Kanter v NCAA

Well there it is. The NCAA showing its bias and total case of Enes envy ruled him permanently ineligible. So what is next for UK’s “professional” athlete? We know he will stay a part of the program for the remainder of the year in some sort of a student-coach status. We know he will finish his spring semester of classes and will get ready for the NBA Draft.

There has also been loud chatter of a possible lawsuit against the NCAA, which Coach Cal has publicly endorsed. Most agree though, myself included, that strong grounds for a lawsuit might not exist. So with that said I want to see another kind of Kanter v NCAA.

UnderKanter v NCAA.

These people denied him of his first love, basketball. Now let him bring the wrath with his second love, wrestling. Now im not one (typically) to incite riots and blow things out of proportion but im sure there is a well established wrestling/trailer park community between Lexington and Indianapolis (NCAA Headquarters) that has all of the amenities to make this happen. And afterall the NCAA asked for this. They had a very wordy and cryptic public release stating their decision to ban him but all it really ended up saying was:

Dear Enes,

We want you to fight us. Royal Rumble style.

Sincerly,

NCAA

No Bull

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Let’s get straight to the meat and potatoes of this shit.

Three Reasons Why Calipari Won’t Be Coaching in Chicago Next Season:

1) Frugality

Go to Wikipedia, type in the name “Jerry Reinsdorf,” and you will find that the third sentence of the owner’s entry reads, “He has been the head of the White Sox and Bulls for over 20 years, with a reputation for frugality.”

To even the most casual NBA fans (and/or recent readers of the compelling Sam Smith behind-the-scenes classic, The Jordan Rules), this comes as no surprise.  Despite the fact that the Bulls are, on average, the second-most profitable franchise in the NBA, Reinsdorf has always run his franchise like a cash cow.  With the exception of the tail end of Michael Jordan’s second tenure in Chicago (when he paid MJ roughly $30M/season, mostly because the G.O.A.T. paid for himself), Reinsdorf’s shown zero inclination to shell out big bucks for personnel.  The Bulls’ most-recent head coach, Vinny Del Negro, made about $2M/season, and the last semi-successful head guy before Del Negro, Scott Skiles, was paid roughly $4M/season.  According to reports, Calipari would need somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-10M per season to be lured away from Lexington.  Now, add that number to the buyout Reinsdorf would owe UK for snatching away Cal before his contract expired.  Then, add that number to the one that’ll be attached to LeBron James’ max contract.  In the end, no matter how sweet a package deal it may be, it’s hard to imagine a dollar figure like that coming out of Reinsdorf’s wallet.

2) Ego

Better yet, egoes. There’d be too many of them in the front office.  We’ll start with the guy at the top, Reinsdorf.

In addition to his reputation for being thrifty, Reinsdorf has an equally-deserved rep for ceding power to nobody.  With that said, Calipari’s reportedly stated that he wants a decision-making role in addition to the head coaching position at his next NBA stop.  Now, I’m not saying there’s a zero percent chance Cal’s coaching in the NBA next season, but I am saying that if there’s any truth to that demand, there’s a zero percent chance it happens in Chicago.

Same deal with John Paxson.  He’s the GM of the Bulls, and if we’ve learned anything about him over the past month, it’s that when this guy makes a decision, you best get the fuck out of his way.

And, finally, John Calipari.  Not unlike 1+1=2 and the inherent imperfection of man, John Calipari’s ego is a universal truth.  It is there and it is gargantuan; anyone who has heard him say just about anything could tell you as much.

Calipari’s had a tough time getting along with Mitch Barnhart. How’s he plan on seeing eye-to-eye with a tightwad like Reinsdorf and a bully like Paxson?

3) Common Sense

Seemingly lost in all this mess is the fact that Calipari (judging by, you know, his previous NBA coaching experience) would make a horrendous NBA coach.  His tenure with the New Jersey Nets was an abject failure, highlighted by a 72-112 career record and one quasi-racist rant directed at a NJ reporter.  The closest thing to a bright spot came in the form of the team’s 43-39 regular-season record in his second season at the helm, which ended with Kerry Kittles and Co. being swept in the first round of the playoffs.  The team picked up where they left off to start the next year, losing 17 of their first 20 to start the season before Calipari was mercifully given his walking papers.

Keep in mind, this is the same man demanding $8-10M/season to coach his next NBA team.

How many guys have to be given chances (or, in some cases, multiple chances) before GM’s learn that 99.99% of the the time, college coaches don’t translate to the NBA?  The list of successful college and NBA coaches in the last twenty years begins and ends with Larry Brown (and sort of Gregg Popovich), yet every year you hear the names of guys like Calipari, Pitino, Donovan, and Krzyzewski mentioned for horrible NBA gigs that a coaching fusion of Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach couldn’t turn around.  There’s an enormous difference between college and professional basketball — it’s called recruiting.  Cal is a great recruiter, maybe the best ever.  What he is not, however, is a great strategist.  This year’s Elite Eight match-up with West Virginia and the 2008 NCAA Title Game showcased that.  And while the college game allows him to go out and get the players he wants for the system he likes to run, the NBA is more of a play-the-hand-your-dealt kind of league.

In summation, the NBA doesn’t cater to Cal’s strengths.  He’s one of the best in the college game becaust he’s great at going out and getting the guys he wants.  Take away his ability to do that and I’m not sure he’s any better than the last handful of guys the Bulls have fired.

So, to review:

– The Bull’s won’t want to pay him.

– Calipari won’t want the front office headaches.

– Most importantly, he wouldn’t make a very good coach.

Now, can somebody please forward this to Reinsdorf and Paxson and tell them not to steal our fucking coach?

Au Revoir, Mr. Patterson

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If there’s one thing that bothers me about UK’s recent return to the national spotlight, it’s that there’s an entire nation of Big Blue Bandwagoners out there that will never have the kind of appreciation for Patrick Patterson that he deserves.  All those front-runners walking the streets of Los Angeles and New York (and Louisville), sporting John Wall #11 and DeMarcus Cousins #15 jerseys and Calipari’s Cats t-shirts will never know that, if it weren’t for Patterson, the Wall-Cousins-Calipari season may have never happened.  It’s ironic, really: the best recruiting class in school history overshadowed, in his final season in Lexington, maybe the most important recruit in school history.

……….

Patterson’s commitment was a Godsend in its own right.  Looking back, it’s miraculous that we even had a chance:

1) It came down to us and Florida – a school that was coming off back-to-back National Titles and a coach that’d just rejected an offer from Kentucky to stay in Gainesville.

2) Ditto for Jai Lucas.  Patterson and Lucas were perceived as a package deal, and Lucas signed his LOI with Florida just a week prior.

3) The recruitment of Patterson (and Lucas) was largely the job of Tubby Smith.  Patterson’s parents loved Tubby.  Thanks to Huntington’s close proximity to Lexington, Tubby got an early jump on Patterson and even attended a handful of Patterson’s home games during his junior and senior years of high school.  Of course, Tubby Smith left Kentucky shortly after the end of the ’07 season and shortly before Patterson was set to make his decision.

4) Kentucky hired Billy Gillispie, a fiery Gary Sinise look-a-like from Texas who’d had zero contact with Patterson before his hire.

5) Depending on whether you want to base your decision on his time at Kentucky or at A&M/UTEP, Gillispie may not have been the recruiter we thought we were hiring.  Despite having a rep as a strategic, tenacious recruiter while in Texas, Gillispie did just about everything he could to set fire to that claim and take an uzi to its ashes while in Lexington.

Because of the rough way Gillispie went out at UK, it’s hard to remember how off-the-fucking-charts hot he was when he started.  If there’s anything worth salvaging from the Billy Gillispie era, it’s his first two months on the job and the way he secured Patterson’s commitment.

Against all odds, Clyde came in, picked up where Tubby Smith left off, and sold Patterson on being the centerpiece of a new era of Kentucky Basketball.  During his first visit with the Pattersons, Gillispie (while presumably hiding the fact that he was a Kiefer Sutherland-level alcoholic) famously showed the family a schedule that detailed how Patrick would be spending every minute of every day for the next four years if he came to Lexington.  This caliber of organizational skill made a distinct impression on the Patterson family, and their son committed to Gillispie and the ‘Cats a few weeks later.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good times ended for BCG at Kentucky.

And if Kentucky fans think Clyde’s two seasons at Kentucky were a disaster with Patterson, can you even imagine how bad they would’ve been without him?  Patterson was the only think keeping Clyde and Kentucky from achieving Matt Doherty At North Carolina-levels of disaster, and for that he should never have to pay for a drink in the Commonwealth again.

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Patterson was a fan favorite from the get-go.  On top of being the first McDonald’s All-American we’d signed in three years, he was a blue-collar power forward and legitimetely good kid.  An excellent rebounder with a way-underrated scoring prowess (probably because he played his senior season with O.J. Mayo), Patterson immediately became our go-to guy on offense and most reliable rebounder, as well as the de facto team leader and face of the program.  He averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds on a team that went 18-13, and probably would’ve had even better numbers were it not for a stress fracture that handicapped him for much of the season and kept him out of the lineup for the final six games.  As if it were’t impressive enough that Patterson did all that as a freshman, he did it with 1) Jodie Meeks (the team’s best perimeter scoring threat) going down early in the year, 2) Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley (the team’s two main contributing seniors) being in Gillispie’s doghouse for the first half of the season, and 3) Derrick Jasper (the team’s expected starter at point guard) coming off knee surgery and never being anywhere near full-strength.  Translation: No Patterson, no nothing.  Without him, that team doesn’t get near .500.

A healthy Jodie Meeks (23.7/game) gave Patterson the perimeter threat he needed in his sophomore season, and he responded by averaging 17.9 points (on an insane 60.3% from the field), 9.3 rebounds, and just over two blocks per contest.  You’d think a one-two punch like Meeks and Patterson would’ve been enough for Kentucky to have a drastic improvement in the Win-Loss column, but you’d be comically wrong.  Kentucky lost 9 of its final 13 regular-season games to finish 22-14 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time 1991.

As bad as it was, it would’ve been worse without Patterson.  Despite Meeks’ coming-out season, Patterson was the heart and soul of that team.  He had 14 double-doubles on the season, played 35+ minutes in 18 of Kentucky’s 34 games, scored 25+ seven times, grabbed 12+ rebounds nine times, and did it all while playing out of position.  Because of Kentucky’s lack of size, Patterson was forced to start at center and defend the oppositon’s biggest players.  Another remarkable stat: he only fouled out of one game that season.  Again: without Patterson, that’s not even a .500 team.

From there, things got crazy.  Patterson and Meeks declared for the draft.  Gillispie was fired.  Calipari was hired.  Calipari signed one of the best recruiting classes in history.  Meeks decided to stay in the draft.  Patterson decided to come back.  Both said (almost verbatim) that there would’ve been zero chance of them returning had Gillispie been retained.  Regardless, the tyrannical failure was gone, the top recruiter in the country was in, and in a matter of weeks Kentucky went from an NIT team losing its only two respectable players to the preseason #1.

And there’s a decent chance none of it happens without Patterson.

Hear me out: he was the only thing keeping Kentucky respectable for the two years Gillispie was in Lexington.  Without him, Kentucky’s record dips below .500, the mass exodus that nearly happened at the end of the ’08 season either happens then or happens sooner, and Kentucky suddenly has one of the least-talented rosters in the country. Do you remember the kind of guys Gillispie was recruiting?  Konner Tucker, Dakotah Euton, Michael Avery, Vinny Zollo…can you imagine who he would’ve gone after had half the team bolted the way they planned after the ’08 (or ’07) season?  I’d rather not think about it.

Does Calipari take the job under those circumstances?  Maybe.  But keep in mind, Memphis threw a shit ton of money at him to stay put (and he wasn’t doing too shabby there), and there was another elite-level job opening he was considering (and, at one point, assumed to be taking) in Arizona before the Kentucky job opened up.  Maybe Calipari would’ve liked the challenge of rebuilding a completely deconstructed Roman Empire, or maybe he would’ve preferred to keep his Wall-Cousins-Xavier Henry-Nolan Dennis class intact at Memphis.  Or take it with him to Arizona.

Point being: I’d hate to find out.  Patterson kept Kentucky relevant (and even that might be a strong word) while Gillispie was at the helm.  If he never signs, Kentucky Basketball becomes the hoops equivalent of pre-Nick Saban Alabama Football.

……….

So while history will most likely remember John Calipari, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins as the architects of the new-and-improved Kentucky Basketball Program, those who really followed the ‘Cats should remember Patterson.  He averaged career lows in points and rebounds in his junior season, but he got a chance to show NBA scouts his outside shot and be a part of a team that went 35-3 and play in a Regional Final.  Despite that, Patterson’s legacy should be in his first two seasons in Lexington.  Maybe even more so than Jamal Mashburn, Patterson was the big fish in a small pond that was the catalyst for Kentucky’s long-term success.

One more time, just for good measure: Patrick Patterson, The Most-Important Kentucky Recruit Ever.

Lexpatcast – Episode Two

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In what could be described as either irony or just horrible time management, denimjersey and myself were concerned with filling 30 minutes and ended up plowing along well past the 60-minute mark.  That wasn’t the only disaster.  My phone dropped our call about ten minutes in and my audio-editing skills had to be put to use when I (unintentionally) kinda-sorta OK’d drinking and driving when talking about the Rod Strickland situation.  But aside from the shitty cell phone service and laissez-faire attitudes towards serious crime, I think we did okay.  Not unlike last time, we’re a bit long-winded.  Topics of discussion include:

– Mr. Jersey’s take on Calipari’s first season with Kentucky

– The Rod Strickland DUI

– Tiger at Augusta

– Ben Roethlisberger

– The O.J. Chase

– The urgent need for a Lexpatcast theme song (I’m looking at you, tokenwalkon)

It goes without saying, but all segues are seamless.

Lexpatcast – Episode II (Part 1)

Lexpatcast – Episode II (Part 2)

Lexpatcast – Episode II (Part 3)

Triumph of a Salesman

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John Calipari: The Salesman.  In essence, those four words are the reason that I’m still, no pun intended, not sold on the guy.  My argument is this: people like Calipari (i.e., guys who shape, craft, and code their every word to either overtly or covertly make a point, which almost always serves to improve your opinion of them) are the people I respect the least in my everyday life. You can’t trust a word they say, and there’s a sleaziness and a desperation to it that turns me off immediately.  No small part of this distrust stems from the last salesman we had as our head coach, Rick Pitino, and I don’t think I need to remind anyone how things turned out with him.

Calipari has both a personality and a history that supports this kind of behavior, and since he’s come to Kentucky I’ve constantly grappled with the idea of embracing and rooting for a guy that is so blatantly calculated.  I go back and forth.  Hell, the very first thing I wrote for this site was a fawning, overly-long catalog of all my favorite Calipari sales ploys.  Drake, LeBron, the Social Media Revolution, even the incessant It’s not about the money, it’s about Kentucky-line (which I ate up as much as anyone) that he dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of eleven-million times in his first week on the job.  All that stuff was a sale.  He used Drake to sell Kentucky to a certain crowd.  He used LeBron to sell it to a different crowd.  His fascination with Twitter gave him a platform to make his pitch to a viral audience on an as-often-as-he-wanted basis.  And his It’s not about the money… line was his initial (and genius) sell to the people he would have to continue selling himself to for as long as he stayed in Lexington.  Calipari realized something from the get-go that Billy Gillispie and Tubby Smith never did: Kentucky fans want a guy who holds this job in the same esteem that we hold it.  Almost as much as a winner, we want a guy who understands the privelage of being here.  Calipari came out of the gates singing the job’s praises (the anecdote about being in Rupp for the first time and knowing right then and there that this was where he wanted to coach some day, telling his Memphis team that Kentucky was the ‘Notre Dame’ of college basketball, his constant references to National Championship banners hanging above his head, etc.) and we couldn’t get enough of it.

Before that press conference, I wasn’t in favor of having him as our next head coach.  Afterward, he had me eating out of the palm of his hand.  “This guy gets it,” I said repeatedly to myself in my one-bedroom apartment.

It was exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it the most.

…..

For a salesman, what’s more important than knowing how to sell to your customers is knowing what to sell to them.  A guy selling you a car isn’t just selling you on four-wheel drive and gas-mileage, he’s building rapport, pinpointing doubt, and subsequently alleviating your concerns.  It’s a subtle art that is easy to spot yet hard to ignore.  I see Cal up there tugging on my heart strings with all his ‘Roman Empire’ talk, and I know exactly what he’s trying to accomplish, yet I can’t make myself turn away.  There’s a powerlessness that comes with hearing what you want to hear, even when you know the speaker knows exactly what they’re doing.

And as I already mentioned, Calipari came into Kentucky knowing what we needed to hear.  We’re a narcissistic fanbase; essentially, we’ve got a giant ego but low self-esteem.  We like to think of Kentucky as a premier program, but we’ve been known to set the bar a tad high and get a bit of an inferiority complex when we don’t measure up.  Before Calipari came here, we were playing second fiddle to Louisville in the state, not to mention being left out of the conversation entirely when it came to best programs in the nation.  Those were tough times for a fanbase as proud as us.  But Calipari’s big talk and recruiting prowess cured that instantly.  But just one year later, after an ugly loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight and five of our best players bolting for the NBA Draft, that pessimistic side of our personality started to rear its ugly head.

So what does Calipari do?  Again, he sells us exactly what we need: optimism.  Enter the newest Wildcats: Brandon Knight and Michael Gilchrist, the two best players in each of their respective classes.

All of the sudden, the mood of the fanbase does a complete 180.

Sure, we just lost the nucleus of the best Kentucky squad in over a decade.  So what?  Now we know we’ve got another, maybe better one coming in.  No more John Wall, the best college point guard prospect since Jason Kidd?  That’s alright, now we’ve got Brandon Knight ready to take his place.  How will we make up for all the scoring we lost to the NBA?  Michael Gilchrist, the best wing player to come out of high school since Kobe Bryant, is a pretty good start.

The best way to make someone forget about the past is to make them look forward to the future.

Again, exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it the most.

…..

Just so we’re clear, I’m not claiming to be the first person to say this.  Lots of people saw it for what it was.  However, I can assure you that none of them have a greater appreciation for it than me.

I could talk for days about Knight and Gilchrist.  I won’t (mostly in the interest of you, the readership – all eleven of you), but I will say that I’m (sort of) surprised people aren’t making a bigger deal out of this than they are.  Do these talking heads at ESPN and CBS not realize what they’re witnessing right now?  This is one of the great recruiting coops of our time.  He’s in the midst of putting together (indisputably) the best recruting class ever for 2011, putting together another blockbuster one for 2010, and doing it all after putting together (arguably) the best recruiting class ever in 2009.  I can guarantee you this, if Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams had done it, your ears would be bleeding as a result.  But Calipari isn’t Coach K or Roy, so when he signs guys like Wall and Cousins, they suddenly become guys that “could only play for someone like Calipari.”  I’m torn between laughing at and punching people who produce this sort of word-vomit.

You know who else recruited guys like Wall and Cousins, and now Knight and Gilchrist?  Every motherfucker in the country.  If Wall’d gone to Duke (which he almost did) been a one-and-done (which he would’ve been), and gotten a 3.4 GPA in the process (which he did at Kentucky), you’d be reading a thousand stories about how, despite being an extraterrestrial-type talent who knew his time at this level would be short, he treated the college game with the integrity it deserves.  But since he plays for Calipari at Kentucky, people are writing stories and posts like this one, in which they imply, with absolutely no basis, that Wall and Cousins are not finishing out their semesters.  (And this is another post for another day, but if they aren’t, so what?  Integrity in college sports went out the window when the NCAA did nothing to combat the NBA age-limit, and essentially opened the door for corruption and offered it a drink.)

But fuck those guys.  Calipari’s doing it his way and he’s doing it in a way that only he could conjure: build it up, tear it down, then rebuild it in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.  The best players from two separate recruiting classes on the same day…has anything close to that ever happened before?  And does anyone believe anything other than that it was completely of Calipari’s creation?

What I’m getting at with all this is, of the numerous Calipari sales since coming to Kentucky, the great Knight-Gilchrist heist of April 14th, 2010 may go down as his greatest yet.  Brandon Knight and Michael Gilchrist, the #1 rated player in the 2010 recruiting class and the #1 rated player in the 2011 class, both committing to Kentucky on the same day, just over sixty minutes apart.

Exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it the most.

Lexpatcast – Episode One

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Finally!  It only took me two-and-a-half weeks to figure it out, but the inaugural installment of the Lexpatriates Podcast is finally online.

Listen to ReverseLexPat and myself nervously (and drunkenly — but only to combat the nerves) stumble and vocal-pause our way through a 50-minute conversation ranging from John Calipari’s first season in Lexington to Tiger Woods’ comeback to why Interested In: Wayne Turner may have been a more strategic blogging alias.  Fair warning: both of us greatly underestimated our conversational savvy.  As a result, Reverse’s phone dies about 30 minutes in (almost certainly in response to the intensity of our chat), and we went just a bit over the 30-minute time limit we’d set for ourselves.  Oh well.  As RLP said just as we were about to sign off, our first foray into the podcasting world was, we think, “not at all a failure.”

Lexpatriates Podcast – Episode I (Part I)

Lexpatriates Podcast – Episode I (Part II)

Kentucky Basketball: We’re Back

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Alright, I’ve given it some time.  I’ve cooled off.  I’ve reflected.  I haven’t watched the game a second time, but it’s not like I need to.  There’s not a whole lot in the form of analysis that can be said about last night’s game against West Virginia that hasn’t already been said.  Basically, Kentucky picked a hell of a time to have their worst game of the season.  Their shooting was horrendous, their inability to get the ball inside to Cousins with any consistency was frustrating, and their defensive breakdowns, especially the ones on Mazzulla, were dumbfounding.  It was one of those Murphy’s Laws games; anything that could go wrong did go wrong.

But if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, it’s not like this kind of game was completely unforseeable.  Lots of people, including myself, were terrified when they saw that West Virginia was the two-seed in our bracket.  The reason: we can’t survive a stinker against those guys.  And once again, if we’re being completely honest, we’ve had plenty of stinkers this year.  Luckily for us, they mostly came against teams like Miami (OH), a Louisville team that’s down this season, Georgia, and Alabama.  Had we been playing in a conference where the gap in talent between the top schools and the rest isn’t as great, like the Big 12 or the Big East, I think there’s be some serious question marks in regard to whether or not we’d have put together a win-loss record that comes close to the one we did.  It really comes down to this: This team, as talented as they were, often played below their potential.  With the exception of Arkansas, the first game against Florida, the SEC-tourney game against Tennessee, ETSU, and Wake Forest, I can’t think of any games where we were able to keep it together for a full (or even for the majority of) 40 minutes.  This team had lots of bad tendencies: coming out of the gates flat; building a 15-point lead and taking their foot off the accelerator; settling for too many outside shots; too many turnovers; inconsistent production for the 3-spot; the belief that they could coast for 30 minutes then turn it on for the final ten and be alright; giving up too many open 3’s….all of these were tendencies this team fought all season long.  There were times – most notably after the Wake game – when it looked like we’d turned the corner on a lot of those problems.  But in the end, almost all of them, at one point or another, reared their ugly head in the West Virginia game.  We all knew going into this one that our C-game wouldn’t be enough, and it wasn’t.  Not even close.

Now, the attention shifts toward next season.  Who will stay and who will go?  From what I’ve read, Wall, Cousins, and Patterson are gone.  Good for them; they need to go.  The question marks are Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.  Bledsoe’s projected (at the moment) as a lottery pick, but I don’t expect it to stay that way.  Orton, I believe, is projected as a late first-rounder on most draft boards.

I will say this, if Bledsoe’s stock stays where it is (which, I’ve already said, I don’t think it will), it will be really tough for him not to go.  Even if he comes back and kills it next year, it’s hard to imagine him rising higher than the late lottery.  However, I expect his stock to take a bit of a dip after these last two tournament games.  If you remember, all this lottery talk involving Bledsoe’s happened exactly twice this year: after his 25-pointer against Florida in Gainesville, and after his eight-trey, 29-point performance against ETSU in the opening round of the tournament.  This gives me the sense that teams are really trying to talk themselves into this kid, because for anyone who has watched him play much this season, he doesn’t scream lottery pick.

Ditto for Daniel Orton.  He’s had flashes where he looks like a legit prospect, but he’s had plenty more that make him look like a raw talent that is, at this point, a bit timid and in serious need of another year or two of college ball.

(I’ll talk more about these two and the rest of Kentucky’s pro prospects in the coming weeks.)

But above all else, this game, as well as this season as a whole, should make us appreciate the transition from last season to this one.  It was almost exactly one year ago today that Billy Gillispie was fired and the program, along with being a national punchline, was in total disarray.  We were coming off our worst season in twenty years, our perceived savior had proven to be a fraud, our old coach was leading Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament, our other old coach was leading Louisville to the overall number one seed, and to top it off, the players were rumored to planning a mass exodus.

Two months later, we’d hired Calipari, signed the best recruiting class in history, and re-energized a fanbase that was in desparate need of some good news.

Say what you want about Calipari being a sleaze, but the guy has absolutely killed it since coming to UK.  While we now know that we won’t be hanging our 8th National Championship banner in Rupp this season, we can rest assured that we’ve reclaimed our spot atop the national landscape.  Calipari, through myriad ways that make even this 4,000-worder seem dated, has made Lexington the capital of college basketball again.  And don’t think the rest of the country hasn’t taken notice.  In one year, Calipari’s turned an NIT team into the most-talented in the country.  LeBron James, Drake, Magic Johnson, and Mike Tomlin are wearing Kentucky blue in Rupp Arena.  Kentucky’s leading SportsCenter every night.  John Wall, Patrick Patterson, and DeMarcus Cousins each graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at some point this season.  And it’s looking more and more like  Brandon Knight, the best high school player in the country, will be playing in Lexington next season.

Make no mistake about it, regardless of what happened against West Virginia last night, The Roman Empire is back.  And that, my friends, is no small consolation prize.