Beyond the Bison: Chasing It

Julian Dorey, Senior Writer

It’s that time of year again.

The season when offices, schools, and gatherings of any kind suddenly feature college basketball “experts” left and right. The season when bracket “buy-ins” across America amount to enough money to solve the federal government’s annual debt. The season when 64 teams enter 12-noon on a March Thursday with dreams, hopes, and aspirations of writing their own stories in the history books.

March Madness is here and, man, we can use it as a nice spring kick-off to mark the end of yet another frigid Lewisburg winter.

The storylines surrounding the field’s 64 teams are abundant—as usual. Everything from former Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s return to the tournament with his new team, Georgia State, to Jay Wright’s miracle work of turning over a lifeless 13-19 2013-14 Villanova team into a 32-2 powerhouse this season has been discussed since selection Sunday—and the headlines will only grow bigger as the tournament runs it course.

But no story is bigger than John Calipari’s undefeated (34-0) Kentucky Wildcats and their quest for immortal 40-0 perfection.

In a year where Division 1 college basketball has seen scoring and offensive quality statistics decrease across the board—Kentucky has been the much-needed media distraction from these trends with their wire-to-wire seasonal play and usual young, exciting roster.

Perhaps the greatest recruiter in the history of college basketball (with apologies to John Wooden, Dean Smith, and Mike Krzyzewski, known as Coach K), Calipari did it yet again this year, bringing in monster center Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, and Tyler Ulis to join “veteran” sophomores in the Harrison twins and junior Willie Cauley-Stein. Their seamless transition has been so impressive that even the loss of junior forward Alex Poythress to injury has little to no effect on Calipari’s hardwood machine.

Perhaps the sickest part of Kentucky’s current position is that this may not even be the best—or second best—roster Calipari has fielded in his tenure at the school.

But their place in Calipari’s talent-gathering history is irrelevant right now. Their finishing place in this year’s tournament—and their future place in history should they win it all—are the true things at stake right now.

Kentucky’s reputation doesn’t stop with their unarguable perfect record. Vegas has the squad at almost level odds to win it all.

Against the entire field.

While the undefeated record seems to be Kentucky’s to lose at this point, history teaches us to expect the unexpected. Only very rarely do the tournament outcomes reflect the popular pre-tourney opinions. Many brackets will certainly have Kentucky written in the Champion’s circle—and many may very well experience a punch to their bracket’s gut out of nowhere should a David slay the Goliath (Kentucky).

If Calipari can pull off this incredible feat of perfection, his legacy will only grow—and his recruiting power will only increase (that’s scary).

But let’s not forget the fact that old Johnny only has one title in his five preceding seasons at Kentucky—despite having the best recruiting classes in the country each year.

No matter what, I know I’ll be watching with bated breath to see if this year’s squad can run-the-table.

We’ll see. Let the madness begin.

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