NCAA | State of emergency declared in Kentucky

There was a time, not so long ago, when Kentucky is at the pinnacle of college basketball. The nation’s best high school students follow each other, year after year, into the ranks of the Widcats workforce. Rapper Drake, an unofficial “superfan” of the program, took part in a team warm-up in 2014, and introduced the roster to fans during the 2017 preseason, a hoodie “Kentucky Dad” on shoulders. The magazine slam Its front page was dedicated to John Calipari the “Hit Maker”, when John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins ​​joined his team in 2009, before wondering if the 2014/15 version (which Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker), went undefeated in 38 games before losing in the national championship semifinals to Wisconsin, is the best college team of all time.

There was a time when Kentucky was the biggest behemoth in the university landscape, both athletically and in media. But that time is over. The Wildcats’ era of dominance is definitely a thing of the past. Kentucky’s epics to the “Final Four” of the NCAA tournament, the competition stage reached in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 for the last time, with the title in 2012, are also beginning to climb.

They are also far from John Wall, Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, these “freshmen” were selected in the first position in their respective Draft after one season in Lexington.

A reality that is impossible to deny today

In fact, for more than five years, John Calipari’s time at Kentucky has been in shambles, a little more each year. And what happened this week may represent, for good, the beginning of the end.

While the Wildcats have generally struggled to convince and chain regularly since the start of the season, losing spots in the AP Top 25 every week, even getting out of it, the last few days have really highlighted the downfall of John Calipari and his staff. , and more broadly the lowest point of a slow and painful decline in the Lexington program’s athletic results over several months.

First, this weekend, a violent slap was received on the floor by Alabama, the best team in the SEC conference this season, ranked 4th in the Top 25 this season: 78-52 in favor of the Crimson Tide !

Nate Oats’ squad, led by sensational “freshman” Brandon Miller (19 points and 7 rebounds) and a pair of experienced guards Mark Sears (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals) – Jahvon Quinerly (12 points and 2 assists) , giving a basketball lesson to that of John Calipari, worrying inefficiency and predictability in the attack (29% on shots including 25% from behind the arc, 7 assists for 11 balls losses).

Before hitting bottom a little more three days later, this time at home against South Carolina (68-71), a mediocre SEC team, which had won just 7 of its 15 games before this trip to Lexington, where he hasn’t won since 2009. This time, showing himself that he can’t slow down the defense of a team that holds only the 220th best offensive rating in the country, and committed 15 turnovers during the meeting…

A locker room that seemed abandoned

While critics poured in John Calipari’s direction after this embarrassment, Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky’s pivot, was more pragmatic: the loss was largely the responsibility of the players.

Last season’s “Player Of The Year” notably pointed to a glaring lack of unity and effort on the part of his teammates on the floor, facing a team that was infinitely weaker than the Wildcats in paper. Another proof of a disorganized and out of sync team, maybe even fractured, in the locker room…

Some of us take things for granted “Plagued the Congolese pivot, in poverty like all his team, but cannot be blamed for his attitude.” I give credit to our staff, they prepared us well for the game. But they won’t be able to play for us, as I told my teammates […] Some of us are not ready to fight, to defend this jersey. Representing Kentucky is a responsibility. If we don’t want to fight to defend this name on the front of the jersey, it will be difficult to win. »

Then the leader of the Wildcats to indicate that the rotation, for the rest of the season, must now work on merit. ” We have to be better, that’s all. All I ask for is anger. I’m telling Coach Calipari that from now on, if a player doesn’t want to fight, he has to go out. he added. ” In my opinion, this is the worst loss in Kentucky history. We can’t lose like that, against South Carolina. I was angry that some of my teammates didn’t work hard. »

John Calipari in a very uncomfortable position

If he still manages, for more than five years, to shine in the field of recruitment and send many players to the NBA in key roles (Tyler Herro, Tyrese Maxey, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Jamal Murray in recent years), ” Coach Cal” is no longer able to get his hands on the big fish, as he did with John Wall, Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, but also with Derrick Rose then, in Memphis.

These big fish prefer to join other “Blue Bloods” (Paolo Banchero and Duke, for example), or programs that are less athletically ambitious, but calmer and less exposed to the media (Ja Morant at Murray State or Cade Cunningham at Oklahoma State, in particular).

And logically, as the level of talent arriving each year in its workforce has decreased over the years, the quality of the program’s athletic results has declined.

Proof of this: since its Final Four loss in 2015, a semi-final against Wisconsin, Kentucky has not reached the final four of “March Madness”. Worse: year after year, John Calipari does less well each time than he did the year before. From the “Elite Eight” in 2019 (fourth round, the last step before the Final Four), to the program’s worst season (9 wins and 16 losses, no March Madness qualification) in nearly 50 years in 2021 (the 2020 edition of the NCAA tournament that was canceled due to a health crisis), in a first-round elimination against unlikely Saint Peter last year.

Slowly but surely, cruelly but inevitably, Kentucky, under John Calipari, is sinking, and this week’s double whammy certainly contains the lowest point reached under the leadership of the 63-year-old technician, in office since 2009 .

Going to Texas?

Next for him? bend. Because the next few weeks promise to be busy in Lexington.

John Calipari definitely feels he has the pressure on the result. While the Wildcats are considered the favorites for the national title this offseason, they likely won’t be selected for the NCAA Tournament if the season ends today. Fortunately for him, this is not the case, and he still has time to save what can be saved from this exercise. But above all, the Kentucky coach’s name, in the coming weeks, should be frequently associated with the “head coach” position that is now vacant at Texas, after the firing of Chris Beard last week. According to the first rumors, the first contacts between the Austin-based program and the coach have been made…

Thus feeding the highly plausible theory of an exit next spring, should the 2022/23 season fail to be salvaged. A scenario that will relieve a large part of the “fanbase” of the Wildcats, as this spectator fired from Rupp Arena, the Kentucky hall, on Tuesday night after holding a sign with the inscription, and which is probably -the best outcome for both parties.

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