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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Calipari Needs Some of That Tom Izzo Magic


Let’s assume for just a minute that Kentucky is going to make the NCAA Tournament this year.  The Cats are going to benefit from a down year in college basketball and likely still have an inside track to a spot in this year’s field of 68.  If they make the tournament, though, it seems very unlikely they are going to see anything better than a 5-seed.  It’s more likely they are looking at a 7-10 seed at this point given the trajectory of the season.

So, how in the world could this team still make a run in the NCAA Tournament?  I say we look no further than the career of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.  Izzo has made 7 Final Fours in his time with the Spartans, but what is interesting is that 3 of those Final Fours occurred when the Spartans were a 5-seed or worse.  They have also made two additional Elite 8s as a 7-seed and 4-seed, meaning they have made the Final 8 of the Tournament 5 times as a 4-seed or worse.  Point being, Michigan State has over-performed in the tournament many, many times under Tom Izzo.

How did they do it?  I think it is actually a fairly simple formula.  You need a combination of wins in 3 types of games: TOSS-UP, UPSET, and GOOD DRAW.  You will get a 50-50 game at some point, face a higher seeded team at some point, and will need the draw to fall in your favor at some point, as well.  Take a look:

2003 (19-12 Entering Tournament, #7 seed): ELITE 8
Toss-up: Beat #10 Colorado 79-64 (1st round)
Upset: Beat #2 Florida 68-46 (2nd round)
Good Draw: Beat #6 Maryland 60-58 (Sweet 16)

2005 (22-6 Entering Tournament, #5 seed): FINAL FOUR
Good Draw: #13 Vermont 72-61 (2nd round)
Upset: #1 Duke 78-68 (Sweet 16)
Toss-Up: #2 Kentucky 94-88 (Elite 8)

2009 (26-6 Entering Tournament, #2 seed): FINAL FOUR
Good Draw: #10 USC 74-69 (2nd Round)
Toss-Up: #3 Kansas 67-62 (Sweet 16)
Upset: #1 Louisville 64-52 (Elite 8)

2010 (24-8 Entering Tournament, #5 seed): FINAL FOUR
Upset: #4 Maryland 85-83 (2nd round)
Good Draw: #9 Northern Iowa 59-52 (Sweet 16)
Toss-Up: #6 Tennessee 70-69 (Elite 8)

2014 (26-8 Entering Tournament, #4 seed): ELITE 8
Good Draw: #12 Harvard 80-73 (2nd round)
Upset: #1 Virginia 61-59 (Sweet 16)

2015 (23-11 Entering Tournament, #7 seed): FINAL FOUR
Toss-Up: #10 Georgia 70-63 (1st round)
Upset: #2 Virginia 60-54 (2nd round) AND #3 Oklahoma 62-58 (Sweet 16)
Good Draw: #4 Louisville 76-70 (Elite 8)

This Kentucky team is going to need this kind of performance to save this season.  They are going to have to pull off an upset at some point.  They are going to need the draw to fall in their favor.  And they will have to win a 50-50 game, probably in the 1st round, as well.  I think Michigan State has shown that a season can be saved in 2 weeks in March.  Izzo has done it a bunch of times.  Calipari has rarely had to do it because his teams have been #1 seeds.  This year, he’s going to need some of that Izzo magic to make this season a success for Cats fans.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

18 responses to “BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Calipari Needs Some of That Tom Izzo Magic”

  1. DG

    It’s called in game coaching ability, and Cal has 0.

    1. Cmart0907

      BOOM. Once that 17-2 run hit. Cal should’ve made adjustments. But he didn’t. Got blown out the water. No set plays , just drive , drive , drive. Turn overs and more turnovers. We been so lucky these years having our teams mesh together. And we finally got one that didn’t mesh together.

    2. BlueDeuce

      I’m glad he didn’t call a timeout during the 17-2 run…they (the players) felt they had the game in their control (up 4 to start the half) and Cal let them see how that turned out.

      They have to trust each other and understand it’s a team sport.

      They have time still…heck, until the last game they have time!!! Just have to figure it out. 9 games left this year as a minimum…15 if they get it together and make a run. It’s there, the talent is there!

    3. 4everUKblue

      Agreed Deuce, DG and Cmart I really hope you guys don’t think you’re smarter than Cal, but if you do you might want to update your resumes and go for a head coaching job with an elite program.

    4. Eazy

      Izzo has the same amount of titles as Cal. Cal has been to four final fours in his time here. Izzo has 1 in that time. Oh, and Izzo should be out of a job.

  2. kampus korner

    You mean the “Izzo magic” that ignored the lengthy history of sexual assault perpetrated by his player’s ? That “magic”? Call has only been to 4 Final Fours and 6 Elite 8 appearances in 8 years. Cal obviously knows how advance his team during the NCAA tournament.

    1. bigbluenation90

      I agree that he has magic but he also has lottery pick after lottery pick every year. This team still has a chance.

  3. KYjellyRoll

    So many people talking like the season is over. I think there’s still games and a tourney to be played? That’s why they play the games right?

  4. Howdy Doody

    NIT Bound

    1. 4everUKblue

      You couldn’t have picked a more fitting handle….

    2. Eazy

      We are 18th in the RPI. No chance we will be an NIT team.

  5. makeitstop

    I’ve said before this year we just don’t have the guy who u know will be an NBA all star, our best guys may make a roster and might contribute in time but no one to help separate us from the pack. And Heaven knows an out of bounds play or the ability to defend one would be nice. BUT for all those calling on Coach Cal to leave or calling him stupid, a little perspective: Coach Cal has taken us to the Final Four four times in 8 years (granted Thant’s about to be 9). Championship game 2/8. Elite 8 6 of 8. He’s won 5 of 8 SEC championships, both tourney and regular season. U know who else has a record like that? No one. That’s who. Coach K has two championships during that time in 2 Final Fours, and Roy has one, a runner-up in a total of 2 final fours. In fairness he won the year before Cal got here, too. All of them win about 76-77% of their games. They win championships about every 5-8 years and go to the final four every 3-4 years. In other words the guy u think can’t coach out performs then in the metric u say matters.

    1. makeitstop

      U know what we have NOT had since Cal is here: fake classes (UNC), sex scandals (MSU), boosters paying players (Kansas) and players thrown off the team (Duke, and just about everyone else including TAMU today.)

    2. 4everUKblue

      Well said. And give Cal the brackets K gets every damned year and he probably wins at least one more.

  6. Smyrna_Cat

    It seems MSU often under-achieves during the year, that does well in the tourney. Play well, get good draws, get lucky … good things happen.

    And Izzo is knee deep in the MSU sex scandal. No thank you …

    1. 4everUKblue

      And there it is.

  7. rlburd2

    Liiiiiike 8 seed to championship game? Check.

  8. makeitstop

    Izzo is a great coach, great record and has had some damn fine basketball players. Same is true for Coach K and it pains me to say, Pitino and Ole Roy, too. But in the time Cal has been at UK, none of them approach his Final Four record, basically every other year and when the last shoe – pardon the expression – drops in the basketball scandal it’s possible Cal didn’t just outperform them but he did it without fake classes (UNC), boosters paying players (Kansas, Williams legacy), sex scandal OR paying players with money or underage girls or whatever… and Jeff Capel, good luck, it will catch u eventually. This is a down year but it’s been a darn fine run and until this is a pattern, I’d say stand down on the Cal rants.