And so Kentucky did one of the hardest and most compelling things in sports -- certainly college sports: Win it all when they were expected to win it all. In the harsh dichotomy of "Championship or Fail," they won.
But there is another reason this Kentucky team is so compelling, and it has been covered by some of the great college writers out there: It is a validation of John Calipari's "one-and-done" system that takes maximum advantage -- arbitrage, really -- of the inane and arbitrary rules about NBA eligibility set out by the NBA and exploited by the NCAA. It shouldn't be studied by other coaches -- it should be studied at Harvard Business School.
Now, here's the caveat: It might be replicable -- oh, sure, Calipari will bring in another No. 1 recruiting class or batch of one-and-done freshmen, whose next stop is the NBA Lottery -- but it's not sustainable, at least if you define "sustained" as "winning championship after championship."
*It won't include Anthony Davis, who is nothing less than the most game-changing defensive talent (freshman or otherwise) in modern college hoops history.
*It won't include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the ultimate "glue guy" -- who also happens to be the consensus No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft behind Davis.
*It won't include that smidgen of upperclass experience -- Terrence Jones and Darius Miller and Doron Lamb (no slouches, themselves) -- that remains a prerequisite for March success.
It will, however, include John Calipari, who is as much arbitrageur as coach (although I entirely believe the sincerity of his "players-first" commitment) and who might lose Davis and MKG, but who will replace them with the best available freshmen talent.
And he now has a championship template to point them to: Defensive intensity. Offensive brilliance. But, more than anything, sublimating their "one-and-done" NBA dreams for the good of the program and for the chance to make that one year a championship year: "Title or bust."
Calipari has seen the fulfillment of a system -- a template -- he created a few years ago. It might not always result in national titles, but it puts him in the best position to win them and it puts his players in the best position to maximize their college and pre-NBA potential. That's all you can ask for.
Don't miss the Quickish coverage of Kentucky and Calipari's ultimate triumph.