Last night, a reporter reminded a sleepy and sassy Bob Huggins that he’s got an 8-2 record against John Calipari. Huggins interrupted him before he could finish his question.
“Who is counting, Mike?” smiled Huggins. When the reporter–Mike–asked him to explain “that sort of statistical edge,” Huggins said he couldn’t.
“No. I can’t,” Huggins said. “He’s an absolutely terrific coach. He does — very few people could do what he did at UMass and then he went into Memphis when they were struggling. And what he did at Memphis, I’ve got — I mean John and I tease each other a lot. But I’ve got great respect for him and for what he’s done and what he’s been able to accomplish.”
Why doesn’t Huggins’ record against Calipari really matter? Let’s take a look at the ten games between the two coaches:
January 7, 1993: Cincinnati 64, UMass 53
January 27, 1994: Cincinnati 76, UMass74
February 15, 2001: Cincinnati 66, Memphis 65
March 9, 2001: Cincinnati 89, Memphis 79
March 3, 2002: Cincinnati 80, Memphis 75 (OT)
March 1, 2003: Memphis 67, Cincinnati 48
March 6, 2004: Cincinnati 83, Memphis 79
March 5, 2005: Cincinnati 62, Memphis 60
March 27, 2010: West Virginia 73, Kentucky 66
March 19, 2011: Kentucky 71, West Virginia 63
The majority of the matchups between the two happened when Calipari was rebuilding teams at Memphis and UMass, or were so close they really came down to chance. Right, Bob?
“You were there for a lot of the games,” Huggins said to Mike the reporter. “We were fortunate. We won one time in Memphis because our guy thought we were ahead and it was tied and he started dribbling it out, he was going to run the clock out. And they jumped out and wouldn’t let him take the ball out. I don’t know if they knew what the score was either. And he dribbled in, got a layup and we won by two. I think you were there for that one. So, I mean, it’s crazy.”
That game was Huggins’ last against Calipari as the coach of Cincinnati. He “resigned” that summer and by that time, Cal was really just starting to mold Memphis into something special. From there, the Tigers took over Conference USA, making it to two Elite Eights, followed by the NCAA Championship Game, and the Sweet 16 in Calipari’s last season.
I won’t even discuss Kentucky’s loss to West Virginia in 2010, Cal’s first year here. Not only does it sting too much, I’ve blocked it from my memory. Kentucky couldn’t hit a basket. Arguably the most elite collection of talent to play at Kentucky may as well have been playing with a beach ball. It was just that bad. A total fluke of college basketball nature. Kentucky got revenge a season later in the second round, but the loss in 2010 still serves as a bitter reminder of the unpredictability of the tournament and what could have been.
After you really look at it, Huggins’ record against Cal is pretty moot, but both coaches know it’s the narrative this week. In fact, Huggins said Cal called him three weeks ago when the brackets came out with a prediction.
“Cal called me about three weeks ago and said, ‘you know they’re going to put us in the same bracket, don’t you?’” Huggins told CBS.
All in the name of storylines, even if this one’s a little tired.