Remember back in the day when Rick Pitino was known as the best coach in the country if he had a 4 days to prepare in the NCAA Tournament? Pitino was 93-1 or something in the Sweet 16 in his career before UK took him down last year. When do we start wondering if John Calipari has that same kind of touch? He is 4-0 in the Sweet 16 during his time at Kentucky and more importantly, his Sweet 16 performances have all been exciting games. Take a trip down memory lane with the Sweet 16 John Calipari Tour:
2010: Kentucky 62, Cornell 45
Maybe still my favorite win of the Calipari era because it made so many “haters” look so stupid. The basically racist narrative that UK’s most black team was dumb and undisciplined against Cornell’s mostly white, educated, fundamental team would show the basketball world how the game is supposed to be played. Instead, Cal’s group of actually highly intelligent and well oiled machine absolutely dominated Cornell from start to finish. It was beautiful to see. While the game itself was not the most competitive, entertaining game ever played, it was the symbolism of the beatdown and the crushing of racist stereotypes that makes it so great for me.
2011: Kentucky 62, Ohio State 60
Probably the biggest surprise win of the Calipari era, the defeat of the top ranked Buckeyes put the Cats back in the Elite for the 2nd straight year and would eventually vault them into the Final Four. Brandon Knight’s game winning jumper would solidify him as a Kentucky legend, at least in my book. And I think the sting of the loss in 2010 finally went away for UK fans. This actually was a well played game with big players making big plays.
2012: Kentucky 102, Indiana 90
The revenge factor of this game was more than enough to make this an exciting win for Cats fans but the fact of the matter is this was a damn good game too. Personally, I thought UK was going to blow out the Hoosiers on that night but you have to give IU credit for giving UK maybe their best game of that tournament. And the Cats actually played the kind of game that Indiana wanted in going up and down. An underreported factor in that game was UK’s 35-37 performance from the foul line. Because remember that whole Cal’s teams don’t shoot free throws well? Guess another Cal criticism was crushed that night.
2014: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
Of all the games, this was probably the one the Kentucky deserved to win the least, not that it matters at all. But Louisville really controlled much of this game. But what they couldn’t control was their clutch rating, which was about at ZERO. On the other hand, the legend of Aaron Harrison was born with his corner three. If you watch this game for anything, watch it so you can remember what a turd Luke Hancock was.