By Noah Simerly – University of Tennessee
As we all know, Kentucky went 38-1 in the 2014-15 season. To call that a special team is an understatement. You had a whole team of All-Americans to come in off the bench to replace another team of All-Americans. College basketball will probably never see a team quite as amazing as that team. Now, we all know it ended with just one loss in the Final Four. 38 wins, and 1 loss. One hell of a historic season—that’s something to be proud of.
Now, this past year was quite different. The 2015-16 team was trying to live up to arguably the best team to ever set foot on a college court. There were some holes to be filled, but those holes looked like craters compared to most 4 and 5 star recruits.
But, knowing Calipari and his monumental reputation of recruiting, Kentucky surely would never be out of talent…’Cats fans hoped.
When we first got a look of the players and their scouting reports, it looked like the typical Calipari signee list. A top 5 ranked recruiting class, and plenty of evidence to back it up. When we got to see the group play for the first time at Big Blue Madness, which is Kentucky’s version of an in-team scrimmage that sells 23k tickets each season, things looked shaky at times. But overall, we saw a very good college team that had potential to do well in the regular season.
Kentucky finished their season with the arrow from Indiana in the second round of the big dance. Kentucky was a 4 seed, Indiana a 5. Kentucky had a season total record of 27-9.
Now to most teams, that’s a decent record. But at Kentucky it is not. Especially after the season before it. Most people knew that the 2015-16 season would not result anywhere close to the 38-1 season, but Kentucky struggled more than most thought. As talented as Kentucky’s roster has been under the Cal era, maybe these kids were put under too much pressure to be the best.
We have to still remember, however that the 2014-15 season was such a rare occurrence. Who has that much talent to start and that much talent on the bench? It was so crazy, how all of these guys were recruited, and placed into this one super-team. We will never be able to understand fully, how unlikely and unique that squad was.
That’s why we should never compare to them.
Yes, they lost in the final four. But 38 wins? And one loss? We can’t compare to what they accomplished as a group. They were too good, way too good, to ever be compared to. Because no squad in the state of Kentucky, the SEC, the East Coast, or any conference of any side of this country will ever come close to what these guys brought to the table.
The University of Kentucky has had a long history enveloped in the sweet casing of greatness. The kids regardless of age, know what they are coming into. Nobody expects more out of these kids than Big Blue Nation. These kids that are inserted into this program are already all- American talent. Even though they fell short, a team that went 27-9 should not be shamed. They should be proud, and the community and fans should be proud. It takes a lot of courage to walk in the shadows of the greats. But for this group, they were playing in the shadows of giants. That alone, deserves a nod.
Plus, there’s always next year. Especially at Kentucky.