John Calipari March Madness failures: Kentucky coach's tournament record, notable upsets

John Calipari has gotten a ton of grief for perceived failures of his teams in March Madness. How has the legendary coach fared in the NCAA Tournament?

Vanderbilt v Kentucky
Vanderbilt v Kentucky / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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Despite a successful resume that includes a national championship and two more trips to the national championship game, Kentucky fans seemingly have had enough of John Calipari. There is no question that Calipari has been a strong coach for Kentucky, but the Wildcats' fan base doesn't feel as if he has done enough to justify his position with one of the sports' blue bloods.

Are Wildcats' fans right to feel like they can do better than Calipari? Let's take a look at the NCAA Tournament resume for the Hall of Fame head coach.

John Calipari's NCAA Tournament History

Calipari has posted a strong 38-12 record in the NCAA Tournament, a record that has been adjusted down after two appearances were vacated due to rules violations. Both of Calipari's Final Four runs away from Kentucky (with UMass in 1996 and Memphis in 2008) were wiped out but he does have four trips to the Final Four with the Wildcats, including the 2012 national championship and a runner-up finish in 2014.

Despite his resounding track record of success in March, things haven't exactly gone Calipari's way of late. If you break down his tenure, there is a clear turning point in the fortunes of the Wildcats in March Madness.

John Calipari's Biggest March Madness Failures

That turning point came in 2015, when Calipari built a juggernaut team that stampeded through an undefeated regular season and got to the Final Four looking to become the first perfect national champion since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Everything came crashing down when the Wildcats were upset by Wisconsin in the Final Four, a stain on Calipari's resume that Kentucky fans have never forgiven him for.

A lot of Calipari's success at Kentucky came as the result of loading up on one-and-done freshmen, which has left the program a bit flat-footed as more experienced teams have been winning in the NIL era. Kentucky's last two trips to March Madness have come up short as the Wildcats were the first victim of 15-seed Saint Peter's Cinderella run in 2022 and lost by six to Kansas State last year.

This year's edition of the Wildcats has been an offensive juggernaut that has struggled with defensive intensity. That recipe could lead to another March flop for Coach Cal and increase the heat on his seat from Kentucky fans.


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