Since the 2018-19 season, Kentucky basketball has been on a downturn. Every season the Wildcats come in with lofty expectations, and Big Blue fails epically. John Calipari has won only one championship during his tenure. During that time, other blue blood programs have won multiple titles. Duke, Villanova, and UNC all have numerous champions, and Kansas just won. He has been to seven Elite Eight appearances and four Final Fours. So has Calipari’s time in Kentucky been a letdown?
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This is supposed to be a perennial powerhouse. Yet, Kentucky has not appeared in a Final Four in 8 years. Coach John Calipari has taken the brunt of the criticism. Calipari brings flare and consistently recruits at a prominent level. But there have been few results for several years. Kentucky brings in top recruiting classes yearly. But the one-and-done era seems to have lost steam. Duke took over the one-and-done route and became a contender. The Wildcats were the national title favorite before the 2022-23 season. But the team is on the bubble. The excitement is gone in the program. Could Calipari’s time in Lexington be ending?
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Since 2018, Kentucky has had four No. 2 recruiting classes, and the 2022 class was on track to finish first until recruit Shaedon Sharpe reclassified. But still, with a wealth of talent, Calipari has not found the same magic the UK had at the beginning of his run. During that stretch, the Wildcats made five Elite Eights and four Final Fours and won the 2012 National Championship Game. Since then, the UK has made two Elite Eights and no Final Fours. Kentucky has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2019. This is not the UK way.
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The first-round loss to No. 15 Saint Peter’s in the 2022 NCAA Tournament officially turned the heat up on Calipari. Kentucky has had embarrassing losses over the last few years to subpar talent. The Hall of Fame coach has been beloved in Lexington. He and he was given the benefit of the doubt for a bad 2020-21 season due to a brief offseason as COVID remained prevalent. Plus, how could you control a canceled tournament in 2020?
There was no excuse for last season. Losing to the Saint Peter Peacocks was one of the biggest upsets of all time and possibly Kentucky’s worst loss in program history. The Wildcats had a great squad last season with the No. 2 seed, and center Oscar Tshiebwe won National Player of the Year.
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Fast forward to this season. The lofty expectations have remained the same. Tshiebwe returned, another talented recruiting class came in, and Calipari landed guard Antonio Reeves in the transfer portal. Kentucky was No. 4 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll, and it has been the worst regular season in years. If the UK cannot round into shape, the head coach could be coaching for his job.