Self vs. Calipari II: Redemption?

Posted: April 2, 2012 by skrizznasty in Hoops, NCAA

By Michael Skrzyniak

Cal versus Self 2.

Mirrors in letters, gameplan.

Legacy versus relief.

This haiku represents everything you must know for Monday night’s clash between the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats and Bill Self’s resilient Kansas Jayhawks squad.

With Self at the helm in 2008, Kansas defeated a Memphis Tigers team led by John Calipari in one of the most memorable NCAA championship games. Everyone remembers where they were when Mario Chalmers launched that three-pointer that sent the game to overtime, where Kansas eventually won 75-68. Derrick Rose does, and the Mario Chalmers curse has followed him in the NBA.

Too soon, D-Rose fans? Sorry about that. But you got to hit those free throws…

The rosters are eerily similar. Once again Calipari is blessed with a future overall number one draft pick, 2012 AP Player of the Year Anthony Davis. However the surrounding cast is vastly stronger. Joey Dorsey and Chris Douglas-Roberts were no Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, or Marquis Teague.

Bill Self’s philosophy hasn’t changed much since his title run. Experienced guards: In 2008 it was Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush. This year it’s seniors Tyshawn Taylor and Connor Teahan. Self is also blessed with dominating big men. Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey are Cole Aldrich and Darrell Arthur … only better.

Future Raptor Thomas Robinson leads the Comeback Jayhawks

Kentucky has dominated the tournament thus far, winning most games by double digits. Last night’s eight-point victory over Louisville was the lowest margin of victory for Calipari and the Cats.

The Jayhawks’ journey is a different story . It started in the Big 12 tournament when Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit over Missouri. The trend has carried throughout March.

Purdue was up 11. Ohio State, 13.

The story however, ends the same way: Bill Self smiles with arms raised in victory.

The key to the game is Anthony Davis. How Calipari decides to attack Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey is what we’re all looking forward to. Withey is the X-factor. Withey’s staunch defence limited Jared Sullinger to 5 of 19 shooting. Withey also blocked seven shots, including one that led to an Elijah Johnson lay-up that put the Jayhawks up three with 64 seconds left.

Withey’s next challenge is just as frightening: Anthony Davis and his 15 points per game and 23 total tournament blocks. The problem with Davis is not just his length, but his versatility. His ability to knock down shots away from the basket means Self needs to find a way to not only contain Davis, but also try and limit Jones, Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb, all future NBA players.

Louisville ranked third in the NCAA, holding opponents to 38% shooting.

Kentucky didn’t get the memo.

The Wildcats hit 57% of their shots last night, featuring numerous alley-oop finishes.

Speaking of which…


It’s difficult to examine Bill Self’s coaching performance throughout the tournament and declare this year’s run as his most impressive. The Jayhawks have played just one complete game, when they defeated a depleted North Carolina team in the Elite 8. However, Self continues to unriddle his team’s early lacklustre performances and he now finds himself one win away from his second national championship.

John Calipari is also one win away. He is 40 minutes away from overcoming the last hurdle in his incredible career, a championship.

He’s been close before, though. We have already mentioned his 2008 heartbreaking tale and in 1996 Calipari took a fortuitous UMass team to the Final Four, where it lost to Kentucky, the eventual champion.

Is the time now for Calipari to finally win the big one? He is arguably the best college basketball coach of the last five years and he is unquestionably the best recruiter.

Brandon Knight, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Demarcus Cousins, and Derrick Rose were all coached by Calipari. However, the depth of talent on the 2012 Wildcats trumps any starting five Calipari has ever put on the court.

If he doesn’t win it this year, I really don’t know what else Calipari can do.

Whether Bill Self further cements his legacy or Calipari has his one shining moment, Monday night’s championship game will answer many questions.

Most of us are just praying the game is better than last years.

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