Kentucky validates Calipari's method

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NEW ORLEANS — The running joke all season was that Kentucky was good enough to beat some NBA teams. Say, maybe the Toronto Raptors.

Kentucky coach John Calipari (center) celebrates with his team after beating Kansas to win the national championship Monday night. It was the first title of Calipari's career.  DAVID J. PHILLIP/ASSOCIATED PRESS
DAVID J. PHILLIP/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Kentucky coach John Calipari (center) celebrates with his team after beating Kansas to win the national championship Monday night. It was the first title of Calipari's career.

Farfetched? Probably. But with that stable of pros-in-waiting, one thing seemed certain: the Wildcats were the team to beat in college basketball.

Capping a season that had a feeling of inevitability, Kentucky finished with a flourish, beating Kansas 67-59 in the NCAA championship game Monday night.

OK, so maybe it was the last time we’ll see many of those future millionaires in blue and white. At least they’ll go out as heroes after bringing home an eighth national championship to Big Blue and giving John Calipari the one missing piece to his résumé.

“We were the best team,” Calipari said. “I wanted this to be one for the ages.”

Calipari has had a knack for luring the nation’s best recruits to Lexington, never worrying about whether they’d stick around.

This year’s bouncy-legged bunch was impressive even by his standards.

Led by player of the year Anthony Davis, these fast-tracked Wildcats raced past nearly everyone who got in their way.

Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague – Coach Cal had a team of ringers and he, along with everyone else, knew it. Who’s No. 2 seemed to be the only question left.

The Wildcats earned a return trip to the Big Easy by turning a highly hyped regional final against Baylor into a rout.

Waiting for them was in-state rival, Louisville, which gave Kentucky a battle before bowing out.

That set up a blue blood matchup with Kansas in Monday’s championship game. Save for a slight stumble near the finish, the Wildcats rolled to the title everyone said was theirs to lose.

“They’re playing with pros,” Kansas coach Bill Self.

Finally, this year, Cal’s method – recruiting the best players, even if they’ll likely be one-and-done – was fully validated in the form of a national title.

“I don’t think it’s a good rule,” Calipari said. “I hope we change it before this week’s out and all these guys have to come back. But it is a rule. It’s not my rule. It’s a rule we have to deal with.”

And one Calipari and the Wildcats ruled with, at least this year.

CHAMPS RETURN HOME

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Another championship banner has been unfurled at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky’s basketball team returned home to its adoring fans Tuesday, after defeating Kansas on Monday night to win the school’s eighth NCAA championship.

Blue-clad fans erupted into deafening cheers as the team pulled into the packed arena aboard a sleek blue bus emblazoned with “national champions.”

It was a joyous curtain call for a team led by an immensely talented group of freshmen and sophomores. The NBA likely beckons next for many of them.

Each team member was introduced to loud ovations as players and coaches took the stage in the middle of the arena. Senior Darius Miller, a basketball net draped around his neck, toted the NCAA championship trophy to a table. Coach John Calipari pumped his fist and raised his arms in triumph as he basked in the cheers.

“You know why we won the national title? Folks, we have the best players and we have the best team,” Calipari said as the crowd erupted.

– Associated Press


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