NCAA Tournament 2012: Ranking the Kentucky Wildcats' 10 Best Moments
No. 8 by eight. The Kentucky Wildcats capped off one of the most dominant seasons in NCAA history with a 67-59 win over the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA national championship.
John Calipari has his first—his way. Like him or not, his masterful job of shaping this Kentucky team, full of NBA-sized egos, solidifies his candidacy as one of the best coaches of this era.
Giving credit where credit is due, Kansas played like it has all year. Its never-back-down style reflects the personality of its coach Bill Self and star Thomas Robinson. Kansas exceeded all expectations this year and continued to do so in the national championship.
Kentucky now has the NCAA record for most wins in a single season at 38-2. Let's take a look back at its historic run through the 2012 NCAA tournament.
10. Beating Western Kentucky
The Calipari leg kick in the background makes this photograph great.
Beating Western Kentucky wasn't monumental. That's why it makes the last spot on this list. Terrence Jones gave us this dunk as a memento for this one-sided affair.
Kentucky avoided a close, controversial game (unlike Syracuse) and moved on to the Round of 32 for the third year in a row.
9. Marquis Teague Dominating Iowa State
Kentucky avoided a 2011 Final Four rematch with Connecticut in the Round of 32, only to play against a very solid Iowa State team.
Marquis Teague surprised us all with a 10-of-14 shooting performance en route to a career-high 24 points. He added seven assists to only two turnovers, marking one of his best performances in a Kentucky uniform.
While it certainly isn't ideal for Teague to be leading the Wildcats in shot attempts, he showed that he is capable of leading this team down the stretch.
He was pegged by many to be the weakest link in the Kentucky lineup, but proved he could carry his weight and then some against Iowa State.
8. Making the Sweet 16
This slide is devoted to one person: Darius Miller.
As a freshman, he went to the NIT. As a sophomore, Elite Eight. As a junior, Final Four.
Now, he can cap his resume as one of the best Wildcats in history with a national championship. As a Kentucky native, Miller has been a fan favorite throughout his four years in Lexington.
For a team that was built on enormous contributions from underclassmen, it was Miller who went 17-of-18 from the line. Miller made more clutch shots in March than he did his entire first three years combined.
It's Miller time, ladies and gentlemen. He's earned it. Kentucky has earned it.
7. Sweet Revenge
Indiana beat Kentucky once. These Kentucky Wildcats made sure it wouldn't happen again.
Darius Miller was heroic and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dominated the paint once again, resulting in a 102-90 victory for Kentucky.
This win showed just how far Kentucky has come in the three years under John Calipari. This team showed its versatility in this win; in previous years, if the opposing team scored 90 points, Kentucky would simply not be able to keep up.
This year, Kentucky could win with offense, defense or anything in between.
6. Four Straight Games with 80-Plus Points
Scoring was down in the Final Four, but there was hardly a lack of points in the first four games for Kentucky.
The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats were the first team since the 1998 Kentucky Wildcats to score 80 points in four straight NCAA tournament games.
As stated before, Kentucky didn't win on offense alone. Defense played a huge factor in its wins. Blocked and altered shots are frequent in every game thanks to Naismith Player of the Year Anthony Davis.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Dominates Indiana and Baylor
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the heart of what Kentucky Wildcats basketball is all about. He's a great teammate. He's great on defense. He's fearless.
Here's his stat line for his two games against Indiana and Baylor: 43 points, 15 rebounds, 14-of-25 shooting from the field and a perfect 14-of-14 from the line.
MKG fuels the Kentucky offense and defense, and he was rightfully named the South Regional MVP.
4. Back-to-Back Final Four Appearances
This slide title speaks for itself, so I will throw some factoids at you.
Since Kentucky went to the Final Four three straight years (from 1996-1998), there have been seven teams that have made the Final Four in back-to-back years: Butler, Michigan State (twice), North Carolina (twice), UCLA, Florida, Kansas and Maryland.
Doron Lamb became the 60th player in Kentucky history to score 1,000 points in a career.
Anthony Davis passed Hassan Whiteside for the most blocks in a single season by a freshman (186).
Kentucky blocked 11 shots, the most ever in an NCAA championship game.
All statistics can be found here.
3. Most Outstanding Player
Two years ago, Anthony Davis was a 6'3" guard.
Today, he is the NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player for the best team in college basketball. He is the Naismith Player of the Year, giving him the undisputed title as the best player in college basketball.
In the championship game, Davis scored six points. Not what you'd expect from a MOP, but he made up for it with his presence on the glass and on defense. He stuffed the stat sheet, grabbing 16 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and three steals to go along with his six points.
Best player. Best team.
It doesn't get much better than that.
2. Beating Louisville
Another self-explanatory title, but this one deserves to be talked about.
Losing to Louisville would have been a career-defining loss for John Calipari. He had been knocked for being a subpar coach. He had the better team. The only thing he had to do was beat Rick Pitino's Cardinals.
All the pressure was on the Wildcats to win, and they did—emphatically. The score was close, as it was in their first meeting on Dec. 31, but Kentucky once again showed its versatility and played a grinding game.
Beating Louisville showed that Kentucky could play through pressure. Calipari coached through pressure.
It was the perfect beginning to a perfect end.
1. Winning No. 8
It seemed too good to be true.
The 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcats were everything you'd want in a team: unselfish, talented, big.
Kentucky played three teams in the NCAA tournament that it had already played in the regular season. Kentucky was shooting as well as anyone.
The opposing Kansas Jayhawks weren't as talented. They weren't coming in with a hot shooting streak. But they were finding ways to win.
And yet it was the Wildcats that found a way to win on April 2. An underclassmen-laden squad beat an experienced, well-coached team that had nothing to lose.
After the game, John Calipari told reporters, "I’m glad it’s done. Now I can get about my business of coaching basketball."