As we head into another Final Four weekend in a couple days, it is still good to celebrate the four times that UK has been lucky enough to play this late into the season under John Calipari. Unfortunately, three of those four times the Cats came up short. When looking back at those three losses, I wonder which one you would like back the most. I list reason why and why not you would want those games back more than the others:
2011: UCONN, 56-55
Why: You get one of Brandon Knight’s worst games, just 6-23 from the field. You get a 4-12 performance from the foul line, including 0-5 from Terrence Jones. Just 2 of those go down and you win. If either of those things changes, UK wins and maybe even wins comfortably. Added to that is who would have been waiting in the finals: Butler. UCONN went on to thrash the Bulldogs and win a title that they barely deserved.
Why Not: Let’s be honest, this was not one of Cal’s powerhouse teams. They were one of his thinnest teams. They struggled for most of the year and needed buzzer beaters in both the 1st round and Sweet 16 to get to the Final Four. Was that a national title caliber team? Probably not.
2014: UCONN, 60-54
Why: Much like Knight above, the Cats star player just played a poor game. Julius Randle scored just 10 points, battled cramps throughout, and just was an overall non-factor in a game where the Cats strength was in the post. Much like 2011 as well, UK missed 11 free throws. This one also stings bad because it was in the title game, unlike in 2011 and 2015. UCONN was very beatable and likely the worst champion in the modern era.
Why Not: UK had been living on borrowed time with late game winners in the previous 3 rounds. The Harrison’s had not quite found their grove like they would in 2015. And that amazing run could not be spoiled by a tough ending.
2015: Wisconsin, 71-64
Why: Obviously this could have been considered one of the greatest teams in college basketball history. A season of historic proportions came to a thud ending, with several uncharacteristic moves down the stretch and the very few flaws that Cats team had were exposed. And it couldn’t have come against a worse opponent, Wisconsin. A team who “did it the right way” with a coach that wasn’t afraid to tell you so.
Why Not: No guarantee that team beats Duke in the championship. No matter how it ended, that season will be remembered forever. Really stretching here…..
I think most people will automatically say 2015 is the one that hurt the worst and I understand why. That team was certainly the best of the three teams listed. But for some reason the loss in 2014 stings me more. For one, it was in the championship game. Secondly, UCONN was a very average team that year. And finally that run was so memorable and then UK played quite poor in the title game and it somewhat soured it all for me.