As New Orleans prepares for the 2012 Final Four this weekend, many are tipping that the University of Kentucky will continue its decisive march to a national championship – and rightfully so. The Wildcats are a machine comprised of four soon-to-be first round drafts picks, one of which, Anthony Davis, will be the first player selected.
So how dominant is Davis? Throughout the regular season and first four games of the NCAA tournament, Davis is averaging five blocks a game. Don’t focus too much on the 15 points and 10 rebounds he is also putting up; but rather, consider how demoralizing it is to know that before stepping onto the court, Kentucky’s opposition already knows that Davis will single-handedly deny them of at least 10 points. ‘The Big Blue’ – as they are referred to – do not simply beat teams, they back teams into a corner and make them submit. It is almost fitting that the University of Kentucky had to play their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in Atlanta, a city that once saw such physical destruction as the Wildcats are putting on their opponents.
For those of you who are not students of the American Civil War – and I will assume that most of you are not considering the majority of you are Australian – Ulysses S. Grant, General of the Union (the winners)* forces, decided that the only way to beat the Confederacy (the losers)* was to physically destroy everything that remained. In doing so, according to Grant’s theory, the Union would crush the resolve of the Confederacy. This theory took shape as Major General William Sherman marched from Atlanta to Savannah in late November and early December of 1864. Sherman burned everything in site. When Sherman reached the sea six weeks after he had left Atlanta, there was literally nothing but ash and rubble in his wake. Sherman, himself, estimated the damage at $100 million in 1864 – in today’s dollars that’s well over $1 billion. The Confederacy surrendered in the spring of 1865.
But while Kentucky is not leaving any physical damage or a body count in its wake, its opponents are left simply stunned at the team’s sheer military-esque domination. In their most recent game, an Elite 8 match up against Baylor University – a team that boasts two future first-round draft picks – the two teams were tied 10-10 after seven-and-a-half minutes of play. Over the next two minutes, Kentucky scored 11 unanswered points to lead 21-10 with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. By half time, the score was 42-22 and Baylor was left dumbfounded by what had just occurred. Kentucky would go on to win by a comfortable 12 point margin, leaving many resigned to the fact that coach John Calipari would have to wait only seven days for his first national championship.
Calipari, a man who admittedly takes more pride in seeing his players go pro than winning national championships, is the University of Kentucky’s ‘General Sherman’ – proudly watching his team dismantle anything that stands between them and New Orleans. By understanding that an 18 year-old wants to be in the NBA as opposed to staying in college to win a national titles, Calipari is able to hand-pick the country’s best talent. Calipari’s unique understanding of the role of NCAA basketball, more of a means to an end as opposed to the end that many other coaches see it as, has created one of the most dominant forces ever seen at this level.
By R.J. Karas
* I say ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ because depending on who you ask you will get a different answer for who the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ are, regarding the Civil War. Seriously, to this day some Americans refer to the Civil War as the ‘War of North Aggression’.