When Davis missed the first free throw, Wildcats Coach John Calipari’s mind must have flashed back to 2008 and all those errant free throws by the Memphis team he was then coaching and the squandered nine-point late-game lead against a Kansas team coached in 2008, and Monday, by Bill Self.
But unlike 2008, Calipari won his elusive first national title after Davis, freshman Marquis Teague and the rest of the Wildcats made enough free throws. With a 67-59 victory over Kansas at the Superdome, Kentucky became one of the youngest teams to win a national title. The Wildcats (38-2) earned their eighth national championship in school history and their first since 1998.
“I told my wife, ‘I am glad it’s done.’ I don’t have to hear the drama,” Calipari said afterward. “It’s almost like,‘Done, Let’s move on.’ ”
Hailed as perhaps the best recruiter of the modern era, Calipari’s greatest challenge during his first national championship season was how to get some of the most talented players he has ever coach, almost all underclassmen, to sacrifice individual scoring totals for team accomplishment.
All season, Calipari challenged players by asking, “How do you help us when you are not scoring?” And in the most significant game of Calipari’s career, no one better illustrated his point than Davis, who dominated the national title game in every way except scoring.
As the season wore on, it became increasingly clear that Kentucky — with all its youth — was the most talented team in the country, and the Wildcats displayed that might all tournament long. As John Feinstein wrote:
In a very real sense, the ending of this game and this season was a microcosm of what college basketball is in 2012. As soon as the final buzzer sounded, the Superdome was filled with sound, not from celebrating fans, but from the Hollywood-like pyrotechnics the NCAA insists on bombarding people with in its attempts to glitz up an event that doesn’t need to be glitzed up.
Nowadays, though, all the sound and noise fits because the national title game has the feel of an NBA all-star game, and most of the players who make it to the Final Four dream first of that game and the billboards and shoe deals that come with it rather than the game Kentucky won on Monday night.
Perhaps it is time for the NCAA to change it’s cheesy post-championship theme song. Instead of “One Shining Moment,” a new song: “One Moment and Done,” words and music by Calipari, might be more fitting.