Kentucky survived a late run from UNC on Sunday, and just like that, Kentucky's back in the final four, right where we all expected them to be—last year, anyway. In 2011, the 'Cats were supposed to fall off, especially after the NCAA made made top five recruit Enes Kanter ineligible.
To some, it's John Calipari's best achievement yet. He's no longer just a slick-talking recruiter in an expensive suit; he's a slick-talking recruiter in an expensive suit that can flat-out COACH.
But for all the credit headed Calipari's way, Big Blue Nation owes as much gratitude to his polar opposite. That would be Josh Harrelson, the guy who replaced Kanter, and saved UK's season.
In addition to having a Dad that scares the crap out of everyone and being an OUTSTANDING candidate for every Chris Kaman Memorial Awkward Photo Of The Day, ever, Harrellson's positioned himself in the Jeff Sheppard mold for Kentucky. You know, the guy without a prayer of playing at the next level who beats the odds to become one of the most important players on a title team.
Kentucky's not there yet, and neither is Harrelson, but now that they've made it to the Final Four, it has to be said: Where the hell did Josh Harrellson come from? Calipari oozes charisma, his players oozes athleticism, and the Kentucky has more blue chip pedigree than anybody in the country. Harrellson has NONE of that. Two years ago, his greatest claim to fame was getting locked in a bathroom by Kentucky's old coach, Billy Gillispie.
Gillispie was upset with his freshman's play, so he locked him in the bathroom during a game at Vanderbilt, and then, in a fit of spectacular dickishness, made Harrellson ride home in the equipment van rather than with the rest of his teammates. And yet, here we are.
Just when it looked like, without Kanter in the middle, Kentucky would have to write this season off as a missed opportunity, Harrellson's emerged as the prototypical blue collar center, anchoring UK on defense, and pulling down rebounds on offense. I say this as a Carolina fan who was completely flabbergasted watching Harrellson consistently win rebounding battles with much better (and softer) UNC big men on Sunday. And he's been doing it all year.
11 points, 8 boards, and 3 blocks against Tyler Zeller and John Henson isn't going to make Harrellson a lottery pick anytime soon, but on a team full of future pros, it's just the extra push that Kentucky needed to turn what began as a Final Four pipe dream into a reality.
Call this year a testament to Calipari's talents as a coach, but let's be honest, without Josh Harrelson, the 'Cats would be at home right now. I know VCU is the story of March Madness, but seriously... When everyone had written them off, Josh Harrellson saved Kentucky's season.
How crazy is THAT?