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Monday, April 7, 2014

The Sports Thread #2/The Final Two Title Game Preview Thread #2 For 4/7/14: The Teams of Perseverance - Clutching On Maturity

Photo from USA Today 

It would have been boring if they did go 39-0 and gone a whole season without any drama, any questions of inexperience, or severe tests of character before the title game. But John Calipari's 2013-14 Kentucky team wouldn't have given us the thrills of seeing their roller coaster development and create a masterpiece in maturation.

It's ironic and fitting that this Kentucky team, heaped with the label of possibly being the first side since Bob Knight's 1976 Indiana team to go perfect, were the ones to end Wichita State's undefeated season. It's like they replaced the Shockers as the unblemished side trying to create history instead of the team who massively disappointed up until that first weekend of the tournament.

Now two more weekends later, they are getting the results that most of us thought they would, but in a way that displays how the golden brick road isn't automatically given to high prized recruits, but so richly earned.

And it is a journey that is firmly the best one that John Calipari has undergone.

In a year that was starting to resemble last season's disappointment instead of the Anthony Davis' takeover season, Calipari could have lost another group of prized freshmen. He could have simply not have gotten the most out of his talent, as the John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe 2009-10 team end up being.

That roster's terrible free throw shooting was its major demise in not even making the Final Four, and it seemed the same thing would befall this team heading into the postseason. The Harrison twins were getting maligned all year, James Young showed usual small forward inconsistency, and Julius Randle had cooled off from every season #1 NBA Draft pick potential status.

Suddenly, in the SEC tournament, the chemistry started to finally click. Both Harrison twins started making better decisions, the defensive intensity was a little better, and the free throws (despite still being a really poor team) started to not kill them. The team's composure in the final moments of games after the final possession debacle in the SEC title game against Florida has been simply phenomenal.

Aaron Harrison, along with his brother Andrew, would have been foolish at the beginning of this tournament to think he would be a first round pick in the NBA Draft in June. Despite being a big point guard, he doesn't have a post game, isn't a tremendous passer, and won't ever be as quick as Shabazz Napier (the same can be said of his brother in comparison to Ryan Boatright too). He wasn't even that great of a shooter at only 36% from the college three-line this season.

But all of that has been forgotten over these magical last four games, where he has become as clutch as any postseason/big game performer in sports history. Forget any other nickname he has ever received, because "Clutch" is his new moniker. He has earned main last second protagonist billing that would make Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry even want to take notes.

The perception of him as an elite guard, from me to many others, has changed all the way. And for him, along with the rest of his Kentucky teammates, it is something that is far more rewarding than what a 39-0 record could ever have given them. 
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