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Big Bracket Nation: Sweet 16

The second round of the single-elimination tournament to determine John Calipari’s most outstanding player

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

John Calipari hasn’t held an official position in the NBA since the turn of the century, but his fingerprints are all over the league as we know it. Coach Cal has only one NCAA title to his name, but in just nine seasons in Lexington, he’s turned the University of Kentucky into an assembly line for professional players — both in the NBA and in leagues across the globe. This week, we’re exploring Kentucky’s and Calipari’s impact on the basketball world, and whether or not his one-and-done blueprint has staying power at both the college and pro levels. Welcome to the Kentucky Basketball Association.


The NBA has hardly been kind to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Drafted no. 2 overall in 2012, the scrappy wing defender with a big heart and a broken jumper has struggled to find his place in a league that prioritizes shooting more than it ever has before. As our boss noted recently, the drop-off in the draft from Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, the no. 1 overall pick, to MKG ranks among the steepest in recent history.

But let it be known: Kidd-Gilchrist is still not to be fucked with in the single-elimination format.

Six years after helping to power the Wildcats to John Calipari’s only national championship, Kidd-Gilchrist has accomplished an even greater feat: He’s the only player in the Big Bracket Nation to upset a higher seed. MKG, the 5-seed in the East Rutherford Region, took down 4-seed Enes Kanter by just over 1,000 votes. The result makes a certain kind of sense. While MKG ranks among the most prominent figures of Calipari’s UK run, Kanter has literally no college track record to fall back on after being forced to sit out his only year at Lexington. And while the big lug’s back-to-the-basket game routinely places him among the most efficient offensive players in the NBA, his defense is so bad that his own coach admitted that he couldn’t play him in the playoffs. Kidd-Gilchrist still has a long way to validate his 2015 contract extension, let alone his draft position, but there was a time not too long ago that he was building a case as the next No-Stats All-Star.

Some other notes from the first round:

  • Patrick Patterson advances past Nerlens Noel in another close 4–5 matchup, but his win comes in spite of losing the Twitter vote. Noel, who is technically an NBA center despite Rick Carlisle’s best efforts, beat out Patterson by 8 percent on social media. But Pat Pat, as only The Ringer’s Danny Chau calls him, made up the difference in the on-site polls. Quite the win for veteran savvy and veteran media.
  • We knew some of these would be unbalanced, but, man, did Joey Dorsey get stomped. Dorsey — the “Last Player In” in bracketology parlance — managed just over 300 votes in his matchup with Davis, by far the fewest of the 32 participants. Related: Hours before the bracket launched, Davis turned in a points-rebounds-blocks triple-double on his 25th birthday. Pray for his next opponent, Brandon Knight.
  • RIP, Jorts.

And now, Round 2:

To recap: We want you to include the quality and the quantity of a player’s contributions at both levels into your evaluations, but we’re skewing more toward the consideration process for the Basketball Hall of Fame: College careers matter, but NBA careers matter more.

The polls for each round will open — both here and on Twitter (@ringer) — around 9 a.m. ET every morning, and close at 8 p.m. ET each night. The Elite Eight will be Wednesday, the Final Four is Thursday, and the grand finale is Friday. You can vote only once, so make it count.

Lexington Region

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 99%
    (1) Anthony Davis
    (7513 votes)
  • 0%
    (4) Brandon Knight
    (72 votes)
7585 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    (3) Tyreke Evans
    (1852 votes)
  • 75%
    (2) Marcus Camby
    (5688 votes)
7540 votes total Vote Now

Memphis Region

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    (1) John Wall
    (7292 votes)
  • 3%
    (4) Patrick Patterson
    (271 votes)
7563 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    (3) Jamal Murray
    (1997 votes)
  • 73%
    (2) Derrick Rose
    (5560 votes)
7557 votes total Vote Now

Amherst Region

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    (1) DeMarcus Cousins
    (7313 votes)
  • 3%
    (4) Willie Cauley-Stein
    (258 votes)
7571 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    (3) Julius Randle
    (3283 votes)
  • 56%
    (2) Eric Bledsoe
    (4234 votes)
7517 votes total Vote Now

East Rutherford Region

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    (1) Karl-Anthony Towns
    (7159 votes)
  • 4%
    (5) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
    (373 votes)
7532 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which Coach Cal player should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    (3) De’Aaron Fox
    (1454 votes)
  • 80%
    (2) Devin Booker
    (6089 votes)
7543 votes total Vote Now