It’s that time of week again. Time to take an unbiased look at what’s happening with Coach Cal, World Wide Wes, and the overly-hyped freshmen who seem to comprise the UK roster each year. This season, the team hopes to make the NCAA Tournament, obtain a favorable draw, and a relatively simple path to the Final Four. They also hope against hope that unlike the previous Final Fours in which John Calipari has coached, this one will stick. For those who want to stay informed and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
* Just Lose It: After UK beat Florida last Saturday, Kentucky celebrated John Calipari’s 500th career win. However, as we reported earlier this week, this is not true. We reported that the win over the Gators was actually career victory #458, thanks to vacated wins at UMass and Memphis. Upon further review, though, it appears we jumped the gun. Calipari has not won 459 career games. The correct number is actually much lower. In 2009, his Memphis team was credited with 33 wins. But, that team included one Tyreke Evans, who chose to play at Memphis simply because Derrick Rose did. Since Rose was ruled ineligible after the 2008 season, it stands to reason that Evans’ entire basis for picking the Tigers was fraudulent. So scratch those 33 wins. Also, does anyone really think John Wall would have chosen UK if not for the success Cal had with Rose and Evans? Of course not. See you later, 35 wins from the 2010 season. In addition, several calls to former players and opponents of Calipari revealed that in a win UMass had over Xavier in 1994, they used a basketball that was not regulation. So scratch that victory from the books. Likewise, in a 2002 Memphis win against Cincinnati, the guy who kept the clock was later arrested for writing a bad check. So there goes that win. Research is still being conducted, but as of now, it appears that Calipari’s actual career victory total is just 389 and shrinking.
* Ain’t No Half-Steppin’: Last season Kentucky’s record in games that were decided by no more than 5 points or in overtime was 8-0. Before the Cats edged Vandy (thanks solely to an off game from SEC Player of the Year John Jenkins), that record this year was 0-6. The obvious conclusion? John Calipari is regressing as a coach. One would think that in his second year at the school, his players would have a better understanding of his system, and would be better able to execute in late game situations. However, this is not the case. Apologists will predictably say that last year’s team was simply better at closing out games, getting stops, making plays, etc. However, if Cal had spent more time actually coaching basketball, as opposed to writing books, writing on his Twitter account, answering mailbag questions, and initiating fundraisers, maybe he’d have a few more wins to show for it.
* Still Not a Player: Much has been made of Kentucky’s 6 man rotation this season, and the Cats’ lack of depth is often cited as the primary reason that a long postseason run isn’t in the cards. John Calipari has often said that he “can’t use” players who don’t produce. One of these players he apparently “can’t use” is center Eloy Vargas, who backs up senior big man Josh Harrellson. However, is it really true that Vargas doesn’t produce? Could it be that he is the missing piece preventing UK from achieving its goals of a deep run in March? Consider:
> Harrellson missed 60 shot attempts this year; Vargas has only missed 23;
> Harrellson has missed 7 three pointers, while Vargas hasn’t missed any;
> Harrellson has missed 11 free throws, Vargas has just missed 9;
> Harrellson has 20 turnovers, to Vargas’ 11;
> Harrellson has committed 72 fouls, compared to the 31 committed by Vargas
> Vargas was a highly rated recruit who originally played for former national champion Florida, while Harrellson is a junior college transfer;
> Vargas is taller and speaks one more language than Harrellson.
Of course, with all this in mind, one has to wonder why Harrellson has played 540 more minutes than Vargas this season. Could it be that the criticisms of Calipari as a “bad bench coach” have some merit? One more piece of damning evidence against Cal’s failure to use Vargas: The 2 points he scored in the recent win against Vanderbilt proved to the be the difference in the ballgame.
* Happy Birthday: Finally, a Happy Birthday to Brandy Pearl. The wife of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl turns 18 this week.