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Five reasons 28-10 is sweeter than 38-0


(Photo © Bob Donnan | Getty)

Throughout the year, the preseason talk of Kentucky going 40-0 haunted this group; they couldn’t escape it, and in the worst times, it became a punchline for the national media. Instead of rolling over, this group grew up in the postseason and refused to let their failures define them.

Since Sunday, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how special this tournament run has been because of Kentucky’s regular season struggles. Would the highs of the past few weeks seem so high without the lows? Say Kentucky was 38-0 going into the Final Four. Would the wins feel as thrilling and unexpected? I don’t think so. Here are my five reasons 28-10 is sweeter than 38-0.

The program had reached the lowest of the lows under Calipari

Before you say “NIT,” let me stop you. Last year, the Cats at least had an excuse for not making the tournament in Nerlens Noel’s injury. After UK lost to South Carolina one month ago, the only thing Cal could point to was youth, and even then, that’s just the nature of the program at this point. Cal has talked a lot about his personal failures coaching this team lately, and I think in South Carolina, his frustrations boiled over, as shown by his absence in the postgame press conference. Under normal circumstances, an SEC road loss is not a huge deal, but for a group heralded as the greatest recruiting class of all time, UK’s eighth loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many fans and, of course, the national media. I’ll never forget that depressing drive from Columbia to Nashville, and being unable to shake the feeling that I’d seen something really, really bad go down that night. It was after that game that Aaron Harrison and James Young bravely met reporters and Aaron said that he still knows this team had a great story in them. Little did we know then that it was a story of redemption.

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

The vultures had to eat crow

No one was happier when UK lost to South Carolina on March 1st than Pat Forde. Forde and all the other reporters who dislike Cal finally got to open their pandora’s boxes of hate on him, with column after column flying out about how his one-and-done culture doesn’t work, and 2012 was just a flash in the pan. For Cal, who has been battling a whole other kind of pain this season because of his hip, it was hard to stay quiet any longer. Cal went on his radio show the Monday after the loss to try to calm down the Big Blue Nation and go after some of those reporters, who he said had been waiting “years” to get the chance to write those stories.

UK’s transformation in the past few weeks has been so remarkable that those reporters have been forced to eat crow, most notably Pat Forde in his column Sunday night. For a guy like Cal who thrives on proving people wrong, that’s one reason this season may be the sweetest of all.

There has been more growth

While 40-0 would be the ultimate conquest, I think this season has taught us that it’s nearly impossible with a team of freshmen. Juniors and seniors, maybe, but freshmen just have too much growing to do not to stumble along the way. I really don’t think this team would have been able to make their incredible postseason run if not for their losses in the regular season. After each of their big wins in the tournament, Calipari has said that this team’s struggles have only made them stronger, instilling a “never give up” mentality that otherwise, may have not been there. Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle were hyped as the team’s “alpha beasts” heading into the season, and both have struggled at times to live up to that moniker. Seeing them grow into the players they need to be has been especially heartwarming given those dips in the road. Besides, 40-0 may be immortal, but winning the title with a freshman starting five would be an historic accomplishment in its own right.

celebrate1

The road has been tougher

Kentucky’s road in the tournament hasn’t just been hard, it’s been really, really hard. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg argues Kentucky has had the most difficult path to the Final Four of any team in NCAA Tournament history. They’re only the sixth 8-seed to ever make it to the semifinals, and they had to beat three teams from last year’s Final Four to do it, including undefeated Wichita State and the defending National Champs in Louisville. If UK were undefeated coming into the tournament, they would most certainly be the number one overall seed, meaning their path to the Finals would be much easier. With few expecting UK to get past Wichita State, let alone all the way to the Final Four, these past few weeks have been so sweet because they’ve been so unexpected. After a regular season of regression, they’re peaking in the postseason. If you listen to Cal, they haven’t even reached the top of that mountain just yet.

Less pressure

Can you imagine how stressed out we would be if Kentucky were 38-0 right now? The pressure would be indescribable. I’m firmly in the “sometimes a loss helps” camp, not only because coaches can use it as a teaching tool, but because it can help motivate a squad (case in point: Indiana in 2011-2012). If Kentucky was rolling into the Final Four undefeated, that storyline would dominate everything, and would be close to impossible for the players to tune out. In contrast, the pressure has been off the Cats throughout this tournament, to the point that they’ve actually been considered an underdog by Vegas in two games. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the team, who is playing with a very sharp chip on its shoulder. There’s less pressure on fans, too. After Kentucky beat Louisville, the season was made for me. Some could argue the same for the win over Wichita State. The rest of the run is on house money, which has made it that much more enjoyable.

The only thing sweeter than the Cats’ run right now? Number nine as the cherry on top.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR.

46 responses to “Five reasons 28-10 is sweeter than 38-0”

  1. Dr. Funke

    Good points but I still would rather have a chance to go undefeted becausethat may no happen aain in college basketball. It has been fun though.

    1. Dr. Funke

      ^ geez I’m having keyboard problems

  2. Shelbyjoe

    Very well done mrs TT. I agree, regular season losses can often make a team tougher.

  3. Cincy Cayt

    Unless it says undefeated on our banner, I don’t care if we’re 30-10 or 40-0 as long as we get #9.

    1. hal

      it would

  4. EC

    If I may add one more, TT, it would be that maybe more fans will learn to temper their expectations and enjoy the journey.

  5. Justin

    It’s a nice sentiment, and a good way to look at the season as it stands now, but I always will want us to win every game, all the time

  6. GoCats2

    I know I am saying I told you so but I said somewhere in the comments section before the tourney that people are going to wish they had enjoyed the season more because we were going to do some damage in the tourney. I know its not like getting a tattoo before the tourney but I knew it would happen.
    Enjoy the ride every year. Take something out of every season. Enjoy everything you can about the season because when the season is over all we do is wish we had another game to watch and counting down to Madness. Always enjoy the ride.

    1. Big Blue

      Wish there were more fans like yourself! I had the same attitude, just enjoy the ride. Cal said in the start of the season that he “has 4 months to get this right” well it took about 4 months and 13 days, but still even though it was almost hard to watch at sometimes the true fans kept the faith. I listened to all the fairweather fans gripe and bitch on this site and on the radio show about and now they have jumped back on the bandwagon.

    2. Judy Dillard

      Amen to you Big Blue.I get so sick of the so called fans who dog on the team,players and Coach Cal, every time we lose or a play isn’t made the way they think or Coach Cal isn’t playing the team the way they think that it should be.BUT let it get good and they’re right back as you say on the band wagon.I love these Wildcats and Coach Cal, win or lose and just get fighting mad to hear them being talked bad about.Really ruffles my feathers.Maybe I should use another word besides feathers.Lol I sure don’t have any of those.

  7. tyrus

    I remember during 1978’s NCAA Championship run, reporters asked Coach Hall if the team was having any fun. Reporters, during that tourney, were describing the 78 team as having a “business like” approach. As a fan, I felt the same that year. We had dominate talent and it was our time to win. So it really wasn’t a lot of fun IMHO that year. This year…tops in my book. I don’t ever remember wining back to back to back games and enjoying the wins so much. This feeling is addicting and I don’t want it to stop. Two more games!

  8. Red Rooster

    This team fell farther faster and rose farther faster than any team in basketball recorded history. Just two more games and they will set marks for change in one season that will probably never be reached again, period. Simply amazing if you think about it, especially with 99 per cent of fans outside of Ky. wish only failure for Cal and his team. I say go pound salt for all the naysayers.

  9. Bledsoe's Biceps

    Great post. Yes the regular season struggles/disappointments have made this tourney run that much sweeter. It took the S. Carolina debacle for Cal to swallow his pride and realize he had to do something different. That’s all I and many others had been asking. I give all the credit to Cal for making the changes and making the magic happen.

  10. Marvel Wildcat

    Ten losses are never better than zero losses, period.

    Unless you are a Hoosier…

    And if we were 38-0 there would NOT be indescribable pressure: there would be indescribable confidence, because we would have beaten Florida three times already.

    1. Left brain logic

      I agree. If you’re going to have the warm fuzzies with ten losses, would you be just as happy with 31 losses and a NC? Just remember, it is possible to be winless for the regular season, win 4 straight as the last seed in the SEC tournament, and then run 6 straight in the NCAA to hang another banner. I think it would suck to go 10-31. I guess if 28-10 is sweeter than 38-0, then 7-29 would taste damn good as long as we make it to the final four? Sorry, but I don’t get the logic.

    2. SCCat

      I would take a 10-31 national championship, all day, every day. 20 years from now, when they ranked the worst champs of all time, and we were the top spot, i’d smile and say, “yep, the damndest thing but the Cats made it happen when it counted”.

      i said it before and i’ll say it again – championships are the only thing people remember when it’s all said and done. UCLA isn’t even a great program really anymore – but they still hang their hat on all those titles…

  11. raccoon

    I don’t know, it makes a great story, but I’d always rather win than less and that includes every game we lost this year. And any year.

    I also agree with the general tone of others. Expecting or even thinking 40-0 was stupid and unreasonable. If it ever happens I would be ecstatic. But let’s be serious we should realize that freshmen filled teams are going to hit some bumps in the road along the way. Also college basketball is just a lot tougher these days – more good teams than in the 1970s.

  12. SCCat

    I said this the other day – when we win the whole thing, i’m going to buy a 40-0 tshirt, scratch out the “4″ and put a “3″ in it’s place, and scratch a “1″ in front of the “0″. i’m going to write – “champs bitch” on the back, and sport that thing all over the place.

    Titles are what people remember, plain and simple. Fact is, and folks can disagree, but if Tubbs had closed it with any of the teams in the 2000′s (2 final 8 losses to Mich State or the UAB shocker), then no one would have started the 10 loss Tubby themes. he’d have been a damn hero.

    1. Dusten

      I’d buy that shirt.

    2. BBAsh

      I am literally in tears. Do you accept paypal?

  13. Cat in NC

    I was also at the South Carolina game and on my way home I wouldn’t have given you a nickel for the rest of the season. How wrong I was and what a great coach we have in Coach Cal.

  14. Just some dude on a computer

    I don’t want to worry anyone, but I’ve done some research for this weekend’s Final Four showdown, and I’m starting to get anxious. Like most UK fans, I was excited to see the Cats advance on Sunday, but perplexed when I saw them paired up against something called a “Wisconsin”. So, I decided to sit down and do some research; what I found astounded me. Consider this:

    -Wisconsin hails from the prestigious Big 10 Conference. After fielding 6 teams into this year’s tourney, the conference represents an entire quarter of the Final Four. Wow.

    -Think Kentucky is the only team to win championships? Think again. Wisconsin has one of their own, cutting down the nets in 1941 after a 39-34 blowout over Washington State. Scary.

    -The Badgers, as they’re known, are coached by future Hall of Fame Coach Bo Ryan. Ryan ruffled the feathers of some UK fans by stating that Wisconsin fans are unique in that they see their team as students, not basketball players, first. And sadly, he’s right. Look no further than star center Frank Kaminsky, who chose the academics of Wisconsin over perennial basketball powers like Bradley, Depaul, and Northern Illinois.

    -But don’t think of them as just an academics school. Wisconsin currently has 3 former players in the NBA: Devin Harris, Jon Leuer, and Greg Stiesmsma. That’s 3 more than NCAA basketball juggernauts UT Lady Vols, Baylor Lady Bears, and the UCONN Women’s Team COMBINED.

    I hate to say it folks, but it looks like these Cats are just living a championship pipe dream with these Badgers standing in the way. All we can really hope is that we play them closer than Washington State. If not, it’s going to be ugly for Big Blue Nation on Saturday night. CATS.

    1. Big Blue

      Lol this guy ^^^^

    2. Skeps

      Nicely done.

    3. Just some dude on a computer

      Thanks!

  15. kentuckyjoe

    Great post Ms TT. And I agree with the commenter above that said another good thing to come of it is maybe it has taught us to temper our expectations and have a little patience.

  16. Blue Truth

    While I agree with everything that’s been said, I want to win every freakin’ game possible. KU is only 11 or 12 games away from us in all time wins. I want to stretch that to like 20-30 or so.

    1. Kellie

      ^^^ This. I live in Kansas and am surrounded by KU fans, and I can imagine few things that would be worse than them passing us.

    2. factspolice

      Actually our lead is currently exactly thirteen all time wins over Kansas.

  17. Melvit

    Wilbon still won’t give the Cats and Cal credit. He had them losing against K State and is still pissed that they made it this far.

  18. Bob

    Mrs. Thompson, in my humble opinion, this is the best article you’ve ever written. Thank you.

  19. Bunny

    Good post, Mrs TT!

  20. Lee with the putback

    Great piece Mrs T, best post ive seen in a while

  21. Basteballer

    TT, I think you’re great. I’ve been a fan since the contest that you SHOULD have won.

    And maybe you’re doing this just to play Devil’s Advocate.

    But this is hogwash. Totally and entirely bullhockey (as my granddad would say).

    I would MUCH rather have another season like 2012 than this one. I very much enjoyed the romp through the season we had then. It was FUN from start to finish. This one was brutal at times and it was hard to endure even some of our own losing faith and questioning Cal. My brothers and FB friends know that I have been insufferable in my staunch support for this team. I never stopped believing. But I have NOT enjoyed this trip.

    Bring on the 40-0 year and you’ll see. Victory tastes SO much sweeter than 10 losses. Period. End of story.

  22. ksreatsowncrow

    Funny how every so called writer on ksr had written this team off but now they are all back on thw wagon. Fickle fans make me laugh. Go cats take nine.

    1. Derpasaurus Rex

      Please provide links to said posts. Thanks in advance.

  23. Robertfrompikeville

    Thanks Mrs. T…I’ll make you a ham on rye…

  24. Ky_Tom

    I knew from the first days of the 40-0 wishes, UK was doomed to lose some games. Then when the coach even comes out and says it..Cal stated >>Why Not 40-0..>>…That just painted a bigger target on the back of those UK jerseys in my view, and I was really pissed off at Cal for saying it..I like to dream, and dream big, but I don’t brag about my dreams, I says its dream of mine, to one day see this or that with the Kentucky basketball program….The writer of the this story above is right on ! that these surprise wins over ALL of last years final four teams to put this Kentucky team in the 2014 final four in Texas. There is no way you can match the thrilling times and great feeling each one of us has had over these last 4 great wins that went right down to the last minutes in each…That 3 was won by big time shots to surge the Cats ahead with only a few seconds left in the game….Yes I can agree we all enjoyed the 2012 season with ADavis and the Kid and Jones and Teague and Miller…but teams like that only come along once in while, they are not the norm for college basketball teams year and tear out. Even for programs that build a team brick by brick, year by year..Like Joe Hall, Deny Crum, or Rick Pitino. or a Bobby Knight….Cal is our coach now, and he doesn’t use that in his coaching style..Thats why he will only recruit the “”‘One and Dones””, its not his rule, its the NBA and NCAA’s…These kids would go right out of high school, but the rule keeps them out, so coach Cal says…Why not come play at Kentucky for that year, with 5 or 6 others who have the same dream, going to the NBA the following year….So, Cal brought in, John Wall, D Cusins, Knight, Teague, Jones, A Davis, J Randle, James Young, the Harrison twins and many others….UK has 3 final fours, and 1 championship over a 5 year span, and in this 5th year, UK could win it 9th National Championship…..Anyone who doesn’t think that’s good enough….needs to move on to the programs that would kill to have Kentucky’s last 5 year record of wins and losses….even our down year last year, there are over 100 schools our there that would be thrilled to lose the first game in the NIT…..

  25. Logan

    Read the title of the post. Came to the assumption this would be some typical TT B.S.

    Read the article to validate my assumption.

    Assumption validated.

  26. Ben

    tl;dr clickbait

  27. Randy Marsh

    Great post; I love ya, TT.

  28. hal

    we can all admit an undefeated season wouldve been historic, extremely rare & something that probably wouldn’t ever happen again in our lifetime. to act like 10 losses (with 3 to UF) & a title is better seems naive, at best. this season has created some great memories, why can’t we just leave it at that???

    1. Basteballer

      Yes.

      What Hal said.

  29. RJ

    Yea more likely No More Stone Cold Willow on KSR! That’s even more good news

  30. Mustacheman

    I’d have to disagree with the “playing with house money” comment people make. We are Kentucky, championship or bust. This is what was expected at the beginning of the season and eventhough we had our struggles I always expect us to win the championship. Not saying it would have been a lost season, but unfulfilled.

  31. John Martin

    Fantastic points all. I agree that this run has been very sweet. I liken it to the 1998 championship being so unexpected compared to ’96 – plus the incredible comeback to beat Duke in the regional finals in ’98 has now been topped as my all time best UK game. I too see everything after the beating UL as gravy. When the horn sounded on Louisville I was dancing around my family room. When the final flurry of empty threes by Michigan ended with a two point put back to tie the score I knew, without a doubt, that the Cats would win the game. The only question was regulation or OT. I sat in my chair quietly intently watching the offense develop then rise in celebration as Aaron let the shot go knowing it would be nothing but net.