Home » Columns »Your Phil of Hoops » Currently Reading:

What Kentucky gave us will be forgotten, and that’s too bad

April 5, 2015 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – We need to appreciate what Kentucky did and what they gave us this season.

Hopefully, people who watch or cover college basketball have done their best to just enjoy this team, because it was worth the ride. The Wildcats did much more than just go 38-1, much as t-shirts will be sold with those two numbers and people will talk about this more than who who wins Monday night’s national championship game.

And in this time where teams are judged too harshly if they don’t go as far as some people think they should, it’s basically a foregone conclusion that a lot of people are not going to appreciate this.

Entering the season, some thought the Wildcats to be prohibitive national championship favorites. That’s a bit much this day in age, but that was out there. There was a question of whether or not they could do that without a loss. Early games did nothing to change that, with Kentucky blowing out teams including a good (albeit, as we would find out, somewhat inconsistent) Kansas team by 32 in the Champions Classic.

Kentucky shut teams down to an unprecedented degree. They played defense at a historic level, using their length, athleticism and team approach. There were some who put out the ridiculous notion that they could beat an NBA team.

We need to appreciate them. The Wildcats were this good. No, they couldn’t beat an NBA team, but they were a terrific college basketball team. They were a historic college basketball team.

Kentucky won 38 straight games to start the season. No college basketball team has ever done that. They didn’t do it against a bunch of teams with 300 RPIs; they beat Kansas, as noted earlier, as well as Providence, Texas, North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville, then they ran the table in the SEC, which is still struggling but placed four other teams in the NCAA Tournament. Then in the NCAA Tournament, they beat Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame – the last of whom won the ACC Tournament with wins over Duke and North Carolina on consecutive nights.

Kentucky held opponents to 35 percent shooting on the season, helping them to a scoring margin of over 20 points per game. Opponents shot 27 percent from behind the arc against them, meaning that getting hot from deep was unlikely to be a path to beating them – at least all by itself. They held four teams below 40 points. Saturday night was just the third time all season a team scored at least 70 points against them. On the offensive side, no SEC turned the ball over less than they did, meaning they weren’t a careless team, and in SEC games they gave the ball away just under ten times a game.

John Calipari didn’t just roll out the balls with this team, in other words.

But all of that is only part of the story. Forget those numbers.

What this Kentucky team gave us is a team we should appreciate. For all their talent, this team played unselfish basketball and bought into the idea of team basketball. They bought into playing less than all 40 minutes – indeed, no one played more than 26 minutes a night. They bought into not putting up big individual numbers in the name of team success; no player scored more than 11 points per game or topped seven rebounds per game. They bought into a team concept at a time when it’s so easy to get caught up in individual accomplishments. They wanted to win.

Remember, this is a group that was this talented, this deep, in part because a few players passed on the NBA for now a year ago. They didn’t just jump for the money. This group of kids isn’t what we often cast talented young players to be these days. We should understand that this team was nothing if not a refreshing display of what college basketball should be about.

More than that, this team seemed mature beyond their years. They understood that plenty of people wanted to see them lose along the way, that they would get everyone’s best shot. That’s not something to be underestimated – when you’re the favorite, you’re everyone’s proverbial Super Bowl. They understood that. They understood that they would be over-analyzed and over-analyzed some more, to the point of trying to find anything with this team that could lead to a loss. They understood that through all of that, they had to continue to buy in to the idea of team success and good team chemistry.

Kentucky did all of that. The results bear it out.

Now that the Wildcats have been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament without winning it all, all of that over-analysis will test this team differently. They need to block it out the same way they did all season. There will be those who call this team a failure. There will be those who will want them to apologize for losing a game, even if they lost to a very good team. Plenty will put this loss on them and not give Wisconsin credit. And plenty will act as if the 38 straight wins now mean nothing.

They all mean something. We can’t lose sight of the journey, or the fact that there are other pretty good teams out there. Kentucky wasn’t a failure. Kentucky doesn’t have to apologize for losing a game.

And shame on anyone who claims otherwise. They clearly missed and failed to appreciate a great season that Kentucky gave us. For that, we should thank the Wildcats and appreciate them.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – February 7, 2018

February 7, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a big sweep in the SEC, look back on the wild Saturday, then talk about a Big Ten showdown and some undefeated teams in conference play.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 31, 2018

January 31, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a lot of what has happened in the ACC and SEC, including the Big 12/SEC Challenge, whether or not Kentucky is turning a corner, as well as the story at Michigan State.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 26, 2018

January 26, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a wild night in the Big Ten, adversity and a quiet leader in the ACC, what to make of Kentucky and look ahead to the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about big road wins for a few teams, including a couple of bluebloods that looked destined for losses, as well as an unsettled Big Ten beyond one team, an SEC where you shouldn’t pay attention to bracketologists, and the problems with a proposed earlier start to the college basketball season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about several big pieces of news away from game play, one of which puts a lot in perspective. We also talk about the lack of dominant teams and how this has shown up in the results, especially this past weekend.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.