The missed free-throws of the Elite Eight/the John Calipari rant.
Alright, I’ve had a few days to cool down about this and I’m ready to talk about it in-depth now. After John Calipari’s Memphis team choked away the 2008 National Championship to Kansas, I rushed to my computer and angrily hammered out a frustration filled post on my Facebook page. I hate writing stuff like that and I needed to cool off before I endeavored to make sense of what happened. So first, here’s who lost because they couldn’t hit free-throws over the weekend in the Elite Eight.
#6 Tennessee lost a hard fought game to #5 Michigan State 70-69, but went 14-21 from the line (67%). Two of those shots include a couple of air balls from center Brian Williams, who was 1-4 from the line. I know the Michigan State fans loved it, but I always hate seeing guys undershoot a free-throw like that. Other than that, he had a pretty good game with 11 points and 9 rebounds, 4 of which were on the offensive end. Michigan State shot 16-21 (76%) from the line.
#3 Baylor lost to #1 Duke 78-71 and shot 12-19 (63%) from the line. Duke, on the other hand, shot 23-29 (79%).
#2 Kansas State lost to #5 Butler 63-56 and went 7-14 (50%) from the line. Butler shot 14-20 (70%).
#1 Kentucky lost to #2 West Virginia 73-66 and went 16-29 (55%) from the line. But West Virginia wasn’t exactly stellar in the foul shot department as they shot 23-34 (68%).
So now we come to the issue at hand. For the third year in a row, John Calipari’s team has been ousted from the tournament. In 2008 it was to Kansas in the championship game, last year it was to Missouri in the Sweet 16, and now this year in the Final Four to West Virginia. So now I’m wondering: is John Calipari just not as good a coach as we think? I really like watching teams play, but I can’t get past the fact that they always seem to lose because of free-throws. I can maybe understand losing in 2008 when Derrick Rose missed some foul shots that would have clinched the game. He was a freshman and it was a high pressure situation and he was a pretty good foul shooter to begin with. But to have three championship caliber teams in a row lose like that? That just doesn’t happen.
I do think part of Saturday’s loss was poor coaching. Kentucky shot 4-32 from three-point range for the game, which a lot of people point to as the reason they lost. At some point, a reasonable person would have stepped in and made some threats to the next person who chucked another three. I can’t get over the fact that if 4 of those 28 misses had gone in they would have won by five points. But even then they would have gone 8-32 and that STILL sucks. And then you add the fact that they missed 13 free-throws and lost by 7 points. How is that even possible? I’ve seen lots of teams lose because they missed too many free-throws-I count 23 for this tournament-but to have that many misses from beyond the arc as well and still be that close? They crapped away a total of 97 points worth of threes and free-throws and still only lost by 7 points. What was West Virginia doing? I’ll tell you what- they were spending the first half not hitting a single two-point shot and still having a halftime lead. What a nutty game that was!
So now the big question we’re left with is what will John Wall and Demarcus Cousins do? Will they leave after one year in college for the NBA, as we’ve all thought they would ever since the season started? Or will they come back and make another run at the championship? If you’re a John Calipari fan, like me, or a Kentucky fan then you had better hope that Wall and Cousins are stung so profoundly by Saturday’s loss that they want to come back and do better.