We have arrived. At long last, 13 years and 545 miles removed from the site of the last Kentucky Wildcats NCAA Tournament championship, and the last time the Wildcats played in the final official NCAA men's basketball game of the season.
The sports world is abuzz with today's championship game that features the Kansas Jayhawks, another basketball blueblood, as Kentucky's opponent in the 2012 NCAA Tournament finals. Kansas and Kentucky met back on November 15th in New York's Madison Square Garden for the Champion's Classic. The then-#2 ranked Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks 75-65 in a game in which Kentucky mostly dominated from front to back. The Wildcats shot over 57% eFG% in that game, and but for an ugly 26% turnovers, completely outclassed the Jayhawks in every measurable way.
But today is not five months ago. Kansas has significantly improved in almost every area throughout the course of the season, as have the Wildcats, and interestingly enough,the spread for this game started out virtually the same as the spread in the first game, 6.5 points. So it seems that the oddsmakers are no more sanguine about Kentucky winning this game than they were earlier in the year.
Before we go any further, let's congratulate Anthony Davis on his Naismith Player of the Year award to go along with all his other hardware. Davis swept the biggest of the POY awards, winning the Wooden, AP, and Naismith trophies, while Draymond Green took home the trophy from the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Today, there are a ton of stories analyzing Calipari and the state of college basketball, which I think we all knew would happen if Kentucky wound up in this spot this year. The meme seems to be that the NCAA championship is now some kind of big farce now that Calipari has proven he can win big with talented freshmen that may not stay more than a year in college. The angst and predictability of this sort of blather is almost boringly inauthentic and forced, driven mainly by a vast dislike of Calipari by many in the media.
Those writers who don't have a particularly poor opinion about Coach Cal have been driven to write negatively primarily by peer pressure, and a desire to appear neutral. Lost in all this is the way this championship has captivated all of college sports, far more so this year than last in no small part because of Calipari's polarizing nature and Bill Self's comparatively vanilla demeanor. It's all so frustratingly rote, almost like regurgitating the symbols for the actinides on the periodic table.
This game does have a number of interesting subplots, not the least of which is a coaching rematch of the 2008 championship game between the Calipari-coached Memphis Tigers and Self's Jayhawks that went sideways at the end because of poor free throw shooting by Memphis. This is being billed, somewhat understandably, as Calipari's opportunity to avenge this game (vengeance being, it seems, the major motivation in Kentucky these days) and prove that he can "win the big one." So very dramatic, but then, without drama there would be no sports.
If Kentucky does win this game, there will be a bit of revenge on many Kentucky fans' mind, as well -- namely, mocking those who consistently derided Calipari's system and coaching ability. There will be many pixels darkened, after the celebration (if it happens) about how wrong many people were, and some of those pixels will be on this blog. Hopefully.
At any rate, I'll be blogging as much as I can today, but as with every day, we have events to attend and places to go. Facebook and Twitter are your best places to get more up to date info (@aseaofblue on Twitter and http://www.facebook.com/GoASoB on Facebook) because I can update those services from my iPhone. We will have a game preview and postmortem, as well as the obligatory open threads to talk about the game. I will try my best to update Twitter and Facebook from the game, but do be aware that the service in there is often flakey due to the large number of people trying to post stuff.
Thanks for reading. It's Championship Gameday in the Big Blue Nation. Get ready to celebrate, but don't get cocky -- Kansas is a very dangerous team.