By Kelton Brooks (@BrooksWeekly)
The Kentucky Wildcats became the first team to go 36-0 in men’s D-I college basketball history on Sunday.
And I want it to stay that way, for the Wildcats to finish the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished 40-0 record.
Winning the first 36 games of the season only to come up two rounds short of the Promised Land of capturing the Wooden NCAA National Championship Trophy leaves an empty feeling that a “better luck next time” and pat on the back will never fill.
In the grand scheme of things, a melancholy ink blot of a single loss behind 36 or 39 wins is meaningless, unless that loss came in the regular season.
In the next 10 to 20 years, when you’re scrolling through the archives of past NCAA championships, are you really going to point at the 2015 winner and say, “Well, man, I tell ya, the championship team was good, but that 30-something-and-1 Kentucky team was something special.”
Hutchinson Community College women’s basketball coach John Ontjes wanted to go undefeated after going 36-0 but lost in the game that matters most in back-to-back seasons.
“Most definitely. I wanted to see our team complete the journey of the possibility of going undefeated, especially after the effort and hard work they put into the year,” Ontjes said.
However, he did point out not to dismiss the journey it took to climb the undefeated ranks.
“It’s never any less meaningful (to go undefeated in the season and lose), but I think to go undefeated and lose in that game, you have to look back at the positives that occurred throughout the season,” Ontjes said.
And as for as what’s channeling through the mind of Kentucky coach John Calipari as he leads his team to uncharted territory, Ontjes said, “I think he’s not focused on going undefeated. He is focused on his next opponent and what they need to do to advance.”
To go 72-2 over the past two seasons is nothing to scoff at for Ontjes and Hutchinson, but 74-0 would have firmly cemented Ontjes and his team on an elevated pedestal in history.
Calipari won’t openly say his goal is to go undefeated, but his actions are screaming louder than the 20,000 raucous fans at Rupp Arena. After Kentucky eased through the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats oddly chose not to cut down the nets.
“We all forgot,” Calipari said after the win over Arkansas.
I’m not buying that if I had $1 million in the bank. Calipari knows what they have done thus far won’t mean a thing unless they’re cutting down the nets in Indianapolis on April 6.
And we’re fortunate to be witnessing history in the making right now with Kentucky. To survive the regular season and the gauntlet single-elimination tournament undefeated, that is a one-of-a-kind special that may never be duplicated.
Kentucky would sit all alone on the throne as the most prolific team in college basketball history.
Give me something that could last a lifetime. Give me something that can withstand the test of time without the slightest of trembling. Give me something that when I look at it, I think, “That may never be done again.”
On March 2, 1962, NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Kobe Bryant came somewhat close when he compiled an unworldly 81 points on the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006, but 100 points in a single game is a record that won’t perish.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in a season (14-0) and win the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the Patriots went 16-0 in the 2007 NFL regular season only to lose to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
And what do you remember about that game? The Patriots going 18-1, or the impeccable grab by David Tyree known as “The Helmet Catch?”
Or how about 1,406 career stolen bases by Hall of Fame leftfielder Rickey Henderson? Henderson has 468 more stolen bases than Lou Brock, who is second all-time.
The only way a player will catch Henderson is if they literally catch him jogging around the warning track of O.co Coliseum in Oakland and ask him how the heck did he steal more than 90 bases four times in his career, including 132 swipes in 1982?
LeBron James won’t be dropping 100 points in Quicken Loans Arena. Brady failed, and neither Peyton Manning nor Aaron Rodgers will lead their teams to a 19-0 season. And Billy Hamilton is about as close from the moon to the sun of Henderson’s stolen base record.
Not in this lifetime or the next, those records won’t be broken. A 40-0 season would rival those all-time, immovable marks in the record books.
I understand the essence of “March Madness,” too. Everyone is instantly smitten with the tourney David when the team seems poised to make an unforeseen run and flattens Goliath.
But this is history in the making. Kentucky has the chance to crown itself as not one of the greatest, but the greatest team in college basketball history.
We’re witnessing history.
Kelton Brooks is a writer for The Hutchinson News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.