CLEVELAND — You may not like John Calipari.
You may find the Kentucky basketball coach a little too hard to take. That's OK. Plenty do.
You may not like the system.
You may believe that Kentucky's one-and-done culture is the absolute ruination of college basketball as we know it. That's OK. Plenty agree.
But you can't not like the kids.
Not the current Kentucky kids, the ones who enter Saturday's Midwest Regional finals against No. 3 seed Notre Dame with a ridiculous 37-0 record on the cusp of the school's fourth Final Four trip in the last six years.
I know, no one likes the prohibitive favorite in any tournament, but the story of this prohibitive favorite is how much they like each other.
"When we're together we're laughing like 15 hours a day," said Willie Cauley-Stein on Friday.
In fact, what the national media is learning on this tournament trail is something we've known all year, that this is a group of humble, respectful, likable kids.
Truth be told, in Calipari's six years in Lexington, there has been pretty much a succession of good kids.
That was a point of concern upon Calipari's Lexington's landing. Everyone agreed he was a fabulous coach who had done amazing jobs at UMass and Memphis. Along the way, however, Calipari had sometimes rolled the dice on players of questionable character and, well, those rolls hadn't always worked out.
That hasn't been the case at UK. Perhaps because of the program's tradition, facilities and exposure, Calipari hasn't had to cut corners on character to gather talent.
Now I don't profess to know every detail about every player who has come through the Joe Craft Center. Media access to today's athletes is not what it used to be in the past. We may think we know a player or a coach and then unknown details reveal themselves that shock or surprise us.
And yet from John Wall to Brandon Knight to Nerlens Noel to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Marcus Lee and a slew of others this year, Kentucky has had a core group of likable athletes who have represented the school admirably without a hint of trouble.
What about DeMarcus Cousins, you say? Boogie was certainly a big, immature kid his one year at UK, but his problems were on the court, not off. It's been the same way in the NBA. In fact, Cousins is currently among the most popular of ex-Cats.
As for this year's team, all it would have taken was one bad egg to upset Calipari's delicate balance. We're talking nine players who have sacrificed personal glory for what could be a historic achievement.
"It's tough sometimes, but when you're winning like this and you have so much talent on your team and all the guys get along, it's not like we have ego problems or anything like that so it's fun," said Andrew Harrison on Friday. "It's worth the sacrifice definitely.
West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins made a great point in the Wednesday run-up press conferences previewing Thursday night's game.
Calipari has any number of players "who think they can take over a game at any time," Huggins said. To get them to not act on that whim to the detriment of the team and instead play with the framework of a successful system is a vastly underrated skill.
Wednesday, it wasn't the nation's No. 1 overall seed that pounded its chest to try to intimidate West Virginia. Instead, it was the Mountaineers, especially a green freshman of a Mountaineer, who unleashed trash talk of the viral variety.
As a comeback, Kentucky's players kept their mouths closed and their throttle open. The scoreboard did their talking. Devin Booker's postgame "36 and won" tweet said it all and then some.
Saturday brings an opponent that also plays basketball the "right way." In the second half of Notre Dame's 81-70 Midwest semifinal win over Wichita State, the Irish put on an offensive clinic.
In this era of bully ball, it was refreshing to see a team that knows how to play good, classic offensive basketball.
Just as in this era of what's-in-it-for-me, it has been refreshing to follow a cast of Kentucky characters who play with character.
No matter what happens Saturday and beyond, that's something to love.