The 10 Biggest CBB Stories Of 2012 — #2: Kentucky Gets Over The Hump to Win Its Eighth NCAA TitlePosted by Chris Johnson on December 31st, 2012
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.
Over the first two years of John Calipari’s tenure, Kentucky inched closer toward a national championship breakthrough – from an Elite Eight appearance in 2010 to a Final Four berth in 2011. Calipari reeled in the most decorated recruiting class of his career the following season, one built on the backs of center Anthony Davis and supplemented by forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, point guard Marquis Teague, and shooting specialist Kyle Wiltjer. He was locked and loaded for the third go-round of his one-and-done experiment, the yearly cycle of turning over the nation’s best freshmen talent and crafting national title contenders as he marshals players through the Wildcats’ historic program, maximizes their national acclaim and exposure, and ferries them into the NBA Draft.
Unlike Calipari’s previous teams, this one had a unique brand of selflessness that lended itself to a productive team dynamic. It had veteran holdovers like Terrence Jones and Darius Miller and Doron Lamb; and most importantly, it had Davis, who announced his presence with a game-winning swat on North Carolina’s John Henson in a nationally-televised December non-conference game. Davis quickly and forcefully seized the national spotlight with his generational defensive talents and incredible athleticism. His unibrow developed a cultish following among UK fans, taking on a life of its own as a symbolic token of Davis’ feared shot-blocking ability and fodder for Internet meme generators.
When Davis and company finally conquered a top-heavy NCAA Tournament field, the mystique of Calipari’s supposedly flawed coaching method was officially debunked. He had solved the one-and-done dilemma, and outside of Big Blue Nation, few willingly accepted his triumph as a positive moment for the sport’s future. Most were loath to cede ground on their staunchly anti-Caliparian viewpoints, preferring to harp on the perceived ease of turning future first-round draft picks into national champions, decrying the manipulation of a flawed NBA age limit, and alleging NCAA violations. It all came together to make Kentucky’s eighth national championship a polarizing and divisive accomplishment, but it was a significant accomplishment for the sport regardless.