Defending national champion Kentucky mercifully ended their disappointing season Tuesday night in the National Invitation Tournament first round, sparking a court storm at Robert Morris in a 59-57 loss.
No word on whether it was the first court-storming in NIT history. But this upset happened under pretty unique circumstances. Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., is hosting NCAA tournament games this week, so the Wildcats hit the road, stuffing a cramped gymnasium whose aggregate home attendance this season was 15,692. For comparison, Kentucky played its home finale before 24,294.
All signs pointed toward a historical collapse. Without Nerlens Noel, lost for the season with an ACL injury, a mostly disinterested Kentucky stumbled out of the gates in Coach John Calipari’s home town of Moon Township, Penn. So much for Calpari gaming the system with one-and-done studs every year.
Looking ahead, Kentucky’s recruiting class is absolutely loaded. The Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, are just two of four stars currently signed. The Wildcats are still in the mix for Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, the nation’s top two recruits, respectively. (UPDATE 1:21 P.M.: Randle announced Wednesday that he’ll be attending Kentucky.) But several current players say they’re not ready for the NBA, either. Noel is likely to jump ship, but Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Ryan Harrow all seem intent on taking care of unfinished business in Lexington next season, telling the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Kyle Tucker as much. Here’s Goodwin:
I don’t know if it’s a question whether I’m going (to the NBA) or not. I don’t think I’m ready to go. It’s no reason why I think any of our guys should really leave. We should come back next year … and just try to do better than what we did this year. Because the expectations we had for ourselves this year, we didn’t meet them at all. We didn’t come close. So I think think that’s what says we should all come back.
Fans aren’t too happy either. John Clay, a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, posted the following e-mail he received from a reader on his blog:
Please read my comment that I posted about the game last night.
I have followed Kentucky basket ball for 64 years. I now live in Florida. But I have never seen the likes of what happened last night. Coach Cal should be fired and C. M. Newton should be ashamed of what they did to this Kentucky team. It is a disgrace to Kentucky basketball.
Yikes. Here’s a ground-zero video of the court-storming, with some Blair Witch-like camera work.