John Calipari Mar 10, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts during a timeout against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

About Michael Dixon

Michael is a writer and editor for The Comeback Media. He is Bay Area native living in the Indianapolis area. Michael is also a big nerd when it comes to sports history and to a slightly lesser extent, all history. Beyond that, loves tacos, pizza and random Seinfeld quotes.

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