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It ain’t easy being King

It is hard watching this Kentucky team struggle to hit their stride, and reach its full potential. Coming off a national title a season ago, things were trending skyward at an astonishing rate. Coach Calipari reloaded with a new set of NBA-ready talent and fans were ready for another run… Not so fast. Things don’t always work out so picture perfect for a defending national champion. Be it because of an all-new look, a target on its back, or downright back luck, defending national champions have rarely had an easy go of things in the last decade.

Discounting Florida which had two unreal back-to-back seasons; did you know you have to go back 12 years to find a defending National Champion that made it past the Sweet Sixteen the following year?

Take a look as most teams do make the tournament as a very high seed, but are upset before or in the regional semifinals.

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1999-00 Michigan State Spartans (32-7): Next season 28-5 record, went into March as a 1-seed and lost in the Final Four to 2-seed Arizona.

2000-01 Duke Blue Devils (35-4): Next season 31-4 record, went into March as a 1-seed and lost in the Sweet Sixteen to 5-seed Indiana.

2001-02 Maryland Terrapins (32-4): Next season 21-10 record, went into March as a 6-seed and lost in the Sweet Sixteen to 7-seed Michigan State.

2002-03 Syracuse Orange (30-5): Next season 23-8 record, went into March as a 5-seed and lost in the Sweet Sixteen to 8-seed Alabama.

2003-04 Connecticut Huskies (33-6): Next season 23-8 record, went into March as a 2-seed and lost in the second round to 10-seed North Carolina State.

2004-05 North Carolina (33-4): Next season 23-8 record, went into March as a 3-seed and lost in the second round to 11-seed George Mason.

2005-06 Florida Gators (33-6): Next season 35-5 record, went into March as a 3-seed and won the National Title.

2006-07 Florida Gators (35-5): Next season 24-12 record, went to the NIT.

2007-08 Kansas Jayhawks (37-3): Next season 27-8 record, went into March as a 3-seed and lost in the Sweet Sixteen to 2-seed Michigan State.

2008-09 North Carolina Tar Heels (34-4): Next season 20-17 record, went to the NIT.

2009-10 Duke Blue Devils (35-5): Next season 32-5 record, went into March as a 1-seed and lost in the Sweet Sixteen to 5-seed Arizona.

2010-11 Connecticut Huskies (32-9): Next season 20-14 record, went into March as a 9-seed and lost in the first round to 8-seed Iowa State.

2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats (38-2): Next season ??

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Every team but Florida in 2006 got worse the following year coming off a title. Of course, this should be expected. When you’re on top of the college basketball world the only place to go is down. But over the last 12 seasons, the defending national champion averages 3.5 more losses the following season.

Already Kentucky has reached that 3.5-more losses mark. However, two perfect case studies and modern examples of teams like Kentucky are Connecticut in 2011 and North Carolina in 2009. Teams often struggle mightily in years coming off a national title, and both UConn and UNC had similar problems that Kentucky has: a young talent-laden roster with limited production from upperclassmen.

Connecticut was blessed with a high-octane freshmen class in 2011, headlined by Andre Drummond and DeAndre Daniels, while North Carolina brought in a top-five class in 2009 with John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, and the Wear twins. Both of these teams, like Kentucky this season, relied heavily on the young talent to carry the way. It’s just not easy doing it.

Kentucky fans may be discontent with the season thus far, but there is still time to turn it around. But no matter what, don’t give the guys a hard time. History tells us coming back from a national title run is a feat most teams have a hard time dealing with, so bear with these Cats.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

20 Comments for It ain’t easy being King



  1. HackRichards
    11:23 am January 30, 2013 Permalink

    Bearing with immaturity is one thing that is EASY to do. bearing with the lack of HUSTLE and defensive lapses is what is difficult.



  2. Jason
    11:29 am January 30, 2013 Permalink

    Gators went back to back. I think that counts.



  3. Munk
    11:33 am January 30, 2013 Permalink

    Florida was a #1 seed in 07 not a #3



  4. CAUKFAN
    11:44 am January 30, 2013 Permalink

    I’m not discontent at all. Watching Noel last night was worth the price of admission. There are a few UK ‘fans’ out there that are just big babies. You ever tried to keep a baby happy? It’s not easy.



  5. NKYTomSr
    11:48 am January 30, 2013 Permalink

    “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”!



  6. cracka
    11:53 am January 30, 2013 Permalink

    the 06-07 season was 12 years ago … ?



  7. FrigFullofBeer
    12:05 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    YET…. None of those teams lose 94% of their team from year before!!!!!



  8. Will S
    12:07 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    I know I’ll take heat for this, but that 2011 Duke team was actually much better than the 2010 title team. Might have won it all with a healthy Kyrie Irving all season. He came back for the NCAA Tournament and the chemistry just wasn’t there, got blown out by Arizona. I’ll always wonder “what if?”



  9. bluefan
    12:12 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    Well said, #4. I actually love this team and find all the “fan” critism ridiculous. It’s fun watching them develop. Very proud of how far they’ve come. Go Cats!



  10. Who cares?
    12:12 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    @#8 Thanks for the insight but i just wasted 15 seconds reading about some team i could not care less about. When i think about better things I couldve done with that time, I will always wonder “what if?”



  11. RealCatsFan
    12:13 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    Donovan had lightning in a bottle for those two year – the nucleus of that team all had professional sports parents, so money was no object to them. UF has not sniffed a championship since – last year was the closest they could come, and they choked down the stretch against UL.

    There is no other team in the nation that has weathered as many storms, be it coaching changes, players graduating or getting hurt, whatever, that has maintained the consistent level of excellence that UK has through the decades. The only program that comes close if UNC, and maybe Kansas. The rest of them with multiple championships have generally had all of their success under one coaching regime. UK has won titles under five head coaches. Has any other school exceeded this?



  12. miggles
    12:15 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    6 – You’d think someone named “cracka” would know what “discount” means.



  13. RealCatsFan
    12:15 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    #8, yeah, and if Anderson had not blown out his ACL, UK would have won 3 in a row and been hunting for #10. You could also argued that a healthy Keith Bogans might have neutralized D. Wade. If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts it would be Christmas every day…



  14. ThankfulCat
    12:20 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    If this team plays like they did the first part of the 1st half for the rest of the season, they can beat anybody in the country.

    College basketball is overall not so great. UK is capable of winning it again.

    It would cause a meltdown of epic proportions if we could get our act together and repeat as champs

    Tom Crean and the IU fanbase would have to be placed in straight jackets and Pitino would probably fall back into Karen Sypher’s arms



  15. ThankfulCat
    12:21 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    2nd half, not 1st half



  16. dave
    12:26 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    yeah, you dont discount UF’s back-to-back b/c you also dont discount UK’s 3 straight title games (2 titles). or duke’s back-to-back. or that we just made back-to-back final fours.
    facts are optional.



  17. Will S
    1:05 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    13) Yeah, that was kind of my point. It takes luck with injuries and such. There’s so much that has to go perfect in order to repeat.



  18. DCS195
    3:05 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    1) Lack of HUSTLE at times and defensive lapses are in large part brought on by immaturity, so if it so easy to accept immaturity, then you have to also accept a certain amount of the first two items.



  19. BNClay
    3:41 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    if, if, if… If Anderson was healthly vs Arizona, if Bogan was healthy vs Marquett, if anybody makes some 3s vs West Virginia, if Jones makes some free thows against UConn, Cats could already have 12. Every year some teams has what ifs. That should make us appreciate last years team that much more. Even with the best team it is hard to win it.



  20. njcat54
    4:31 pm January 30, 2013 Permalink

    Not sure this analysis makes much sense. Most teams that win a title have an unusually successful year because they hand unusually talented and/or experienced players who left after they won the title. It is normal to expect those teams to rebuild the following year, have a worse record and not win the title

    The reasons KY is struggling this year compared to last has nothing to do w/ the fact that a bunch of talent walked out the door, because by Cal’s design it walks out the door EVERY year. There is no comfort in just saying they are rebuilding like most programs do following a title year. Cal’s system is built on the theory that you recruit the most talented players and you should challenge for the title every year. When one of his teams struggles like this one has – it shows that the players and/or coaches are underachieving and it is reasonable to be disappointed.

    Its why you saw this team rated #3 at the beginning of the year. You have the best talent – you should be at the top. This team might get there, but so far – not so much.