Kentucky’s remarkable season reached historic levels Sunday when it beat No. 16 Florida to clinch an unbeaten SEC regular season. Even if the top-ranked Wildcats don’t win the national title, that feat alone is worth a moment to appreciate and marvel.
Not impressed? You should be.
Since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985, more than 40 squads have finished a conference slate with a perfect mark. But until now, only fivesix teams from major conferences ran the table in their leagues: ’87 North Carolina, ’94 Missouri, ’96 Kentucky, ’99 Duke, ’02 Kansas and ’03 Kentucky. (Of that group, three went to Final Fours and only ’96 Kentucky won the NCAA tournament.) No Big East team has pulled it off. No Big Ten team. No Pac-10/Pac-12 team. And it’s not like this season’s SEC was putrid.
That’s no small thing given the continued challenges vs. familiar foes – who else knows best how to solve an usual defense or a deliberate offense than a team that sees it a lot? – and shouldn’t be overlooked, at any level. But there’s a reason big schools rarely pull it off. It’s just hard to do.
This team never took a night off. It had off nights, but it never walked off the court when you felt it left its game back in Lexington.
“The biggest thing is, we have not had any duds,” [coach John] Calipari said after the Wildcats beat Georgia last week. “Normally, you go through a season and you’re going to have two or three duds, and you hope they’re against teams you can win anyway.”
This team didn’t do that.
Think about that and apply it to every other team in America, even the other most talented teams. That means every night, this bunch was not only good enough, it was disciplined enough, focused enough, unselfish enough and, yes, even though it is the fifth-youngest team in America, mature enough.
That’s not lost on Kentucky’s young players, either. Freshman Anthony Davis says the perfect SEC mark is “a great honor.” It’s not lost on the fan base, either. Matt Jones from Kentucky Sports Radio wrote this excellent post Sunday that reminded a fan base craving a national title to try and savor this moment.
It’s a helpful reminder for any fan. Appreciate what the nation’s No. 1 team has done. It doesn’t happen that often.
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