Last Monday night John Calipari coached his Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship as a result of a 69-61 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks. Calipari’s path to the title game was very similar to the 2008 season when Calipari led the Memphis Tigers to the Final Four only to fall short to the Kansas Jayhawks in the championship game. The 2008 team was fueled by Derrick Rose who left for the NBA after just one season under Calipari’s guidance.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis are expected top-five picks if they go pro. John W. McDonough/SI
Fast forward to this year. Kentucky’s run was fueled by a pair of would be one and done players Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who many scouts believe will be the first two picks in the NBA draft . Calipari started three freshmen and two sophomores this season— again will bring in young superstars who only will play college ball briefly.
His in-state rival and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said he marvels at Calipari’s ability to recruit one-year wonders, then do it all over again.
“I marvel at what John does, I couldn’t do it. I can’t say hello and goodbye in seven months. It’s just not me. I love getting to know [my players]. I feel like they’re my children, part of their life. Not that [Calipari] doesn’t feel that way about his kids. I could never do it because I just emotionally get too attached to these guys.” - Louisville head coach Rick Pitino
A lot of people like to blame Calipari and call him a cheater but he’s not doing anything wrong or anything against the rules. Furthermore, he isn’t doing anything different from what any other of college basketball’s premiere programs have done. In fact, just two weeks ago three players from the North Carolina Tar Heel’s starting line-up left school early to declare for the NBA draft. Folks, John Calipari didn’t create the system. He just works within it, doing what he needs to do to be successful.
On Sunday John Calipari had this to say about his players leaving early.
“I don’t like the rules, I want Anthony to come back next year. It’s what I really want. There’s only two solutions to it: Either I can recruit players who are not as good as the players I’m recruiting, or I can try to convince guys that should leave to stay. At the end of the day, I don’t apologize for anything we do. We had a 3.0 grade-point average last year, 2.8 last term.” – Kentucky head coach John Calipari
Some will chuckle at the notion of Calipari, who has had his brushes with NCAA law, playing by the rules. But that’s his story, and he’s sticking to it. In April of 2010, I wrote about this exact issue during Kentucky’s NCAA tournament run featuring John Wall, Brandon Knight and company. At the time, I said that A leopard never changes it’s spots and that continues to hold true.
Calipari has enjoyed a run of success by recruiting one and done players and on Monday night that recruiting strategy led the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship trophy and in Lexington Kentucky, that’s what it’s all about.
*quotes used in this article are from the Chicago Tribune
Whew! I don’t know about all of you, but after the first full day of NCAA tournament action, I’m exhausted but left wanting more. The good news for me is that I can look forward to much more later on today. An action packed day saw that saw things go just as we thought it would and then some things that none of us saw coming. Ah, thats what makes this time of year so great, right?
Denver was the place for upsets on the first full day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
- The biggest upset so far in the brackets occurred in a Southwest regional game in Denver where 13th-seeded Morehead State beat No. 4 seed Louisville 62-61. That was by far the biggest blow to my bracket. I had the Louisville Cardinals advancing to the Sweet 16 before being ousted by the Kansas Jayhawks. Well, so much for that.
- The Kentucky Wildcats are breathing a sigh of relief today after narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of the Princeton Tigers. The Wildcats got 17 points from Darius Miller in their narrow 59-57 win.
- In Tampa, Florida, Michigan State’s tumultuous season ended last night at the hands of the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins won despite missing 17 free throws, nine of them in the final 3:40 while the Spartans were making a barrage of 3-pointers to get back into the game. They advanced to a third-round matchup against No. 2 seed Florida, which beat 15th-seeded UC Santa Barbara 79-51. UCLA led 42-24 at the half and by as many as 23 in the second half before nearly letting the game slip away against a team hoping to make it to a third consecutive Final Four. The Bruins were 30 of 47 from the foul line and only made two field goals over the final eight minutes. Returning most of its key players from last season, Michigan State began the 2010-11 season ranked No. 2 but sputtered against a tough non-conference schedule and really never hit its stride in the Big Ten, either. The inconsistency left Izzo and his players wondering if the Spartans would even extend its string of consecutive NCAA appearances to 14 — third longest in the nation behind Kansas (22) and Duke (16).
- In an upset that I had predicted, the Spiders of Richmond defeated the Commodores of Vanderbilt by a score of 69-66. It was the second upset of the day in Denver, the same place where Morhead St. shocked Louisville. But while Morehead State players fell on the floor, writhing in the celebration, the Spiders simply shook hands and walked to the locker room. This hardly counts as a shocker, especially considering their history in March. Richmond beat an Auburn team led by Charles Barkley during the 1984 NCAA tournament and picked off second-seeded Syracuse in 1991. This is the Spiders’ first NCAA tournament win since they knocked out South Carolina in 1998 as a No. 14 seed, but the reputation has been cemented.Maybe that’s why this win didn’t seem like all that big of surprise for the Atlantic-10 tournament champions, who were only a three-point underdog to the Commodores of the Southeastern Conference.
- The third upset in Denver saw the team known as everybody’s favorite mid-major now turned tournament regular, Gonzaga defeat the Red Storm of St. Johns who were one of the real bright spots of the regular season this year. Gonzaga used its size and strength to muscle around the Red Storm , who were back in the tournament for the first time since 2002. Clearly, St. John’s wasn’t the same team without top rebounder and team leader D.J. Kennedy, who tore his right ACL during the Big East tournament.
That was just day one and we’re only a few hours away from the start of day two. I’m ready, are you?
A very pleasant Saturday to the masses. I hope those of you on the east coast have successfully dug out of the massive amounts of snow that have come the last few days. Frankly, I’m tired of it and can’t wait for warm weather.
Anyway, there have been lots of little nuggets from around the sports world that have caught my attention and are certainly worth mentioning, so lets get to it.
- New York Yankees team president Randy Levine ripped Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg for his public comments that the Rangers late push for Cliff Lee might have been what ultimately led Lee to sign with the Phillies. According to the Daily News, Levine called Greenberg “delusional” and said he would be impressed if Greenberg could get the Rangers off “welfare,” a reference to Major League Baseball’s revenue sharing. To be honest, I didn’t take Greenberg’s statement as any sort of boast or as a slam against the Yankees — he seemed to be saying that the Rangers made one last attempt to keep themselves in the mix and accidentally gave the Phillies time to swoop in —it’s hard to argue with Levine when he says Greenberg should “let Cliff Lee speak for himself.” Also, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Greenberg made some negative comments about Yankee fans during the playoffs.
- The Cardinals are not seriously exploring the possibility of trading first baseman Albert Pujols because the superstar slugger, who has full no-trade protection, would veto any swap, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- On the basketball court, the Washington Wizards lost last night in OKC in double overtime and have fallen to a dreadful 0-22 on the road this season. After trading Gilbert Arenas earlier this season, it appeared that the Wiz have rid themselves of the headaches. So much for that. After getting “blown up” by head coach Flip Saunders after a poor game, Andray Blatche was critical of Wizards fans and called in to a local radio show to defend himself.
- The Miami Heat have been a popular source for controversey this season and for good reason. It started with LeBron’s comments on Twitter in which he educated us all on karma and then came out the next night and injured his ankle (Thanks again, LeBron). Now, the other two of the ‘big three’ are banged up and have missed time. After barely getting away with a win last night, Chris Perkins of FOX Sports Florida wonders if injuries will end up getting the best of the Heat.
- KU’s Thomas Robinson lost his mother to an apparent heart attack. Thomas Robinson’s 7-year-old sister Jayla Robinson called him about 11 p.m. Friday. In a three-week span, Jayla and Thomas, a sophomore forward for the sixth-ranked Jayhawks, lost their grandmother, grandfather and mother. The entire KU men’s basketball team attended the funeral in Washington DC.
We may be a couple of weeks away from March Madness but if Saturday was any indication we are in store for one heck of a month of March.
The unranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish throttled number 11 Georgetown 78-64. The win put Notre Dame is back at .500 (8-8) in the Big East, winning like a team bound for the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame has put themselves back into the NCAA tournament picture with the win over Georgetown, its second straight win over a Top 25 team. The Fighting Irish have looked like a Big East contender the last two games without star player Luke Harangody. He has missed four straight games with a knee injury. The Irish knocked off Pittsburgh by 15 on Wednesday and controlled this one from the opening tip. Some were ready to write off the Irish after the injury to Harangody but now some would say they are actually better without him. I’m not willing to go that far but one thing is for sure, this isn’t the same Irish team that lost games against Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John’s. They can only hope it’s not too late to be a part of the big dance.The Irish have games left against Connecticut and at Marquette before the Big East tournament. A 10-8 record in conference play would practically make them a lock to secure at least an at-large bid.
That game and upset win would be a sign of things to come for some of the top ranked team’s in the country. Just ask John Calipari’s send ranked Kentucky Wildcats who traveled to Knoxville to take on Bruce Pearl’s number 19 Tennesee Volunteers. This was definitely a game of runs as the Volunteers lead by 19 at one point only to watch the Wildcats tie it with about two minutes remaining. However, Tennesee and senior J.P. Prince weren’t willing to let this upset win get away. Prince scored on a broken play and added four clutch free throws down the stretch to lift Tennessee past the surging Wildcats 74-65. The Volunteers seem to be growing accustomed to knocking off the giants of college basketball this year. Last month, they also handed top-ranked Kansas its only loss, as of the time of the win anyway.
Later on Saturday, the top ranked Kansas Jayhawks invaded the home of the Oaklahoma State Cowboys and probably had to be wondering if they would suffer the same fate as some of the other elite teams had earlier in the day. Turns out, that would indeed be the case as they ran into the buzz saw that was the Cowboys. The Cowboys controlled the game from the opening tip and didn’t look back, knocking of the Jayhawks by a score of 85-77 in Stillwater, Oaklahoma. With the win, the Cowboys likely removed any doubt of whether it would make the NCAA tournament for a second straight season. Despite entering the game in seventh place in the Big 12. The Cowboys used strong 3-point shooting to build a 19-point lead late in the first half and then held off a late charge by Kansas fueled by its full-court press. Before todays game, Kansas hadn’t trailed by more than 11 all season and led from start to finish in each of its previous two games.
We may not know the seeding yet but one thing is almost for certain. If number 4 Syracuse can defeat number 8 Villanova at home (9:00PM, ESPN) we’ll probably have a new top team in the country.
DID YOU KNOW: The last time the top two teams lost on the same day was Jan. 21, 2006, when No. 1 Duke lost to Georgetown and No. 2 Florida lost to Tennessee. Both of those teams were 17-0 at the time.
UPDATE: 9:39PM - Well here we are in double OT Maryland vs. Va Tech. My goodness what a game we have here! After waiting 3 hours to play the game due to water main breaks we get treated to bonus basketball. These teams have laid it all on the line and it definitely shows.
UPDATE: 9:49PM – Whew! Exhale Terp fans, exhale! After two OT periods and a 41 point showcase by ACC Player of the Year candidate Greivis Vasquez, Maryland outlasted Virginia Tech 104-100. The win improves Maryland to 11-3 in the ACC and gives them sole possession of second place behind Duke. Maryland hosts Duke on Wednesday night for first place. Duke might have a tall order ahead because it is Senior Night in College Park marking the final home game for beloved seniors Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes.
UPDATE: 11:19PM – Well, we already knew we would have a new number one. Syracuse stated it’s case with a 95-77 thrashing over Villanova. Purdue has Michigan State on Sunday. I believe that no matter the outcome Syracuse will be number one just based on the fact they only have two losses and more quality wins.