The new order of the college basketball universe.
We've all had this dream.
We stand, as if godlike, surveying the landscape of college basketball. The eighth national title has been secured, and more seem immediately imminent. Everyone looks to Lexington as though it is Mecca, the home of the game. The Kentucky coach stands astride all others in calm benevolence, seemingly paying little attention to the comings and goings of lesser men. We watch as foes write spiteful but futile comments, sports writers fawn and use words like "genius" to refer to the coach.
Looking over to the NBA draft, we see the entire starting five of the team lined up to be drafted along with the sixth man. You can go nowhere without hearing the buzz about Kentucky, and how do they do it, and how well the coach fits with the program. There is nothing to be seen ahead but more years of glory, more championships, more accolades. Kentucky is at the pinnacle of the college basketball world, and there is no heir apparent. The Great Powers of college basketball once again find themselves falling further behind, rather than gaining on, the Blue and White.
That dream is now reality.
Oh, the pundits tout Indiana and Louisville as contenders for next year, and they no doubt are. But Kentucky will get its turn at the plate again, and now that Calipari has demonstrated that youth is not the impediment it was once universally agreed to be, the Big Blue Nation is not concerned that mostly fresh faces will adorn the Kentucky starting five next year. The bitter clingers will point at Darius Miller and the experience gained by Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb as indispensable to Kentucky's championship, but just like the previous theory that a freshman-dominated team cannot win a title, this is just one more sacred cow to be slaughtered, something that John Calipari has been doing with regularity lately.
Calipari, and Kentucky, have sucked all the oxygen out of college basketball. In few places can you find teams mentioned in connection with the national championship without having a Kentucky caveat. Purists continue to fret about the game, but that ship has sailed a long time ago, and the battleship USS Kentucky now sits in port, waiting for the next group of high school all-stars to board for another assault on the title.
From our perch high above it all, we in the Big Blue Nation look down the timeline into the future, and see nothing but Blue and White. It is a place familiar only to a very few, and most recently occupied by the denizens of Tobacco Road. While still formidable, those worthies no longer stand above the Bluegrass, or at the top of the basketball heap. Instead of looking out, they are looking up -- at us.
Even as the summer arrives, all anyone is talking about is what Calipari is doing, what Kentucky is doing, and how good can they be next year without the magical group that so dominated college basketball this year. Even the pejoratives are about Kentucky as the long-running UK series with the Indiana Hoosiers came to an end due to a disagreement about venue. According to many pundits, if UK and IU don't play next year, it is Bad for Baskeball, as if the loss of one game could somehow minimize a sport which continues to see unprecedented success.
Above it all, Buddah-like, sits Coach Cal. I can almost visualize him in the lotus position -- confident, serene, almost completely detached from the national conversation. Externally, he is a bundle of energy, coaching the Dominican Republic team, getting love from former Louisville stars, doing charitable work, hosting fantasy camps and camps for youth. But in his interviews, he seems like a man without a care, completely oblivious to his detractors or the sudden raft of accolades thrown his way. The good doesn't matter. The bad doesn't matter. Serenity is the order of the day.