Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Kentucky’s national title a fitting end to season


I’ll admit it. I wasn’t glued to my television Monday night to watch Kentucky play Kansas in the national championship game like so many sports fans were.

I love March Madness, I really do. I grew up a North Carolina Tar Heel fan. March was when the season began, and when you hoped it didn’t end. But Monday night just didn’t demand my attention like many Final Fours and national championship games have in the past.

Why? Because Kentucky won before the game had even begun.

Yes, anything can happen in March, as we all learned this year and have learned in every year before. But this was Kentucky’s year, and the Wildcats wouldn’t be denied.

Big Blue Nation is as rabid as any fan base in college sports. They often get compared to Alabama fans, and rightfully so. The level of passion and intensity is just as high, and the level of flat-out crazy may be even higher, as we saw in the aftermath of the championship game.

And if Kentucky’s fans are like Alabama’s fans, then John Calipari is Nick Saban.

Calipari came to Lexington, Ky., in a time of need. The Wildcats hadn’t been to the top of the college basketball mountain since their last championship in 1998 and were desperate to get back. And so three years ago Calipari arrived under heavy expectations. Much like Saban, he delivered.

His first season, he took Kentucky all the way to the Elite Eight. That was the team of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe — the beginning of the talent hoarding that Calipari continues to take part in. A new era had begun.

The next year, last year, Calipari led the ‘Cats to the Final Four, where they lost to eventual champion UConn. They were close, but still hadn’t achieved the ultimate goal.

Enter 2011-2012.

Kentucky started the season as an extremely talented, but inexperienced team — par for the course at a high-level college basketball school like Kentucky, where the top players often leave for the NBA after one year. But Calipari worked his magic, as he so often does, and got a group of blue-chip prospects straight out of high school to play like a team, to play unselfish basketball at the highest level.

Kentucky lost only two games. One was to an old-school rival on the road early in the season, and the other was in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game. Just barely missing out on a conference championship game can sometimes be a blessing in disguise for a program with national championship aspirations — just ask Alabama fans — and it turned out to be so for Kentucky.

So when Monday night came, as the Wildcats were set to face the Kansas Jayhawks, it was like you already knew the ending. Kentucky had come this far, and there was no way it would fall short yet again. Kansas never stood a chance.

It was a fitting end to an incredible season.

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