After winning the State of Kentucky by beating Louisville in the March Madness semifinals, the Kentucky Wildcats won the 2012 NCAA National Championship by outrunning the Kansas Jayhawks, 67-59, in a game that was not nearly as close as the 8-point victory margin.
Kentucky dominated Kansas so thoroughly in the 1st half the Wildcats built a 14-point lead, and it looked like the Jayhawks left Dorothy’s red shoes in Kansas and were late to The Big Dance. The lead was significant because no team had ever come from more than 11 points down to win a national championship.
After coming back in the 2nd half to whittle an 18-point Kentucky lead to 5 in the closing minutes, Kansas folded like a cheap K-Mart deck chair. On this night, Kansas was a dollar short and a day late, challenging the Wildcats only on paper.
The big man from the Land of Oz—6-foot-10 Kansas All-American Thomas Robinson—could not hit the broad side of a barn in a game of “horse”.
While Robinson would end up with 18 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort, he was 6-of-17 from the field (35%) and was hounded by the big man from the Kentucky Derby state—6-foot-10 All-Everything Anthony Davis, who blocked 2 of Robinson’s shots on his way to 6 rejects in the game.
Davis was shooting even worse than Robinson from the floor, nailing only 1 of 10 attempts (10%). This is a significant figure for Davis because he came into the game averaging 64% from the field. He would score only 6 points in the game, BUT he had the most dominating 6-point night in the history of college basketball.
Davis was EVERYWHERE but in the basket. He neutralized the best Kansas player—Thomas Robinson—grabbed 16 rebounds, blocked 6 shots, dished out 5 assists, added 3 steals, and literally defensed Kansas right out of the game.
Anthony Davis, only a freshman, will be the #1 pick in the NBA Draft on June 28. He has already been selected as the Southeast Conference Player of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He is also a consensus All-American, and a consensus first round lottery pick in the NBA Draft.
The lack of scoring by Davis was made up for by guard Doron Lamb, who dumped in 22 points.
With Robinson unable to score more frequently, Kansas had a serious problem since the Jayhawks lost 4 of their top 5 scorers from last year’s team. Kansas and coach Bill Self won the 2008 NCAA title by beating Memphis, which was then coached by John Calipari before he left to coach Kentucky.
Kansas has also won the last 8 consecutive Big 12 Conference titles, and Bill Self has compiled an outstanding won-lost record the past 5 seasons, going 165-22 (88%), and winning at least 30 games in 4 of those seasons.
The victory was extra sweet for John Calipari after making it to the Final Four no less than 4 times. The national championship was Kentucky’s 8th.
So just how talent-laden is Kentucky? I’m glad you asked. Kentucky is this damn talented—the entire 5-member first team are projected NBA lottery picks. That would be freshman center Anthony Davis (#1 by NBAdraft.net), freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#2), sophomore forward Terrence Jones (#18), sophomore guard Doron Lamb (#23), freshman guard Marquis Teague (#28), and senior forward Darius Miller (#35 and not even a starter for Kentucky).
Among the top 35 NBA lottery picks, Kansas has exactly one player projected—junior power forward Thomas Robinson at #3.
If you ask any coach in his right mind if he could choose talent or experience for his team, he will say talent every time. John Wooden, arguably the greatest college basketball coach ever, said this: “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”
At this point in time, Kentucky coach John Calipari has made his bones with one-and-done talent. Calipari’s starting 5 this year included 3 freshmen and 2 sophomores. One and done players go to college for one year only, mostly because they cannot be drafted into the NBA until they are 19 years old, and they need to keep playing in the spotlight to be scouted by the pros.
It is very difficult to build a winning team with one-and-done players, but Calipari has now figured out how to win a national championship with freshman talent. He tells them if they come to Kentucky, they will be in the national spotlight and be able to go pro after their freshman year.
This upsets a lot of people, including fans and opposing coaches, but not Calipari. Calipari is not breaking the rules, he is winning basketball games, and he is going to the NCAA March Madness Tournament consistently—the high school kids notice.
They all want a several-million-dollar pro contract, and most of them secretly dream about being the next Michael Jordan. A few of them think they already are Michael Jordan. Trust me, there is no shortage of egos among these talented young men.
The two semifinal games looked like a couple of horse races. In the Kentucky version of the Final Four, freshman forward Anthony Davis appeared every bit the thoroughbred of the competition, leading the Wildcats to a 13-point lead early in the 2nd half.
While ever cautious at this point, Coach John Calipari had to be hyper with anticipation. He had been to the Final Four 4 times, but had still not won a national championship.
Louisville’s Cardinals, better known as the comeback kids, were having none of it. Just when you thought Kentucky would extend its lead, Russ Smith made back-to-back buckets to start a 15-3 run, and Peyton Siva capped it with a 3-pointer from NBA range that tied the game at 49 with 9:11 yet to play.
But it was not to be. It was the Kentucky Wildcats who had the hot hand, shooting an eye-popping 57% from the floor, led by all-everything Anthony Davis. Davis saw net on 7 of his 8 attempts, and finished the game with 18 points and 14 rebounds, recording his 20th double-double of the season.
Davis came into the game as the SEC’s Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Yikes! He’s a FRESHMAN, and will be history as a one-and-done because he is the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Davis will take the millions because he would be a fool not to. After all, the NBA is not going to come calling every year, and Davis’ career could end with a serious injury in the meantime.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has made 6 Final Fours, is like Kentucky’s John Calipari, he has never won a national championship. That said, Pitino was the FIRST coach to take 3 different schools to the Final Four—Providence, Kentucky and Louisville, and has logged 42 NCAA tournament wins during his 26-year coaching career.
Ohio State was less fortunate than Kentucky. The Buckeyes led almost the entire game against Kansas, but could not hold off another Jayhawk comeback while losing a heartbreaker, 64-62.
Like Kentucky, Ohio State built an early 13-point lead that held up until there was 2:48 left to play, when Jayhawk Travis Releford canned 2 free throws. Ohio State answered, but Tyshawn Taylor hit net on another 2 critical free throws with 8.3 seconds left to put Kansas up, 64-61. At that point, Ohio State was toast.
Jayhawk Thomas Robinson finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Unfortunately for Ohio State, their big man—Jared Sullinger—was not a dominate presence, getting only 11 points on 5-for-19 shooting (26%). Three of Sullinger’s attempts were blocked by Kansas center Jeff Withey, who ended up with no less than 7 blocks in the nightcap game.
Here is the result of the 2012 NCAA National Championship Game:
#1 seed Kentucky against #2 seed Kansas
Here are the national semifinal results for the 2012 NCAA Final Four:
Games on Saturday, March 31, in New Orleans:
#1 Kentucky eliminated #4 Louisville 69-61
#2 Kansas eliminated #2 Ohio State 64-62
Here are the 2012 NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Regional Results:
Saturday, March 24, and Sunday, March 25:
#4 Louisville eliminated #7 Florida 72-68
#1 Kentucky eliminated #3 Baylor 82-70
#2 Ohio State upsets #1 Syracuse 77-70
#2 Kansas upsets #1 North Carolina 80-67
Here are the 2012 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Regional Results:
Thursday, March 22, and Friday, March 23:
#4 Louisville upset #1 Michigan State 57-44
#7 Florida upset #3 Marquette 68-58
#1 Kentucky eliminated #4 Indiana 102-90
#3 Baylor eliminated #10 Xavier 75-70
#1 Syracuse eliminated #4 Wisconsin 64-63
#2 Ohio State eliminated #6 Cincinnati 81-66
#1 North Carolina eliminated #13 Ohio 73-65 in Overtime
#2 Kansas eliminated #11 North Carolina State 60-57