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USA Today: It would be an “embarrassment” if Kentucky didn’t reach the Final Four

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari is no stranger to controversy, but his comments this year about the NCAA selection committee’s initial bracket decisions took that to a new level. Coach Cal immediately complained on national television about his team’s opening location, seeding, and predicted opponents, and the media unleashed the largest collective eye roll imaginable.

When the brackets were first released, Kentucky’s road to a Final Four included a hot-shooting Davidson team, the best player in college basketball in DeAndre Ayton and Arizona, No. 1 overall seed Virginia, and either four-loss Cincinnati or co-SEC champion Tennessee.

After a miraculous sequence of events, Kentucky’s path is now Davidson, Buffalo, Kansas State, and either Nevada or Loyola-Chicago. A Final Four bid is staring the Big Blue Nation right in the forehead.

Calipari joked this week that the NCAA would probably rearrange the remaining seeds to recreate a bracket of death for the Cats. He followed it up with a serious statement about how seeds don’t matter at this point, and if a team isn’t playing well and/or overlooks an opponent, their seasons will end.

“If you think, ‘They got this,’ or ‘It’s going to be easy,’ you will lose in this tournament,” Calipari said this afternoon. “I’ve done this 20-some years, even more than that probably. This thing is unpredictable. Who is playing well at the time? Like, seed, who cares about seed now? Seeds don’t matter. it’s who’s playing well. If you’re playing well, you advance. If you’re not playing well, guess what? You don’t advance.”

In fact, Calipari said Kentucky would lose tomorrow if his team drinks the “poison” the media feeds them about having a cakewalk to the Final Four.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison, that poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament. If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dogfight on Thursday, and let’s see what happens.”

USA Today’s Dan Wolken didn’t like Calipari’s comments. At all.

In his eyes, the media isn’t “agenda-driven” like he thinks, they just tell the truth. And then he got hot takey.

You’ll probably call it agenda-driven because, as you’ve told us many times, everybody these days is out to get the University of Kentucky and the articles written about your team are clearly intended to rattle the young, impressionable minds of your players.

So with that warning out of the way, here goes a scorching-hot take about Kentucky and John Calipari: Not only are the Wildcats the best remaining team in the South Region, it would be an epic surprise, and perhaps embarrassment at this point, if they fail to make the Final Four. 

And you don’t need an agenda, only an Internet connection and cable TV subscription, to understand why this is being talked about as a Final Four cakewalk for Kentucky: Because that’s exactly what it looks like with the No. 7, No. 9 and No. 11 seeds joining the Wildcats here in Philips Arena.

He then scoffed at Calipari changing his narrative so quickly from the bracket of death talk to seedings being irrelevant and the media being the bad guy for pushing the cakewalk talk.

Yes, everything is lining up so perfectly for Kentucky, Calipari had to turn his message around 180 degrees in the course of a week: From saying the selection committee purposely made it hard for Kentucky to now suggesting the media has conspired to call this an easy path so Kentucky will be overconfident and lose to Kansas State.

You got us, Cal.

He did say he doesn’t blame Kentucky for their good fortune when it came to the right dominoes falling in the South region.

Not that Kentucky should apologize for any of it. It’s not the Wildcats’ fault Virginia melted down mentally against Maryland-Baltimore County; nor can they be blamed for Arizona’s inexplicably awful defense against Buffalo or Cincinnati blowing a 22-point lead against Nevada.

He saved himself a bit there, but there are still many things in the article that leave you scratching your head.

What exactly is Calipari supposed to say in this scenario? “Yeah, the top seeds embarrassed themselves and we lucked out big time with these chumps?” What does that tell Kansas State or Kentucky’s other potential opponent in the Elite Eight? As we saw with Buffalo’s pre-Kentucky comments, if you discount your opponent in the slightest, it creates bulletin board material.

Kentucky was handed two matchups to kick off the tournament, and they took care of business in both of them. They walked into the arena on both occasions unphased and beat who they were supposed to beat. Why is Kentucky at fault for that? The other “juggernauts” came in looking ahead and got burned. That’s mental preparedness on the big stage. That’s coaching. Why aren’t Tony Bennett, Mick Cronin, Sean Miller, and Rick Barnes ridiculed to no end for choking in the opening weekend?

Coach Cal said if his team overlooks Kansas State, they will lose. If you drink the “poison” about his team rolling to the Final Four, they will lose. What is wrong with those comments? It’s true, isn’t it? We just saw the South region crumble because of that mindset.

Kentucky is every opponent’s Super Bowl, and John Calipari prepared his team for that. He has lost in the Round of 32 just once (against four-seed Indiana, nonetheless), but in every other season at UK, his tournament teams have reached the Elite Eight or later. Two Elite Eights, four Final Fours, two championship appearances, and banner No. 8. He gets his guys ready for this very moment, and his track record shows that.

At least he didn’t say Kentucky shouldn’t even want to get to a Final Four like this imbecile.

To read Wolken’s entire post on Calipari, head on over to USA Today here.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

39 Comments for USA Today: It would be an “embarrassment” if Kentucky didn’t reach the Final Four

  1. KYjellyRoll
    10:10 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    So, Kansas st., Loyola, Nevada…none of the lower seeds deserved to win? I don’t understand. By saying U.K. Has such a cakewalk path to the final four, they’re saying these other teams didn’t deserve to be in the sweet 16!? I mean…

  2. ClutchCargo
    10:15 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    Not about to give those morons a click. Thanks for breaking it down for us, Jack.

  3. Catsfan1715
    10:16 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    You can’t blame cal for trying to keeping his players ready for the game in front of them and you can’t really blame the talking heads for saying we got lucky with some upsets. At the end of the day, if Virginia, Arizona and Tennessee can be upset by lower seeds-so can anyone else left in the tournament. If we lose, everyone will say Cal sucks at coaching and we should recruit 3-4 year players and/or get a new coach and if we win, it’ll be because we had it easy. Enjoy the ride, bleed blue and let the haters hate.

  4. BigBlueNationDude
    10:28 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    Very accurate usa today. Well done

    • kentuckybackupplayer
      10:48 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

      Your cardinals are looking for a new coach, maybe spending some time over at card chronicle will let you promote all those available coaches that are better than cal that you proclaim exist.

    • BigBlueNationDude
      11:38 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

      I love my cardinals

    • catsarerunnin
      8:17 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

      Lucky them to have a douchebag like you as a “fan”.

    • BBNDudesboytoy
      11:59 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

      Would you stop and come back to bed? Our gimp doesn’t have as strong of a gag reflex as you. We can watch the reruns of pitino press conferences to relax you.

    • cats646
      1:48 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

      Ha! Wtf?! BBNdude boy toy !! Haha that’s hilarious!

    • BigBlueNationDude
      2:35 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

      Hilarious. I am needed here. I got people copying my name, making parody accounts from me, and discussion about me a whole lot. You guys are a real bright spot in my life. Thanks

    • Booby Petrino
      8:05 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

      Dang, BBNDude…I used to not feel sorry for you but after reading that the KSR posters are a bright spot in your life, you’ve won my sympathy. I’m so sorry that your life sucks so bad that KSR comments are a bright spot in your life.

  5. dgtuk
    10:33 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    I did go over and read the article and was prepared to be really mad. However, other than the suggestion that UK might should be embarrassed if they don’t make it to the final four (which was over the top), the rest of the article wasn’t that bad, including a direct statement that if UK wins the next 2 games they obviously deserved to be in the FF.

    I love Cal but he is the ultimate spin master….the turnaround from week to week is entertaining and even funny. Having said that, i will drink his blue koolaid all day long. Most of it is spot on…and come to think of it a little hyperbole every now and then is just fine.

    Go Cats and let’s win the next two so we won’t be “embarrassed” :).

  6. runningunnin.454
    10:33 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    Oklahoma State beat Kansas twice; but, they couldn’t beat Western Kentucky once, even at home.
    WKU to NY for NIT Final Four.

  7. kentuckybackupplayer
    10:47 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    very insulting to the teams that have won. does the usa today think the winners so far are chumps who lucked out? hell i watched the games and they all beat the hell out of the teams they played and deserved to win. in the tournament deserve has everything to do with it. getting your articles published by a newspaper has nothing to do with deserve or intellect.

  8. SuperTroy18
    10:48 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    Every team that makes the Sweet 16 is not only really good, they are hot. Most won their Conference Tourneys and are on a current winning streak. I mean Loyola won in Gainesville where we were just massacred! Nevada beat a Tennessee team we lost 2 of 3 to! Any of these teams can beat us. I THINK we are in good shape, but I’m sure no. 1 seed UCONN thought so too when they got George Mason in the Elite Eight a few years ago. No region is safe. No game is predictable. It’s March.
    I think Cal is right when he says seeds don’t matter now. They do in opening rounds. Not now.

  9. Megan
    11:05 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    Consider the source.

    Dan Wolken was a sports columnist for the Commercial Appeal, the Memphis newspaper. Calipari elevated the Memphis program and took it to the national championship game. When he left Memphis for Kentucky, bringing some prized recruits with him, Wolken and much of the Memphis fan base turned on him. They saw it as a betrayal they could never forgive. Although Wolken left the Commercial Appeal and eventually ended up at USA Today, he continues to take shots at Calipari.

    Just so you know who we’re dealing with here. This is par for the course. He’ll do it again before too long. Calipari is his white whale.

    • bballdoc
      10:43 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

      Re-read Wolken’s article. All of it, not just what Pilgrim cut and pasted. All his points are fair. His audience is national, not KSR readers.

  10. IAmTheDanger
    11:15 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    NEVER an article written about the easy path Duke gets every year…that would be blasphemy.

  11. KYJelly
    11:22 pm March 21, 2018 Permalink

    How is it a disappointment when a month ago we were in he midst of a 4-game skid and wondering if this was a lost season. We are a five seed for a reason

  12. mapcatfan
    12:03 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Come on……….give Dan a break! He writes that same thing every year about Coach K, Duke, and their annual cakewalk……………oh wait.

  13. plumloopy
    12:06 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    To be fair, it’s never been this “easy,” not even for Duke. The 1-4 seeds have never failed to make it to the Sweet 16, so lets stop crying discrimination.

    • IAmTheDanger
      12:19 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

      If the committee (God forbid) ever shamed Duke with a 5 seed, they would NEVER put a team like AZ in their way and THEN put the #1 overall seed in their way the next game….not a chance!!!

  14. plumloopy
    12:06 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    That said, ten of the remaining 16 teams were in the top 10 rankings at some point this year, and one more was as high as 11. Not bad.

  15. makeitstop
    12:09 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    I, for one, said a month ago it would be a success if we made the second weekend given the fact we had no superstars and it was just one of those years the chemistry didn’t work. Well, it’s a success. He got them to play their best down the stretch and the unlikabke, at times unwatchable Cats became fun… fun to watch, fun to cheer for. We should get to San Antonio but it’s no guarantee and as far as I’m concerned we are playing w house money from here. Nice job, young fellas. Good work Cal. Hope several come back and we’ll be better next year and meantime see how long the magic holds out. Go Cats. At least we didn’t lose last weekend like UNC, Cindy, MSU, Xavier, Kansas or the poor Cavs… or miss it entirely U-6!

  16. makeitstop
    12:11 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    And please somebody take out Duke and Kansas or we will have to…

  17. blueblood4life
    12:51 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    If Puke and North Carolina was in the south region just as we are and the cards folded just in the position Kentucky is now this conversation wouldn’t even be happening ! It would be awesome to ESPN acc lovers and they would be bragging and happy as Hell but since it’s Kentucky They hate it. I hope and pray Kentucky wins this championship to prove we are the power house of college basketball and the acc is going down!!!

  18. Blue Jesus
    3:26 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    “Why aren’t Tony Bennett, Mick Cronin, Sean Miller, and Rick Barnes ridiculed to no end for choking in the opening weekend?”

    Well, I think they have been.

  19. Daddyof3Ballers
    7:27 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    It’s the “big dance”. Everyone is playing hard and confident at this point. Win or go home, that raises the competition level. One play at a time, and we make it to the final four. Lose your thoughts, you could lose your composure and in turn lose to a team that shouldn’t beat you (i.e. Zona and VA)

  20. Matty Arbuckle
    7:58 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    I’d be much more embarrassed to lose in the way Virginia and Arizona did in the first weekend than to lose in the Sweet 16 to these same teams.

  21. catsarerunnin
    8:22 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    They all were on the Virginia bandwagon and were complaining on selection Sunday that the South region was going to be sooo hard for them to advance to the FF. Yeah it has been a tough region for all of the top seeds including UVa. That’s why they’re gone and why UK is still standing. They don’t like Cal or UK. But I love how Cal says things just to get a reaction from them and they take it hook,line and sinker every time.

  22. secrick
    9:12 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Pilgram are you even a Cat fan you dumb ass. That sounds like something a card fan would say because thats all the hope they got is for us to get beat. Not reading any more of your post.

  23. secrick
    9:14 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Pilgram i am the dumb ass. Sorry for the last post. Should take a little more time to read the Headlines.

  24. JMFATZ47
    9:18 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Ironically, the writer is doing exactly what Cal is talking about. The fact that Arizona & Virginia lost does not take away the fact that the committee still stuck us in a pretty ridiculous situation. Yes, both teams lost, I get that. However, most “experts” either had Virginia or Arizona in the final four, championship or winning the whole thing! Bilas was calling “Ayton” a HOF player. The media was claiming Virginia will win the whole thing! The fact that both of them lost does not make Cal wrong– the point is that the committee still TRIED to shaft UK. It just didn’t play out that way. Karma is a beyotch

  25. Alleykat16
    9:55 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    In today’s sports writings its no longer the writing of a good story like reporters did back in the day. Today’s reporters write articles to get clicks as they call them. So great writing is over looked for just saying crazy things so that we click on the story to see how dumb is this writer really is. So please fans of UK dont fall for these writers stick with stories written by reporters that follow UK all year. This other reporters are just counting clicks for checks so please dont go there. You dont have to read them cause you’ll here about how stupid they are by other reporters reporting how what crazy things are being said about the CATS.

  26. Flake
    10:07 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Slight correction, UK was the 4 seed, IU the 5 seed in 2016. But call doesn’t get enough credit for his NCAA coaching performance, based not only on his wins, but on who he doesn’t lose to. His only losses in the tournament to lower seeded teams since his last four years at Memphis are to teams one seed line lower. He has never lost to a team seeded two or more lines lower, thus no really “bad losses” by seeding. Compare that to a former coach who in his last 6 tournaments, lost as a 4 to a 13, a 4 to an 8 (UK), a 4 to a 7, and a 2 to a 7-but he was a great tournament coach(insert sarcasm here)

  27. Flake
    10:07 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Cal doesn’t get enough credit, sorry!

  28. Flake
    10:14 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    And trivia note here, Cal’s only other losses are to teems seeded the same in the final 4, when both were one seeds, and teams seeded one seed line higher. In fact against higher seeded teams, he is 0-4 against teams one seed line higher, once at Memphis and 3 times at UK, twice to UConn and last year, and 6-0 against teams 2 seed lines or more higher, 2-0 in 2011, 4-0 in 2014. And this is my mojo trivia for the tournament, Since Cal never loses to a team more than one seed line above or below him, we can only lose to a 4,5, or 6 seed. The 6’s are gone, so route against the 4’s and 5’s, Gonzaga, Clemson, and WVU!

  29. Flake
    10:15 am March 22, 2018 Permalink

    Root, sorry again.