From 2009-2017, John Calipari and Kentucky were as dynamic and dominant a pairing as any in college hoops. In that span Kentucky logged more wins than any team in the sport and amassed a 249-53 overall record with five SEC regular season, five SEC Tournament titles, four Final Four appearances, a national runner-up finish and an NCAA championship.
The last six seasons and change have been anything but dominant since.
By normal college program standards, Kentucky has been very good since the start of the 2017 up until the present day, with 132 wins in that time frame — 18th most among all men’s basketball teams. But Kentucky is not a normal college basketball program and its fans, fair or not, do not have expectations of a normal fanbase. Amassing fewer wins since 2017 than Texas Tech and Auburn, among many others, is not the standard.
Ultimately, total wins matters very little if you’re producing in the postseason, but that has been scarce of late, too. Kentucky has zero Final Four appearances since 2015 and the steady crescendo of March Madness embarrassment in recent years has exacerbated things. A coach might be forgiven by the Big Blue in most circumstances, but not now after coming off consecutive disappointing postseason finishes in 2022 and 2023 — one that ended with a loss to 15-seed Saint Peter’s and the other (a second round loss to Providence) that extended its second-weekend NCAA Tournament drought to three seasons. (Both of which, by the way, preceded a 9-16 nightmare season.)
UK’s loss to Gonzaga at home on Saturday felt like another low point in what has been a slow spiral of sadness in Lexington. It was historic to boot, as it gave Kentucky its first three-game home losing streak since before Rupp Arena was even built in the late 1960s. Fittingly, Kentucky is the lead item of our weekly report card this week. — with a predictable ‘F’ heading its way. The Wildcats still have the future NBA talent to catch lightning in a bottle and make a run in March, but it has not performed this season like one of the most talented teams in the sport, and another disappointing tourney exit at this point seems imminent.
The rest of this week’s grades are below. As always, the grades are handed out based on the week that was, running from Monday-Sunday.