NEW ORLEANS — The running joke all season was that Kentucky was good enough to beat some NBA teams. Say, maybe the Toronto Raptors.
Farfetched? Probably. But with that stable of pros-in-waiting, one thing seemed certain: The Wildcats were the team to beat in college basketball.
Capping a season that had a feeling of inevitability, Kentucky finished with a flourish, beating Kansas 67-59 in the NCAA championship game Monday night.
OK, so maybe it was the last time we’ll see many of those future millionaires in blue and white. At least they’ll go out as heroes after bringing home an eighth national championship to Big Blue and giving John Calipari the one missing piece to his resume.
“We were the best team,” Calipari said. “I wanted this to be one for the ages.”
Calipari has had a knack for luring the nation’s best recruits to Lexington, never worrying about whether they’d stick around.
This year’s bouncy-legged bunch was impressive even by his standards.
Led by everybody’s player of the year Anthony Davis, these fast-tracked Wildcats raced past nearly everyone who got in their way.
Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague - Coach Cal had a team of ringers and he, along with everyone else, knew it. Who’s No. 2 seemed to be the only question left.
Kentucky lost just twice during the season: on a buzzer-beater by Indiana and to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament in New Orleans, where Commodores big man Festus Ezeli pushed the Wildcats around.
The Vandy loss seemed to serve the Wildcats well, giving them a not-so-subtle reminder they still have to play, that this was no divine-right coronation.
The message clearly came through.
Kentucky attacked its first four NCAA tournament opponents like a swarm of bees; swat one and the rest are coming after you.
The Wildcats earned a return trip to the Big Easy by turning a highly hyped regional final against Baylor into a rout.
Waiting for them was in-state rival, Louisville in the national semifinals.