What kind of team will Kentucky be when the NCAA Tournament gets going? Coach John Calipari and the rest of the Wildcats are hoping that it will be a different team than the one that played against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament semifinal on Friday.
Kentucky, who received a double-bye into the quarterfinals, played its first game of the tournament against Vanderbilt. There will be no second game. For the second time in March, the Commodores topped the Wildcats, winning 80-73. As a result of the game, Vanderbilt will take on Texas A&M in the tournament semifinal, while Kentucky will go home and try to get ready for the NCAA Tournament.
Judging by the reactions to Friday’s result, if the Wildcats have another short stay at the NCAA Tournament, the ensuing hours and days will not be kind to him.
On Friday, Calipari was the subject of criticism — a lot of criticism.
I'm just over the Calipari era
— Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com (@SeanRossSapp) March 11, 2023
Had the refs on his side and a way more talented roster, Calipari just lost to Vandy for the second time in a week.
I truly don’t know why you Kentucky fans put up with it. You’re a better program than this.
— Brandon Walker (@BFW) March 11, 2023
All year Calipari excused the poor play by pointing to March
And it starts with a loss to Vandy in the QF of the SEC Tourney
Hopefully the NCAA is better
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) March 11, 2023
Jerry Stackhouse took Coach Calipari to the woodshed huh? 👀🚁🚁🚁
— 73-9 and THEY LIED (@CuffsTheLegend) March 11, 2023
Message yelled outside Bridgestone Arena:
“Put Calipari in jail.”
Kentucky fans not thrilled with tonight’s loss
— Ben Greenberger (@cheeseberger_37) March 11, 2023
How much longer will Kentucky fans and administration tolerate the underachievement of John Calipari?
I remember hearing coach say one time and I paraphrase: “My job is to get players to the pros. Not win championships.”
Is it time for the Cats to look elsewhere?
— Jacob Davis (@JacobScottDavis) March 11, 2023
Kentucky was a fixture in the Final Four during the early part of Calipari’s tenure in Lexington. The Wildcats made four trips to the Final Four in Calipari’s first six seasons. That included a championship in 2012 and a runner-up in 2014. Since then, it’s been a different story.
From 2016-19, Kentucky reached the Elite Eight twice but also had a loss in the second round and another in the Sweet 16. The tournament getting canceled in 2020 might have robbed the Wildcats of a chance, as they were 25-6 overall and 15-3 in the conference when the season was halted. But Kentucky missed the tournament completely in 2021 and was sent home in the first round in 2022.
Even if the Wildcats had won the SEC Tournament, Calipari was going to have a lot of pressure on him heading into the Big Dance. But after Friday’s game, that pressure will be even higher. And if Kentucky has another short stay in the Big Dance, the criticism will get significantly louder.