People from the outside don’t understand the dynamic relationship between Kentucky basketball and its rabid fan base. Most people think of lunatics in blue who think that basketball begins and ends in Lexington, Kentucky.
Kentucky’s success this season comes as no surprise to anybody in the nation. But while Kentucky fans expected a Final Four berth this season, they didn’t say, “Final Four or bust” as some would have you think.
Despite the mania that surrounds the Wildcat fans, they do have sense enough to realize when they have a good thing. And the last thing they want to do is mess up that good thing.
Kentucky reaching the Final Four is part of the journey this year and there will be a lot of disappointment if they don’t cut down the nets in New Orleans, but if you hear Kentucky fans calling John Calipari and his team a disappointment this season, they’ll be a vocal minority.
A very small minority.
This team has been a joy for the Kentucky fans to watch and grow with. This team has gone from a very talented group of players to a very talented team. And a lot of that has to do with Calipari’s tutelage. Unless Calipari brings this group together as a unit, they are completely relying on their individual talents to reach goals.
And because they’ve come together, they can reach the highest goal in college basketball – the NCAA Championship.
Not winning the tournament won’t make Kentucky fans any more antsy about another championship than they were before. Kentucky fans have been looking forward to the next national championship since April of 1998.
However, after following the Wildcats through lean years in the first decade of the 2000s, Kentucky fans can appreciate how difficult it is to win a championship, even when you’re the favorite. The memory of Tubby Smith’s last couple of seasons and the Billy Gillispie years forced Kentucky fans to appreciate the ability to compete at the highest level.
As UK coach, fans absolutely want you to win it all every year. Kentucky fans never get bored with winning and clearly hate losing. But they recognize that you can’t win it all every year. It’s just not going to happen. They’ve experienced long gaps in the past.
From 1979 until 1995, Kentucky had no championships. There have been no championships from 1999 until right now. It doesn’t mean that the fans like it, but it’s a reality that the fans understand.
So it is pretty silly when somebody who doesn’t understand how much Kentucky fans love their team and their coach says that Calipari is going to catch hell from UK fans if he doesn’t win it all this year.
Kentucky fans, while sometimes over-zealous, appreciate this team. They appreciate how quickly Calipari has brought their favorite team back to prominence. And they absolutely appreciate the ride that they’ve been able to go on this season.
If anybody is ready to pounce, it’s the media – the same media members who say he can’t win it all with one-and-dones leading the way. Yet, this year if he doesn’t win it all, these are the same people calling the season a failure.
I guess if you play both sides, you can’t lose.
Fortunately for Kentucky fans, they’ve already won, no matter what the outcome this weekend.
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