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Would you trade John Calipari’s success at Kentucky for Villanova’s? Breaking down the numbers.

Two weeks ago, Villanova took home their third national championship and their second in three years. The Wildcats ended the year with a program-record 36 wins and just four losses, had the National Player of the Year in Jalen Brunson, and obliterated the pack in the NCAA Tournament, winning each game by an average deficit of 17.67 PPG. They started and finished the year as the best team in college basketball.

And it surprised no one.

Over the last five years, Jay Wright has led Villanova to three No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds. Their two leading scorers this past year were juniors, and their third was a sophomore. Four of their top six leading scorers were upperclassmen.

What Jay Wright and the entire Villanova program has going for them is the hotbed of local talent in the area. Over the last four seasons, the Wildcats have signed 11 total players from the northeast, with five being from Pennsylvania. And they haven’t all been sure-fire five-star talents.

Last year, the Wildcats signed just three players, two four-star talents and one three star. In 2016, they signed just two prospects, one five-star (late-teens, nonetheless) and one three-star. Brunson was a five-star signee in 2015, but he was ranked just No. 22 in the 247Sports system, with Villanova’s two other signatures coming from a four-star and a three-star.

Go down the list, the Wildcats have nabbed a few elite recruits, but the majority of their system has revolved around development of younger players and veteran leadership from the upperclassmen. And they have two national titles over the last three years to show for it.

Immediately after their victory, and in the week or so following, Kentucky fans began comparing John Calipari’s run at Kentucky with Wright’s at Villanova. When two of Kentucky’s freshmen declared for the draft, and reports came out that Hamidou Diallo would do the same, we heard more from UK fans being exhausted with the one-and-done system and lack of veteran leadership year in and year out. If any one of Quade Green, Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt, and PJ Washington make the jump for the NBA or other professional options, you can expect even more voiced displeasure from the fanbase. And it’s understandable, especially seeing Villanova lift the championship trophy in a year the Cats had the perfect opportunity for a Final Four run.

But would you genuinely take Villanova’s success over Kentucky’s at this point?

Kentucky has won one championship, four Final Fours in six seasons, two Elite Eights, one Sweet 16, and one Round of 32 loss. In his time at Kentucky, John Calipari has never been upset in the first round of the tournament, and he has failed to get out of the opening weekend just once.

Jay Wright went to the Final Four in 2009, but lost in the opening weekend five straight times. Two of them were as underachieving nine-seeds in the First Round. In 2016, a Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater against North Carolina gave the school their second title and ultimately broke the streak, but they followed it up in 2017 with yet another loss in the opening weekend as a 32-4 one-seed. Oops.

When it comes to Kentucky’s run, we’re not just talking about lifting the trophy in 2012, we’re talking about the epic runs in the tournament that hold special places in the hearts of Kentucky fans across the state and beyond.

Aaron Harrison’s streak of game-winners in 2014 was one of the most incredible NCAA Tournament runs we’ve seen in decades. For an eight-seed to come out and convert in crunch time over and over and over again was unfathomable, and it created a lifelong memory for Kentucky fans of all ages. And then the Harrison Twins decided to return, giving the Cats arguably the most dominant college basketball team in history. Neither year ended with a trophy presentation, but both years were remarkable in their own right.

Brandon Knight’s dagger and Josh Harrellson’s dodgeball hurl against Ohio State. DeAndre Liggins’ corner three against UNC. De’Aaron Fox putting on a show against Lonzo Ball in the Sweet 16. The moments were legendary.

And that’s not even mentioning John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins shifting the landscape of college basketball. What they did in one year, the energy brought back to the fanbase following the Billy Gillespie era, making “one-and-done” a household phrase. We had Boogie’s buzzer-beater in the SEC Tournament against Mississippi State, the John Wall Dance, nightly beatdowns, an SEC Championship, and two top-five draft selections, five in the first round.

You opt for Jay Wright’s run at Villanova, you get the two rings, but give up the epic roads to the Final Four we’ve seen under Calipari.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s the not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Veteran leadership each season, seeing the players develop into superstars, regular season dominance in the Big East, and two rings.


One title, four Final Fours in six years, two Elite Eights, only one opening weekend exit, elite five-star prospects every season, NBA Draft selections, etc.

Give me Coach Cal’s track record all day, every day.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

87 responses to “Would you trade John Calipari’s success at Kentucky for Villanova’s? Breaking down the numbers.”

  1. Luether

    “Would you trade John Calipari’s success at Kentucky for Villanova’s? ”

    Yes! Two ‘ships > one ‘ship…

    1. jahanc2uky

      Isnt making the final 4 considered the Pinnacle of college basketball?

    2. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

      Yes, if you’re Mississippi State.

    3. Swizzle


    4. DT in DC

      2 championships in 3 years over 1 championship 9 years. Absolutely I’d trade. However, I don’t think Wright would have the same success at Villanova. I still think teams get “more up” for a game vs. UK than they do a game vs. Villanova, even with their recent success.

  2. callitlikeiseeit

    Yes, it is about titles and not NBA players or 5 star guys. Math is simple, 2 is better than 1. Plus they keep guys 2,3,4 years and mix in a few stud FR. Fans get to know the guys and see them a few years and have a SR night, remember that once great tradition.

  3. nicky

    Absolutely!! Natty’s >>>>>>>>>>All else

  4. BBN in H-Town

    Nope. Cal has done more for the program and university than anyone else in his position could have. Ultimately, his naysayers dont seem to take into account the financial implications of his tenure.

    1. callitlikeiseeit

      Actually, like it or not, Pitino did more for UK than anyone has. Had he stayed, but who could resist that money, UK would be the best ever in college bball. Most titles, most everything. He got great talent and he coached it, even when he did not have the best talent he coached it. I think he lost something with hthe NBA stint but haad he stayed and still been here, WOW what could have been. I do not like all he is accused of but things would have been different had he been here.

    2. codeblue270

      Shoulda coulda woulda – didn’t happen – move on ? UK has the best coaches ,fans & traditions if you don’t like it go follow pinto bean in his next ?

    3. henderblue

      Callit….garbage ^^^^

    4. unbridled

      Exactly. Kentucky basketball is still the gold standard and continuing to set higher standards. We are lucky to have coach cal and the countless great things that he brings.

  5. ScottGreene22

    All about titles CAL should have more then 1. I’d trade it.

  6. gobble gobble

    Hell no. Cal has had more success at UK than J Wright at Nova. Yes, Nova has had a great 3 year stretch, but that’s about it. Cal has had successful years at U.K. in all but a couple seasons. U.K. has been more to the same amount of ships but are 1 of 2. UK has more final 4’s, wins, players drafted, tourney success, etc etc. For all you dumb people who say otherwise, let’s just say UK wins the Natty next year… all you tards would eat crow bc this would even be a conversation.

    1. gobble gobble

      Wouldn’t* ^^^

    2. callitlikeiseeit

      except with no experience players we have no shot next year. Now if Washington stays, and I think he does, Vanderbilt stays and the FR group is Wall and AD like we have a chance. Trouble is we don’t know how good any of these so called 5 star guys are till they actuallyn play college games. There were many FR last year way better than the guys we had, other years we had the better FR. But without experience it is not going to matter. Look at Cals 1 title, what was the difference, SR Miller, Soph Lamb and Jones who went to F4 the previous year and a few unreal FR. That is a good title contending mix.

  7. Tom Seaver

    When do we start hanging banners touting our long streak of advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament? What about a banner about the number of players in the NBA? Geez. This post is a great example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action. Thanks Jack!

  8. Tom Seaver

    Oh, Jack, I really get excited talking about how many Final Fours we play in. Tops hanging National Championships, wouldn’t you say?

  9. Catuary

    My Wildcat utility function is 1000 points for a championship, 5 points for being national runner up and 1 point for a Final Four. So Cal has a score of 1007. Jay Wright is at at least 2000.

    This doesn’t mean I would prefer Jay Wright over Cal. The question was whose success I’d rather have. So I’d rather have had 2 championships to 1.

  10. Alleykat16

    I happy with what we have. Calipari never stops trying to bring the best players to this program. I know he says all the crap about putting players in the NBA, but every year I believe this coaching staff

    1. Alleykat16

      Im Sorry my post got messed up. Calipari and this coaching staff are coaching to win championships.

  11. rainman

    Trade in a minute! What do you play for, CHAMPIONSHIPS, or draft picks?

    1. timbo

      Yeah! We’re so smart, we think these are mutually exclusive!

    2. unbridled

      Timbo, you are arguing logic with someone who has literally no understanding of the issue.

  12. BlueSteel

    No way would I trade!!! And really with some of our fans Jay Wright would not have made it this far with 5 straight years of losing in the first weekend. Kudos to Jay Wright & Villanova but Cal is THE BEST fit for our program and he gives us an opportunity to be in the mix each & every year!

    1. callitlikeiseeit

      had no chance at a title this past season, none and knew it since Nov. Also lost to RMU, I know Noel got hurt but we had no chance that season either. Chances are great, I have a chance to win the lottery each week, still did not win it though.

    2. BlueSteel

      And if Jay Wright had been our coach how long into his 5 year terrible stretch would you have given him? They won the 2016 title on a buzzer beater – very easily could have lost… probably should have lost. Similarly for Cal – Hit some free throws in 2011 we probably beat UConn and go on to win it all… Wisconsin’s shot clock violation that wasn’t called changes that game… I hate to play the shoulda woulda coulda game but sometimes you get a little lucky & sometimes you don’t.

    3. henderblue

      Callit doesn’t understand there’s considerable amount of luck involved in winning NCAA championship, i.e 2016 buzzer beater..

  13. KYjellyRoll

    I’m a Kentucky fan, not a Villanova fan. I can’t say who coaches my team, I can only support the process. Go Cats!

  14. Mc12

    No, but yes over the last 5 or 6 years

  15. kybigblue

    “I came here to win national titles for you,” Calipari said as a capacity crowd at Rupp roared. Oct. 12, 2012
    He hasn’t won one since.

    1. rdcore2

      And only 5 other teams possibly could have in that time, out of 300+ d-1 schools, two of which were the aforementioned nova. In fact since 2009, it’s been uconn, duke, unc, UK, UL, uconn, duke, nova, unc, nova. So last I checked we’re technically fifth in program eliteness, shy of 1 title for a 5 way log jam of capable programs over the past 10 years. And you redneck math people can’t seem to understand this, we’re in contention every single year. Every single year. Half the people on this site aren’t even in contention for a raise at the Piggly Wiggly bagging area or Farm Bureau desk they sit at. Cal is the best thing that could have happened for our program, we don’t need you idiot fans stuck in 1996. Cal keeps us relevant, fresh, and ahead of the curve. Would I like more veteran leadership? Sure – and it’s likely he will start to keep more around. But I’m also not buying that I’d rather have Jay Wright’s lucky first title and deserved one this year, after having FIVE first weekend exits prior. Get outta here with that nonsense, you all would have fired any coach before we even got to through the 3rd straight year of that.

    2. timbo

      Ahh, finally…some intelligence

    3. henderblue

      What Timbo said ^^^

    4. wyatts1

      Core2, don’t get upset when this guy’s only quoting coach Cal, plus when you start throwing in words such as redneck you immediately start showing your true colors and lack of class, and intelligence. But here’s some redneck math for you, 2>1. Let me know what your not understanding about this. I wouldn’t trade our coach or players for anything but in regards to championships I believe almost anyone who is a UK fan would trade that # with Nova.

  16. Commissionersteele


  17. danclex

    This has to be the dumbest story ever on this site. Cal is a college coach. UK is NOT a NBA development team. Its simple Wright has more college championships, that’s the measurement.
    Cal is right up there with Tuby, Joe B. and Rick who each won one title while at UK. All the other stuff is nice but does not compare to a national title. Next thing is someone is going to start calling him the best ever at UK, which also would be bull****.

  18. jomani

    noone ever remembers who was in the final four anyways, but everyone knows the champ. Give me Nova everyday of the week

  19. UKWillGetNine

    Last time I checked, 2 is greater then 1.

  20. Blueballz

    Jack after reading this article, go see the movie Chappaquidick…and then do your best Mary Jo Kopechne impersonation

  21. hartlines left arm

    It your not first your last.

    Tournament runs aren’t so epic if you don’t win it all especially if you can’t remember players named from one year to the next lol

  22. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

    I understand that we’ve seen a lot of memorable moments even when we didn’t win it all, but it’s still mostly about championships at UK. It’s the same with Bama football. One thing that gives me pause though is the all time lead in wins. However, I would rather pass UCLA than have the most wins. That said, passing the Bruns won’t happen in my lifetime.

  23. thenamerobdigity

    At Kentucky a championship is the measure. 2 to 1

  24. Han

    I remember us losing several times in March when we should have.

    Maybe Wright makes the Final Four less often than Cal but the reason we want Final Fours is because it means you have a shot at the title. Right now, Wright, and K, and Roy & the Cheaters, have more titles this decade than us. Ergo they’re doing more with their Final Fours than Cal.

    1. Han

      *When we shouldn’t have.

  25. dukesuxone

    No way would I trade places with Nova. We should have won a couple more Titles probably but, I’m happy with Cal. He’s done a hell of a job.

  26. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door

    “One thing that gives me pause though is the all time lead in wins. ”

    What I mean by that is that if we had Nova’a exact run since 2009 I think we would have lost the all time wins lead. If so that would have been disappointing.

  27. dballrb


  28. CombatMedic_98

    Can’t believe this was posted…same as asking if Pitino won three and blah blah blah!!!

    1. wyatts1

      I don’t get all the pitino hate, I understand he left us but gimme a break he had a dream and followed it, I can’t hate on a guy like that. Not to mention he brought us back immediately after being shunned and rediculed from buying players with a team that was full of white boys from eastern ky, and mashburn (lol ok mainly mashburn) but still, name me one coach that could do what he did with the amount of scholership players that he had to play with? I hate pitino nowadays but I got nothing but love for the 90’s pitino. BTW mashburn Jr is in the 2020 class around 65 rankings I believe ??

  29. CombatMedic_98

    Pilgrim please stay within your boundaries please!

  30. blueballs80

    If the ultimate goal is a championship, then yes. That’s what Cal signed up for. While Jays record maybe less stellar he has won the ultimate prize twice in 3 seasons. I think most UK fans would love that.

  31. Hereforbeer

    Wow are you that bored?

  32. Cannon717

    John Calipari wouldn’t have a job at Kentucky if he lost the 1st weekend 6 straight years ?????

  33. 4everUKblue

    All you banner counters would have lost your minds would have been running Cal out of town on a rail during the 14 or 15 years it took Wright to win a title, not to mention losing in the second round the next season after winning his first. What a bunch of idiots with Callit as your leader, that’s a clown car in apple festival parade.

    1. henderblue

      Love it 4ever…especially that last sentence

    2. wyatts1

      Leave the apple festival outta this lol, they serve some damn good funnel cakes in paintsville that time of year ??

  34. johnson0918

    To those who claim titles is all that matter, and that at Kentucky a championship is the measure, you do realize that with that mentality, you are making the claim that out of the 115 years UK has been playing college basketball, they’ve only had 8 successful seasons?

  35. chris43

    I’ll take Cal all day and it isn’t even close. I just think we need to tweak recruiting a bit focusing on a few more shooters, a rim protector, and maybe a guy each year to attempt to develop a bit (if you can keep them from transferring) to go along with the one and done guys.

  36. rlburd2

    I love cal. That being said, any moron would trade 2 for 1 lol. If ya ain’t first, your last.

  37. wcwildcat1208

    The fans in this chat that say they would take two titles are lying. We all know if cal didn’t make It out of the second round in 6 years they would be asking for his head. Isn’t that the reason they ran tubby out… yes it is. So no I wouldn’t trade. We’re in the hunt almost every year. I take what I got. Cal is awesome and we are for sure in the golden years of Kentucky basketball.

    1. henderblue

      A man with a brain ^^^

    2. wyatts1

      Now if we could predict the future and know what’s gonna happen then it’s the 2 championships lol but since we can’t, ID STILL TAKE THE 2>1 Argument for the last 6 years lol. Just as long as I got my same teams and coaches etc etc. But either way I still don’t see those final four years as failures, cause without those years we wouldn’t have had the 2012 run with some valuable returning players. But if the question is would I rather have 2 championship banners as opposed to one? Then for me there’s no question

  38. ukbradstith

    As posted above, plenty of liars posting on this thread. 6 years of never getting out of the first round doesn’t cut it. Cal wouldn’t have been here for the last three year stretch. UCONN has also won 2 titles since Cal has been here. So I guess you’d also rather be UCONN?

  39. wcwildcat1208

    Thank you some big blue fans that gets it!!

  40. CatsfaninFL

    I think most people would take 2 over 1. But there is NO way the UK fanbase would have EVER kept Wright around with that awful first weekend loss track record. Jeez we ran tubby out for getting to 2nd wknd but not getting to first. The fact is our expectations are a bit higher than reality. Skill, leadership, luck, and matchups all play into a 6 game lose and go home tournament. The fact we’re consistently in the top 4-8 every year under Cal is amazing. He’ll get that break thru 2nd eventually and when he does he’ll be the only coach besides Rupp to win more than 1 at UK. That is high ground.

  41. wildcat74

    Yes! I don’t watch the NBA and could care less how many of our players play in the league. 2 NC > 1 NC, and that’s the number we all care about. I’m not convinced Cal’s current system will be able to win another. The first one happened bc of a mix of existing veteran players like Miller in addition to top talent like MKG and Davis. Not sure existing veteran is anything we’ll see again.

  42. kybirdieman

    Yes 2 banners! No recruiting hype and no one and dones.

    1. henderblue

      I guess you’d be OK with records like 15-16, or 13-18? Maybe 18-17? Maybe 3 straight years in the NIT?

    2. kybirdieman

      Wonder if he was coaching UK what his record would be? He is still 2-1with lesser talent for all you so called 5 star recruiting freaks. It’s about x and o’s ie Boogie Wall Bledsoe and Liggins. If you cant hang a banner with that talent and then this years loss to K State poor coachimy. You guys are to hung up on recruiting. Hoe many players improved under Cal this year, maybe 2.

    3. henderblue

      If Wright went to the NIT his first 3 years at UK, like he did at Villanova,he wouldn’t be here for a fourth year. As far as K-State, in the NCAA tournament, it’s a one game crap shoot and sometimes the stars just don’t align. They got lucky, the game was called close which was to their advantage and missed free throws doomed us. But we had games previously where we were very good from the free throw line. Only one team out of 68 gonna hang a banner

  43. dcarlinf1


  44. Headhurts

    No, I’ll take our 8 banners to their 3, next question

  45. ukfan4388

    I can take the winning percentages for the tournament and the number of championships. My issue is how painful it was to watch the first 2/3s of the season. With playing all one-and-dones, two things really stick out to me. One, it is really ugly basketball for the first half of the season while the team comes together. That is too far into the season for that. I can take it for the early pre-conference games. Two, fans do not get to build a relationship with the players. We never get to build that love that we have for players like Miller, Patterson, or Hood.

    1. henderblue

      Fair points there. I can agree with that. The one and done system is a product of the NBA and those are things we miss in our UK teams. But we have to recruit the best talent available. I mean if a guy like James Wiseman wants to play here, do you turn him down cause he’s only gonna stay one year? I’ll take the talent…

  46. truebluethroughandthrough

    This is definitely hypothetical. He would have never lasted through the rough years. He would’ve been out the door, so this scenario never could’ve happened. The last 3 years…. Who wouldn’t take that?

  47. empiremaker

    I have complaints in regards to Cal method/methodology, but answer my answer is: not a million years.

  48. runningunnin.454

    I’ll take Cal. His winning percentage at UK is on par with Rupp’s at 82%. UK has the most Division I wins in history; if we had Jay Wright’s mediocre years, we would be behind Kansass and UNCheat.
    I am grateful to Wright for one thing…preventing the UNCheaters from winning back to back titles.

    1. catdaddyd

      Don’t you think Jay Wright would have recruited better at UK (with the private jet, resources ) during those mediocre years he had at Villanova?

  49. BobKYCats

    I think the system Jay Wright has installed at Villanova is perfect for Villanova. One thing you skipped over is that the first 15 years of Wright saw one Final Four and whole lot of mediocrity. He wouldn’t have lasted at Kentucky long enough to get that Final Four in 2009, let alone his two titles. When Jay Wright got there, Villanova was in the great endless chasm of not just mediocrity, but also irrelevance. When Cal got to Kentucky, we had been mediocre for four straight seasons but were just dipping our toes into the irrelevancy black hole, and he was able to course correct immediately.

    Wright has to work with what he has available at Nova. A program with a nice history with a still “what in the hell happened” title from 1985. What he has built at Nova in his almost two decades is a thing of beauty: a basketball machine, but let’s not forget how long it took to get it rolling.

    Tubby lasted ten years on the job. That was with a title in his first season, three seasons of double digit losses, followed by three spectacular seasons where we just couldn’t get over the hump in the tourney, followed by his last two forgettable years. If we were ready to run Tubby out of town after two seasons of blah, after a three year string of 2 No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 seed, multiple SEC regular season/tourney titles, and two elite eights, I find it hard to believe that Jay Wright would’ve lasted four seasons with his early results at Nova, let alone get the chance to make losing on the first weekend his bitch for five years straight.

    We here at UK live in a microwave world where we expect results right away. We got that with Calipari and Wall and Cousins. Now, Cal has a system that I do not love, but works for him, and there is more than one way to build a championship team. Yes, our teams in ’10 and ’15 should have won the title, but it’s not going to happen every time. There are those who would argue Duke should’ve won this year (I would argue that), as they had the best team on paper going in, but they lost in the best way possible (poor, poor Grayson). It happens.

  50. Glenn Fohr

    No, I wouldn’t trade him for Jay but, I wish Cal was the player developer that Jay is. Cal is really great when his players are great(Wall, Cousins, Davis, Townes,etc..) but he just isn’t the same coach at developing players that he was back at Massachusetts. We need that Cal with his enthusiasm of today.

    1. henderblue

      Well I think Shai developed fairly well this year. At the beginning of the year we all thought he was a four year player here. But he’s a potential lottery pick and I think we give Cal the credit there.

  51. jamburgey22

    Only numbers to break down here are 2 titles to 1

  52. Wildcat Sheli

    If I’m just looking at how the seasons ended in 2016, 2017 and 2018, one might trade those years. But the journey since the season began in 2009 has been thrilling at times! Cal has spoiled us fans for sure.

    Truthfully, I’m still not over Wisconsin or UNC, and there’s a very unfortunate common denominator on both, plus 2011 UConn, plus 2005 MiSt. Minus that factor, plus the common denominator between 2010 WVU and 2018 KState, who knows how many titles we would have by now? No one. Stats don’t lie when others are on the whistle and when they are. It’s on us to speak up and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Go ‘Cats!

  53. Blue4Life

    Titles. No brainer.

  54. wcwildcat1208

    But you can tell the future so you have to take what you got and the fans that say they would take the two championships they wouldn’t put up with the 6 years of losing in the first round. So I stand by what I said and that’s cal is the best and I take what we got.