UK had amazingly fun seasons in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2019. They made the Final Four in only 2 of those 5 seasons and won the title only once. Fans were very disappointed in how each of those seasons ended except for 2012 and maybe 2017. Upset losses in the NCAA Tournament absolutely taint a season in a fanbase like this. But the reality is those five seasons were five of the best seasons in UK history. Not only were the teams wildly successful, bringing home SEC titles and many NCAA Tournament wins, the players themselves were easy to enjoy and some of the best to wear blue and white.
And yet, only 20% of them ended in a title and 40% ended in the Final Four. The best teams in the Calipari era still made the Final Four less than half the time. Now he has supplemented those disappointments with surprising runs to the Final Four in 2011 and 2014 so that helps balance things out for Calipari. But this upcoming team will certainly start the season in the Top 4 and has all of the pieces, at least on paper, to make a run for a title. We must face the reality though that it is still more likely we will miss the Final Four than make it.
My point is not to be a downer. My point is recognize the journey more than the conclusion. My point is to have some better perspective of the difficulty of making it to the Final Four, no matter how good the team is.
Consider that Calipari has had a preseason Top 4 team in 8 of 10 seasons. He has made the Final Four in only 3 of those 8 seasons.
2009-10: Preseason #4 (no Final Four)
2011-12: Preseason #2 (Final Four)
2012-13: Preseason #3 (no Final Four)
2013-14: Preseason #1 (Final Four)
2014-15: Preseason #1 (Final Four)
2015-16: Preseason #2 (no Final Four)
2016-17: Preseason #2 (no Final Four)
2018-19: Preseason #2 (no Final Four)
Only time will tell but this season and this team could be quite fun to watch this season. If they meet expectations, they will probably be a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But even that lofty seed means you will almost certainly have to play THREE quality opponents just to get to the Final Four. Winning three straight quality games on neutral floors in a high pressure situation is tough. The fact that UK has done it 4 times in 10 years is pretty impressive. But getting beat before the Final Four should be put in perspective for the whole season.
Should UK have beaten WVU in 2010, Wisconsin in 2015, Kansas State in 2018, and Auburn in 2019? Of course they should have. But they are not machines. They consistently get themselves in position to make the Final Four. And sometimes they finish the job and sometimes they don’t. This team will probably do the same this year. Let’s enjoy the ride no matter how the finish comes.