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.
I know a Final Four run is always special, but does Kentucky really want to get there …. against this competition in the South?
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) March 19, 2018
To read Wolken’s entire post on Calipari, head on over to USA Today here.