Rankings are one of the most accurate ways to judge what’s best at something. Sometimes, as with keyword ranking or search engine ranking, rankings are extremely difficult to discuss because they are based solely on data and opinion never enters the rankings. However, in college sports that is not the case because the rankings are chosen by writers in the media and by coaches, and most of the time the tournament unfolds in a way that is inconsistent with the rankings. One of the best college basketball programs of all time is the Kentucky Wildcats, which has won seven national championships and is the first school to have two thousand games in its history. However, recently Kentucky had been in a slump with a bad coach and a talent shortage commensurate with the best program ever, a problem that was resolved in the season that ended in the spring.
Last season, Kentucky did not make it to the NCAA season-ending tournament for the first time in nearly twenty years, a disappointment that cost the coach, Billy Gillispie, his job. Immediately after the firing, the athletic director knew it had to be a brilliant new hire because if another hiring coach failed, he could be fired as well. It seemed that the list of candidates for new coaches, in fact, only included one man. A couple of days after the previous regime was toppled, Kentucky announced the hiring of one of the most successful coaches in the modern game, John Calipari of Memphis.
As soon as he was hired, living up to his reputation as a great recruiter, Calipari brought in a host of talented freshmen to the team, resulting in Kentucky having the number one recruiting class at the end of the recruiting period. Among these freshmen was John Wall, a player who had been chosen for his greatness since he was in high school and was almost immediately dubbed the best point guard in college basketball. Plus there was Demarcus Cousins, a massive 6’11 center from Alabama with a fiery on-court attitude and flashy points and rebounding stats to back him up. These high school superstars who joined the team raised expectations to an incredible level in Kentucky and across the country for a team that would be one of the youngest in the NCAA, and Kentucky began the season at No. 3 and No. fifth. .
The season was largely as expected. In his first season with the Reigns, Calipari presided over a team that made it through the Southeastern Conference season with just two losses, out in South Carolina and out in Tennessee. After that brilliant run throughout the regular season, the team achieved a victory in the Southeastern Conference tournament, which was held this year in Nashville in front of a crowd made up primarily of traveling Kentucky residents. After that success, the Wildcats took first place in the NCAA tournament for the first time in recent history.
The NCAA tournament, however, was a slightly different story than the rest of the season. Kentucky beat its first three opponents in the tournament, Eastern Tennessee State, Wake Forest and Cornell. But, when it came to the Elite Eight round, things went awry and the Wildcats’ cold shots, including going three-for-twenty-three from three-point range, ended the exciting season against West Virginia. Despite the slight disappointment of not making the Final Four, it appears that the number eight national title is on the horizon for Kentucky.