Kentucky wins national title — the question is whether Wildcats will still own it in 2014

Posted: 04/03/2012 in college basketball
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John Calipari has finally won a national title.

So now we all get to wait and see if it gets stripped away someday.

The Kentucky Wildcats certainly are deserving on-court national champions after beating Kansas in Monday’s NCAA tournament title game.

Kentucky led by double digits much of the game before the Jayhawks made a late charge. The Wildcats held on for a 67-59 victory for their first national championship since 1998.

You have to wonder if Calipari’s mind began wandering back to 2008 when the Jayhawks trimmed an 18-point lead down to five. You may recall Calipari’s Memphis team blew a late nine-point lead and lost in overtime to Kansas in that season’s title game.

It actually was a superb deal that the Jayhawks won the 2008 title because otherwise there would be no champion from that season. The NCAA later stripped Memphis of its Final Four appearance, ruling star guard Derrick Rose had been ineligible all season due to a test score issue.

That was the second time a Calipari-coach squad had a Final Four appearance vacated. Calipari’s team at Massachusetts was stripped of its 1996 appearance due to star player Marcus Camby accepting gifts from an agent.

So with Kentucky loaded with one-and-done players – WON and DONE being the obvious headline in this instance – there will be skepticism that perhaps there has been some funny stuff going on in Lexington too.

Calipari is a terrific recruiter and relates well to young basketball players. There is no doubt he knows how to massage the egos of top-level players and get them to buy into a team concept. That part of the equation is impressive.

Freshman star Anthony Davis is a near-certainty to be the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA draft if he declares for the festivities. Fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will also go near the top of the draft if he chooses to leave school.

But a lot of people around the nation wanted to see Kentucky fail. The majority of college basketball fans prefer seeing programs being built and getting to know the star players for two or three years.

At Kentucky, it’s one semester and then on to the NBA, which leaves people wondering how that fits into the “student-athlete” mantra the NCAA loves to boast about.

In other words, Kansas and coach Bill Self just lost the title game to an NBA team. There’s no shame in that.

The only shame would occur somewhere down the line if it should surface that Kentucky’s program isn’t clean.

And when a coach has had two Final Four teams stripped from the record books, it is natural for people to wonder. Calipari has lost the benefit of doubt whether he likes it or not.

Kentucky has its long-awaited title. But the burning question is this: Will it still belong to the Wildcats in 2014?


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