John Calipari is under extreme pressure to win the Sweet 16 game between Louisville and Kentucky. Lose and his whole approach is in question. Win and he’s infallible, as far as UK fans are concerned.
Calipari has been under attack from UK fans for weeks as the losses added up for UK. Analysts, writers and fans picking his recruiting and coaching styles apart. The UK ship appeared to headed for the rocks a couple of weeks ago, the losses piling up with 10 or more losses the past two seasons and a first round loss in the NIT last year. The Cats were coming up empty, looking for escape hatches,
Fortunately for any UK coach, there’s always the Southeastern Conference tournament at the end. Put together a couple of wins over SEC opponents and suddenly his team is on a “run.” Play Florida a third time, keep it close, lose by only one point, and “UK is back.” Convincing wins over Kansas State and Wichita State and, suddenly, Kentucky is “on a roll.”
Calipari has gotten the Wildcat fans all worked up again, forgetting how poorly the team was faring a week and a half ago. They are confident UK will defeat UofL, and are hungry for another Final Four and a ninth national championship. Having arrived this point, they feel almost entitled, simply awaiting delivery of more NCAA hardware.
Funny things sometimes happen between the first and second weeks of the NCAA tournament, suddenly hot teams sometime become ordinary all over again. Maybe this is why the Las Vegas oddsmakers have made UofL a five point favorite, being overly protective of their economic resources and all.
Anything short of success, like “the greatest recruiting class in history” losing to Louisville, will be paramount to total failure for Calipari. Pretty hard to blame a bunch of freshmen bunking in temporary quarters for such a disappointing season. Most of the heralded freshmen will be gone next year, and the cycle will begin all over again for him.
Calipari has to be careful that he doesn’t convey the pressure to his players going into Friday’s game, or it could be a very long night and and an even longer off season. Win, and he continues to be king in the Bluegrass until he fails to make another Final Four.