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February 28, 2014
Story by: Steve Tressler
Admit it to yourself. You were sure the 2014 edition of Kentucky Wildcats would be filed away in the same cognitive folder as the 2013 edition; under: Big Hype, Unfulfilled Promise.
After all, the fan and media buzz was this recruiting class could go 40-0 and win a national title. Ten losses later you were sweating they would even make the NCAA tournament.
What a difference 4 games can make. The Kitty Cats have scratched their way into the Final Four and in doing so filled the fans with an excitement they haven’t felt since the 1998 team beat Duke en route to the 1998 National Title and exercised the demons that were created by Laettner and Co.
The 2012 edition of the Cats was supposed to win the title. That whole year was fun watching them beat up the rest of the country. It would have been dissapointing had they not won the national title.
These Cats however, for some fans, were an utter dissapointment. No 40 wins, no SEC title, regular season or tournament, ten losses and an #8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Pass the Tums please.
To be fair though, the expectations put on this group from day one were completely unreasonable, and it started with Coach Cal.
The tweak? Who knows what that was. The guess here is the ‘tweak’ was Cal just letting the players play and not getting on them for making freshman mistakes, after all, they are freshman, right?
In doing so, the Cats responded by playing selfless team basketball that was heavy on old-school defense and rebounding but with just the right mix of high-flying dunks and razzle-dazzle that was sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
The bracket that was so ‘unfair’ to Wichita State was a springboard for these Cats to reach the Final Four. They systematically and in exciting fashion took down the #9 seed, then the #1 seed, then their in-state rival and the #4 seed, and finally the #2 seed on their way to an improbable trip to the to the 2014 Final Four. The 3rd Final Four for Kentucky in 4 years.
The SEC was supposed to be having a down year in men’s basketball? After all only 3 teams made the NCAA tournament. Those 3 teams however all made it to the Sweet 16, and 2 are in the Final Four. Not bad for a weak basketball conference, huh ESPN?
The really exciting part about this team though, is you get the feeling they’re not done just yet.
It’s also nice to see them smile for once, they’ve earned it.