Two nights before the first round in Kentucky Men’s NCAA Tournament In the game against Providence, John Calipari came away encouraged by his team’s behaviour.
There was more chatter and laughter than Calipari had heard in a while when the Wildcats had dinner together. Nobody had headphones in their ears. No one was doing what he was doing aside.
“I slept better last night because of that,” Calipari said Thursday.
Those relaxed vibes carried over Friday night as Kentucky looked loose during what should have been a pressure-packed basketball game. the The 6th-ranked Wildcats were beaten by 11th-ranked Providence, 61-53Finally ended their 1,449-day winless drought in the NCAA Tournament.
He was one of the Kentucky champions Oscar Chibuy, National Player of the Year in 2022 and has endured some stretches during his debut season. Tshiebwe was dominant on the glass, edging Providence on an astonishing 25 rebounds, including 11 of Kentucky’s 18 offensive boards.
Another hero for the Wildcats was Antonio Reeves, an Illinois transfer who became Kentucky’s most dependable player this season. Reeves scored 22 points and hit five three-pointers, including two massive ones during a surge late in the first half that helped the Wildcats open up an 11-point lead.
Providence kept within striking distance, but the brothers never crept more than four. Tshiebwe stuffed that little run appropriately, scoring on a running back position and then securing another offensive rebound and setting up Chris Livingston.
Kentucky’s win is the first step toward relieving some of the pressure on John Calipari. Wildcats need a March race to take the bitter taste out of the failures of the past two years or more.
Two years ago, Kentucky had its worst season in nearly a century, going from a preseason top 10 to a 9-16 facial. Last year, the Wildcats endured their worst NCAA Tournament loss in program history, squandering a 26-win season with a stunning miss against St. Peter’s.
Kentucky’s first five preseason team was supposed to pile up wins and restore order this season, but the Wildcats didn’t fizzle out right away. Despite having the reigning National Player of the Year, a pair of Rivals’ Top 15 freshmen and a handful of veterans, Kentucky didn’t beat an NCAA tournament opponent until its mid-January victory over Tennessee.
When Alabama smashed Kentucky by 26 points in early January, the Crimson Tide’s student section gleefully mocked Calipari with chants of “Cal to Texas.” Three nights later, Calipari suffered an even worse indignity when he was escorted out of Rupp Square by a Kentucky fan after he refused to give up a sign reading, “Please Go to Texas.”
Texas chatter died down shortly thereafter as Calipari continued to mess with his lineup’s runs and Kentucky began to pick up some wins. The Wildcats won 11 of 15 games before losing the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament to Vanderbilt, performing like a top 20 team nationally over a two-month period.
Despite this, Kentucky remained under the radar in the month of March, which is rare for a program that captures more of the spotlight than any other program in college basketball. No one exaggerates the Wildcats as a contender for the dark horse title. Roughly 64% of Yahoo users have third-ranked Kansas State, which eliminated Kentucky in the Round of 32.
“I’ve been telling the guys I love this,” Calipari said on Wednesday. This is kind of like the UMass and Memphis days. “Uh, they didn’t play…they didn’t…they didn’t…they didn’t…“Okay. We’ll see where we are. We’ll see. But I love this group.”