While they're probably mourning this morning in Austin, Texas the Longhorn faithful shouldn't feel too bad. After all, Kansas State is enjoying their best season in decades and upended number 1 on their home court. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
Meanwhile, Big Blue Nation is swelling with pride at being the last of the unbeatens. Earlier this season, DeMarcus Cousins openly talked about the possibility of running the table, which probably caused some more paranoid fans to try and storm the Craft Center in hopes of explaining the word "jinx" to the talented center. After all, when you've almost certainly received your Dance ticket as the 'Cats have, going undefeated would be nice but it's a lot more important to win the last game (aka the national championship).
But why not dream? Or at least explore the possibility?
The bagel in the loss column hasn't been seen since 1976, when Bob Knight's Hoosiers accomplished the feat. Since then, three teams come to mind that tried but failed. Calipari's 2007-08 Memphis team won their first 26 before Tennessee (which finished 28-4) beat them by four at home on their way to a runner-up finish against Kansas. The 2004-05 Fighting Illini ran through their first 29 opponents until Ohio State stopped the run and they also lost in the final game to North Carolina. Lastly, the 1990-91 UNLV squad had taken a 41-game winning streak that dated back to the previous season into the Final Four against Duke. All the Devils did was pull a huge upset on the way to their first of back-to-back titles.
So does this mean the Cats are destined to fall just short of glory? Should they tank before the streak gets to 20 or more? After all, the Colts and Saints did just that, choosing to rest some starters rather than reach for the holy grail that is 16-0. Both teams are still favored to reach Super Bowl XLIV. Again, what really matters is winning the last game.
That being said, the 'Cats should go for broke.
One, this edition of the Cats is done after this season. Wall, Cousins and Patterson are projected to be lottery picks in June. Harris and Stevenson will use up their eligibility. If Bledsoe keeps collecting conference honors he may also test the draft waters. While Calipari may be the best recruiter ever it will be virtually impossible to replace that talent.
Two, while it's doubtful that anyone would raise the specter of point-shaving should the 'Cats, or any team for that matter, give less than their best, it's better to give your best than take a night off. Keep in mind that the NCAA has already come after Calipari's previous programs for alleged wrongdoing and have also come after Kentucky in the past. Don't give them a reason to start their phones buzzing.
Third, in a time when we hand out ribbons for showing up instead of actually accomplishing something this country needs an undefeated team. The term "excellence" gets thrown around like TARP dollars and has been watered-down as a result. If UK pulls this off that would re-define excellence and maybe get people to strive for something better rather than settle for the status quo and a pat on the head.
It will be extremely difficult to pull off and may be a moot point before the SEC tournament starts in March.
But it will fun to watch them try.