Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss the Kentucky Wildcats draw in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament, and debate how much pressure is on coach John Calipari to take this team on a run after years of disappointment.
DAN WETZEL: Are we Kentucky, or are we not Kentucky? That's kind of-- Right? Lately, we ain't been Kentucky.
John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats, zero tournament wins since 2019. They have not been to the Final Four since 2015, when they were 38-0. They lost last year to St. Peters in the first round, missed the torney a couple of years there, and then, I mean, the COVID year, they actually were really good, but that's just what happened. And this team, like, they have everything, and yet they're not that good. Cal's got a lifetime deal. They can't get rid of him, and he makes a ton of money, and I don't think they would. He's got, again, some absolutely loaded recruiting class coming in, and next year, at any point, John Calipari could win the national title, including this year. Who the hell knows?
They've got the potential, let's put it that way. I also really like their-- like, they get Providence in the first round. Providence is 4-6 since February 1. Like, he hasn't won a game since '19. Like, you've gotta at least win a game, and then you're going up against Kansas State, and a first-year head coach, and the games are in Greensboro. It's not like you've gotta play like them, like, in-- like, you know, like, are we Kentucky, or are we not Kentucky? That's kind of-- Right? Lately, we ain't been Kentucky, and that's-- I don't know, so I think there's a lot of pressure on Coach Cal to-- he had better at least beat Providence.
PAT FORDE: Yeah, no, huge pressure. As a matter of fact, I remember somebody on this podcast, whose initials were DW, saying, last year, after they lost to St. Peter's, that he better go to the Final Four next year.
DAN WETZEL: I probably might have said that, yeah.
PAT FORDE: You did.
DAN WETZEL: Well, let's go! C-A-T-S, Cats, Cats, Cats!
PAT FORDE: There you go!
DAN WETZEL: It's like-- and Kentucky fans have sort of sagged, and they're, well, we don't have a lot of lineups, and I'm like-- it's like they've accepted it. I don't know. Maybe not. I know there's a lot of bitterness, but--
PAT FORDE: Yeah, they're bitter. They are really down on Cal. But, as you said, they're stuck with him, you know? What are you gonna do? You're gonna have to just ride it out, you know, hope he gets sick of you, because you can't pay him off to leave, so-- But, look, this team, I agree, the bracket draw gives them a great chance. Providence, I don't like them, although their best player is a Kentucky transfer, Bryce Hopkins, who, if he were on this Kentucky team, would really help them.
DAN WETZEL: I mean, that would be absolutely the humiliation of all humiliations.
PAT FORDE: Yeah, other than losing to St. Peters. That was the humiliation of all humiliations.
DAN WETZEL: Well, that's true. All right.
PAT FORDE: Yeah, and then, look, all right, you play K-State, as you said. Rookie head coach. They've had a very good year, but they also feel like they might have maxed out a while ago. Then you could end up with Marquette after that. Shaka Smart, speaking of coaches who should be on this list, and I think is on the list--
DAN WETZEL: Oh, he's on the list. Just-- Patience, grasshopper.
PAT FORDE: All right. I'll hold my information on that. But, anyway, like, the top half of the East Region, I think, is loaded, and the bottom half is there for Kentucky for the taking, if they're good enough. I don't think they're good enough. They've been so inconsistent. I mean, for this Vanderbilt team to beat them twice in the last three games, and they kind of punked them Friday in Nashville, and it was partly, look, Vandy shot well, but Kentucky doesn't defend. They don't guard anybody. It's the worst defensive team I've ever seen Calipari have. And that's a bad thing to have.
DAN WETZEL: I don't know what the heck happened. I just-- I mean, they were 38-0, and you're like, yeah, they ain't coming back to the Final Four for, like, seven, eight years. I mean--
PAT FORDE: Can you imagine what?
DAN WETZEL: I mean, this is Kentucky.