About the only thing that might have stopped Kentucky on Monday night was Calipari, who clearly got a little bit nervous with the championship in sight and tried to run out the clock way too early. To his credit, Calipari readily admitted his mistake.
“I wanted the game over and I took away a little of their aggressiveness,” he said in a postgame interview. “The guys were screaming at me, ‘Coach, let us play!’ and I finally realized it and let ’em play. After that, we were okay.”
The Wildcats were good enough against a resourceful Kansas team that made a living out of coming from behind throughout this tournament. And for a brief moment, the Jayhawks looked like they might have one last miracle left in them.
But Kentucky took one last deep breath and attacked Kansas’s three-point shooters in the final minute while finally making those free throws. In so doing, the Wildcats removed the large boulder that had been sitting on Calipari’s back since Mario Chalmers hit that tying three-pointer for a different Kansas team against a different Calipari school four years ago in San Antonio.
In truth, all the questions of the winter of 2012 were answered on this particular Monday night. Can a team built on one-and-dones, with a couple sophomores sprinkled in, win on the biggest stage?
Can Calipari win his first title?
Can the NCAA overkill everyone to death in every possible way?
Is it time for NCAA President Mark Emmert, Stern and NBA Players Association President Billy Hunter to stop pointing fingers at one another and get serious about a rule that takes away the drive-through college basketball player?
That last one, though, is for later. For right now, the kudos should go to Calipari and his players. He was smart enough to recruit them and, on the first Monday night in April, they were good enough — more than good enough — to bring home a championship.
For John Feinstein’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/
feinstein. For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.