Over the past four days I have been ranking the best moments of the Calipari Era. This goes without saying, but the obvious #1 moment is hiring Cal to begin with, but that was a given. As I bring this to an end, a little recap. I started with #5 and Aaron Harrison and the 2014 Final Four run, Saturday I had our #4 moment with Boogie Cousins in the SEC final, #3 was the best team ever assembled that never won but finished 38-1, #2 is Brandon Knight sinking Ohio State, and the obvious #1…winning the 2012 NCAA Title.
In my rankings I have talked about both the 2010 and the 2011 team and how one grew into a Final Four team and the other (kind of) collapsed at the end. This, to me, was unexpected and it was really my first year of watching college basketball. I watched every single game, including the heartbreaker at Indiana, Anthony Davis winning the game against UNC, and of course, beating Louisville (the first time). But this team was certainly something. With Jones, Miller, and Lamb all returning and adding MKG, Teague, Wiltjer, and arguably the greatest college basketball player of all time…Anthony Davis, this team was stacked and was just so much fun to watch. With their first loss coming in December to Indiana, the team went on a run but it ended in the SEC Final to the pesky Commodores. Looking back on the moment, it was the perfect plan and gave the team motivation before the run but in the moment it was crushing. I just remember my mom saying “it’s just like `96” and it truly was.
The talent on the court was special as everyone knows, but their chemistry off the court made them winners. I’ll never forget Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going into Cal’s office telling him to start Darius Miller instead of him. Here is Cal describing the moment…”He told me that Darius was playing bad and he needs to get going and needs to get going in the NCAA tournament,” Calipari said. “I told the team that Michael wanted Darius to start because he needs to play better. Come on. That’s one of the youngest freshmen in the country doing that.” Besides Keith Bogans, MKG is my favorite UK player because of how he handled himself. But this run was something.
They beat WKU easily, then handled Iowa State who everyone picked to win. Then the rematch against Indiana and it was a slugfest. The game finished 102-90 but the score did not show the true factor. Kentucky ran that game and basically said catch us if you can and they couldn’t. After destroying Baylor, Kentucky marched to the Final Four to play the Cards in their orange jerseys, and they won the game pretty much the same way they did earlier in the year which set up Kansas in the title game. Kentucky owned that game, they never really gave Kansas a shot but the one moment Kansas had…MKG came out of nowhere and blocked the shot and took the momentum away. Kentucky cut down the nets in Cal’s third year. Relive it here.
Calipari has been special. It’s easy to forget that with his recent “failures” but Kentucky is back to greatness because of him. These are my favorite moments in the Calipari Era. Feel free to tweet me your top 5 @soft7juice and like us on Facebook @Soft7Sports for more Kentucky content.