemson.

+ Speaking of Clemson, don't be fooled by the Tigers' 14-3 record. It's not uncommon for them to rush out of the gate, win a bunch of games and even earn a nice national ranking. But once the February doldrums set in, for some reason, Clemson teams are rarely up to the grind and they often flame out.

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+ And speaking of flaming out, has anyone seen Cincinnati the last few games? I used to criticize Bob Huggins' teams for not being mentally strong enough to finish tight games against good teams. Late mental mistakes cost the Bearcats many close ones back then, and that seems to remain the trend under Mick Cronin, now in his fourth year there. But unlike Huggins' teams, Cronin's don't finish seasons well, missing out on the NCAA tournament with weak late-season showings the last two years.

Ashley Judd

+ Just down the road in Lexington, it's great to see John Calipari restore the tradition at Kentucky, but given his track record, you can't help but wonder what kind of trouble looms there. Nonetheless, John Wall isn't just the best freshman in the country; he's the best player. And he and DeMarcus Cousins are the best young tandem in the nation, and with Patrick Patterson manning the post, look for the Wildcats to play deep into March.

+ Back to Huggins ... As much as I wanted him out at Cincinnati long before he was fired, he's like that ex-girlfriend that I just can't get over. If West Virginia is on television, I will almost always watch. I even became a one-and-done Kansas State fan when he had a cup of coffee there. But he's got his Mountaineers playing solid basketball, and I reckon they'll get a nice tournament seed and advance to at least the second weekend.

+ The best game left on the regular-season schedule is a no-brainer. Former No. 1 Kansas visits current No. 1 Texas on Monday, Feb. 8. Each side boasts a core of veterans, a good mix of perimeter and interior players and a star freshman. Kansas' Xavier Henry is a nice scorer with three-point range and a great body for such a young guard. Texas' Avery Bradley is improving on offense, but he's a lockdown perimeter defender and a fierce competitor.

+ Don't sleep on Ohio State. Sure I'm a homer, but the earlier-than-expected return of all-everything star Evan Turner already has paid huge dividends. ET scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half of a huge comeback win at No. 6 Purdue Tuesday. OSU doesn't have a great record (12-5, 2-3), but a road win like that, coupled with a healthy conference player of the  year candidate, can only boost the Buckeyes' confidence.