1. John Calipari Is The Undisputed King Of College Basketball
The largest piece of ammunition John Calipari haters had at their disposal went the way of the wooly mammoth on Monday night as Coach Cal finally landed his first NCAA title.
Not only did he finally achieve his supreme goal, but Calipari's three-week run was about as close to a perfect storm of personal vindication as a person could hope for.
The Wildcats dominated in the first two rounds of the tournament, which they were able to play in their home state and inside an arena where their arch-rival had previously said they were unwelcome to take the floor. Then they got revenge against border rival Indiana, the only team that had defeated them in the regular season. The Final Four in New Orleans -- the site of UK's only other loss (to Vanderbilt in the SEC championship) this season -- was the sweetest stage of all for Calipari and Kentucky, which dispatched hated Louisville and public enemy No. 1 Rick Pitino on Saturday, before dominating the same team and coach that ripped Cal's heart out in the 2008 title game.
That's about as close to a perfect month as a person could ask for. If Calipari and the Wildcats played the NCAA on Tuesday night, there would probably be banners put back up at Memphis and Massachusetts by Wednesday morning.
Calipari was already the unquestioned king of the recruiting world, a status which assisted in making him college basketball's "hottest" name. With a national championship under his belt, he's now the man on top of every aspect of the sport.
2. Doron Lamb Was, Is And Will Be, Vastly Underrated
Kentucky has had extreme next-level talent in each of the past two seasons and still not won the NCAA championship. The difference in 2012 was the possession of a healthy combination of top-tier NBA talent and college talent. The leader of the latter group all season has been Lamb, a deadly spot-up shooter who can create for himself and teammates off the dribble, but isn't going to make a living that way.
On Monday, The Wildcats' unassuming second-leading scorer did what he's done throughout his sophomore year for Coach Cal and company: stick the open shot and find teammates when he's covered. He drilled 3-of-6 shots from beyond the arc -- including back-to-back daggers during a key stretch in the second half -- dished out three assists, and finished with a game-high 22 points.
Kentucky has become so synonymous with the NBA in recent years that it's caused one of its best players to go almost totally overlooked because of his lack of lottery pick status. It will be a little harder for that to continue after what Lamb did in UK's biggest victory in 14 years.
3. The Best Team Won The National Championship
Although unpredictability plays an indisputably large role in the appeal of March Madness, I think I speak for all college basketball fans in saying there is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes with knowing the game's best team cut down the nets on the first Monday in April. You want the tournament to be exciting, but you also want it to accomplish what is still its ultimate goal: crowning a worthy champion.
From the beginning of the year, this felt like Kentucky's to lose. It was a status cemented with a home win over fellow preseason favorite North Carolina in December and further locked down by heading into the NCAA Tournament with just two red X's on their resume. The Wildcats then left no doubt in the big dance, nearly leading from start to finish in each of their games and ultimately winning all six by at least eight points.
Analysts will debate this team's place in history for years to come, but it's a discussion the Cats earned by playing up to their vast potential instead of going into cruise control mode once March rolled around.
4. Anthony Davis Is Better Than Thomas Robinson
It wasn't quite Magic/Bird, but there was a point this season where the Anthony Davis vs. Thomas Robinson debate got pretty heated. The fans of the freshman were the ultimate victors, as Davis claimed all eight of college basketball's major national player of the year honors.
Davis backed up the validity of his individual achievements on Monday, controlling the game despite connecting on just one of his ten field goal attempts. He grabbed 16 rebounds in a game where Kentucky dominated the glass for 30 minutes, tied a finals record with six blocked shots and altered countless others, and also dished out a team-best five assists.
Robinson's stat-line was fittingly gaudy -- 18 points and 17 rebounds -- but he appeared frustrated for much of the night, even drawing a "stop it., shut up," from head coach Bill Self during a timeout at one point. He was never timid when he got the ball around the basket, but against Kentucky that's little more than an invitation to have your shot blocked. It happened to Robinson several times and he finished the evening 6-of-17 from the field.
Ultimately, the team rivalry played out in the same way the individual one did: with Davis, the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, on top.
5. Bill Self Deserves To Have His Name Mentioned With The Nation's Most Elite Coaches
Self took a team that lost nearly all of its scoring from last season's top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, which possessed no McDonald's All-Americans and an equal amount of leadership, and turned them into the national runners-up. The relative deficiency in talent had Kansas looking like it was playing a different sport than Kentucky at times on Monday, but it never stopped competing and still had a realistic chance at pulling the upset in the game's final minutes.
No one did a better job of getting the most out of what he had this year than Self, who now has earned his spot in the "Coach K, Calipari, Williams, Izzo, Pitino, Calhoun, Boeheim, etc." conversations.
6. The 'Rock Chalk Jayhawk' Cheer Is Still Incredibly Creepy
I'm not going to argue the irritability that comes with "C-A-T-S, CATS! CATS! CATS!" or "Go Big Blue!," but at least they're not creepy or awkward. "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" sounds cool when thousands of people are doing it together inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but on the streets of New Orleans it just sounds...well, creepy and awkward.
First, there's the fact that it sounds like a church chant. "College basketball as religion" is supposed to just be hyperbolic, anything more and things get uncomfortable. Then there's that awkward lull after the chant ends when the participants aren't sure if they can launch into their post-chant scream session yet. That's not fun either.
I suppose it's fun if you're the one shouting it (that's generally the allure in these situations), but the experience isn't a pleasant one for the casual onlooker.
7. The One-And-Done Rule Still Sucks
How much fun would it be to see what this Kentucky team could do next year? Seriously.
A baseball-esque rule forcing guys to stay in college for a minimum of two years wouldn't guarantee us more time with Lamb or Terrence Jones, but another year of Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague would be tremendous for college basketball. The trio has already established a legacy in Lexington and no one can blame them for making the jump, but seeing another group of Wildcats wear the uniform for only four and-a-half months still makes the whole thing feel just a little bit cheap.
Let high school kids make the jump to the pros if they think they're ready, but if they do choose to go the college route, give us at least two years to watch them do their thing. The game would be improved considerably if that became the situation.
8. Kentucky Fans Are All About "8"
From holding up eight fingers in pictures to shouting "eight" and wearing shirts with "8pril" on them, Kentucky fans were all about the fact that Monday night represented their eighth national championship.
It seems a bit strange considering that the mark isn't especially significant and doesn't move them past, or even into a tie, with UCLA's historically-best mark of 11. I think more than anything it's just that "eight" is a word that's fun to say and pleasing to the ears. I'm thoroughly enjoying typing it right now.
I doubt you'll see the same centering of attention on "nine," when Kentucky next tastes a title. A classic case of discrimination that nine -- the Cooper Manning of numerals 6-10 -- has to be used to by this time.