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Remember 2011?


 

 

This weekend has been somewhat of a bust so far basketball-wise, so let’s take a quick trip back in time to the 2010-2011 season. It was John Calipari’s second season, and his first had ended somewhat unexpectedly with a loss to West Virginia in the Elite Eight, leaving fans a little disappointed at being so close, yet so far away to a return to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. Cal had what we have now come to expect in an elite recruiting class centered around point guard Brandon Knight, with shooting guard Doron Lamb and power forward Terrence Jones as the other jewels in the crown. Mixed in were a couple of team veterans- Darius Miller, the Kentucky boy, and DeAndre Liggins, a tenacious defender who my mom would describe as “edgy.” Fans were ready to continue the momentum from last season and become the dominant Kentucky team that we had lost during the BCG years.

 

But it wasn’t so easy. Kentucky lost early non-conference games to UConn (the eventual national champion) and at North Carolina (the team the Cats would face in the Elite Eight). After wins over ranked Notre Dame and Louisville teams, however, the Cats seemed ready to enter conference play and reassert their SEC dominance.

 

Except, they didn’t. Ranked 10th, the Cats dropped their SEC opener at Georgia, followed by losses at Alabama, at Ole Miss, at Florida, at Vanderbilt, and at Arkansas. Only Vanderbilt was ranked at the time. It was painful, guys. Entering the SEC tournament, the Cats were 22-8 (10-6 SEC). After winning the SEC tournament in a convincing win over #12 Florida, the Cats entered the NCAA tournament seeded fourth- considered a snub by many, seeing as how Florida earned a #2 seed. Yet everything came together for the Cats to make an unforgettable Final Four run that officially put UK back on the college basketball map. 

 

Guys, the sky is not falling at Rupp. I’ll be the first to admit I was completely dejected after yesterday’s game. There were several different aspects of Kentucky’s play that left me disappointed and wondering whether it was time to just give up on basketball until the Harrison twins move to Lexington. Well, it’s not that time yet. The 2010-2011 Cats are proof that a late-season turnaround is still possible. Conference play doesn’t always go as expected. Just because the SEC has been projected as a weak conference doesn’t mean that its teams will act like it. Ole Miss stepped up last night to beat #10 Mizzou and Texas A&M was completely unintimidated at Rupp. A 14-4 SEC record  could end up looking decent come seeding time, especially if it’s followed by a strong conference tournament performance.

 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from comparing the 2010-2011 Cats to this season’s team is this: chemistry takes time to develop. We were spoiled last year by how easily our guys clicked, and we’ve been quick to forget that for as well as Calipari’s recruiting works, it’s completely reasonable for a team to take more time to gel than we as fans are ready to accept. There is still time, guys. I’m not ready to write this team off yet, or talk about the NIT, or even use the phrase “bubble team.” We have a lot of playing left to do, and there’s still time for our guys to figure it out. Who knows- maybe we’ll look back at yesterday’s game as a turning point in the season. It just takes patience- patience from Cal, patience from the players, and patience from the fans.

 

The SEC tournament is in 58 days. Let’s see how this plays out. Keep the faith.

 

@KristenGeilKSR

Article written by Kristen Geil

53 responses to “Remember 2011?”

  1. jec

    thank you – although I was disappointed with this week end, I am more upset with the blasting these young men have been getting. They have all been winners in the past and I am sure this is new territory for them. Coach Cal still has time to work his magic. This team needs us to encourage and cheer them on, NOT to turn on them. Go Big Blue

  2. BigBrother

    Sorry but in my opinion there is a big difference. First, that team two years ago could flat out score the ball. This team is a terrible shooting team. Anytime you have a team who can fill it up from outside you are never out of a game and you always stand a chance. This team struggles to score. Second, that team two years ago had some returning experience mixed in with a #1 recruiting class. Liggins and Miller were both very good players who were Juniors. Jorts was a bonus that year. This team has no upperclassman leadership. Harrow is making huge strides and Harrow is actually, along with Noel, the only bright spots. This team is not good enough of a shooting team. We simply cant score therefore I dont see good things to come. 8-9 seed if we are lucky.

  3. Sheriff Buford T. Justice

    We are talking about a bubble team and rightfully so. The 2011 squad had veteran players and a defensive stopper. Yeah they lost some games early but you also have to keep in mind those were road games. That team, while struggling on the road still was able to defend the home court and were also able to pick up wins against good UL and ND teams as you mentioned. I get the point that this is a young team and that you can’t give up on these guys already but you can’t say that the distress felt by BBN at this point of this season is unfounded or unwarranted.

  4. Oliver Simmons red hair

    Comparing the ’11 to this squad is like comparing a Ford ranger to a superduty. NO comparing. I see your point about still being able to turn this around, but this squad lacks leadership, shooting, and toughness. Keep in mind the 2011 squad was one of the top shooting ky teams in along time. We had a lockdown defender, 3 good shooters and a tough big man in Harrelson. We should get better, but a final four birth with this team would be very shocking. I hope i’m wrong.

  5. bung

    that team and this team are similar in not pushing the break after a def rebound…bk liked to walk it up and get his shot out of the half court offense…coaches 1st and 3rd teams did a better job running the fast break…

  6. Fire Cal

    We won a championship last year, but that is no excuse for the NIT this year. We only except excellence.

  7. BigBrother

    Totally agree #3 and well said. That team two years ago had some stout wins and held serve at home. How embarrassing is it that we have already lost twice at home and really when you look at it both losses we got our ass kicked.

    I’ve been saying it for the past couple of weeks.. Cal has got to start keeping some of these kids. I understand if a kid is a for sure lottery pick then he needs to go but there are players from last years team who should have returned and not only would we be a much better team but those players (Teague and Lamb) would really helped their draft stock. Lamb should have never gone. Freaking second round pick and now in D league. WTF???? Teague, was one pick away from slipping to the second round. If he came back he could have easily been a lottery pick this year.

    Gotta stop pushing the “Borderline” draft picks out the door so fast. Jones in and out of D league, Lamb in D league, and Teague plays very little. I could make a strong case for all 3 that they all 3 should have returned for another year and Lambe even a fourth year.

  8. DB11

    Doesn’t surprise me that someone who misuses except/accept (#6) is so ignorant that he wants Cal fired.

  9. What???

    #6-We only except excellence? What does that mean exactly?

  10. 11>13

    The comparison between the 2010-11 squad and this year’s is ludicrous. The only similarities are team name, coach, and J Hood. That team as you mentioned had beaten Notre Dame and UL going into conference play this year we didn’t. They also didn’t lose a home game. Please stop comparing this team to any previous. They are what they are. Unfortunately, right now that is over hyped and average.

  11. bung

    it will be nice to have Hood available again…

  12. Blue

    #6 We only accept excellence except when grammar is involved.

  13. bmt22033

    I swear the Internet is simultaneously one of the best and worst technological creations ever constructed. People should have to pass a comprehensive test in order to make use of it.

  14. Just curious

    Just curious #7, have u personally tried to convince a 19 year old to walk away from a few million immediate $$? Should Cal just say please? C’mon, these guys know what their status is coming in. If u are ranked a top ten recruit, then ur mind is pretty much already made up that u r gonna spend one year in college regardless of where u go or who ur coach is. Quit dumping that all on cal.

  15. TJ

    This team lacks fire, pride and any killer instinct. Every game is a
    Guess on what we’ll see on the court. It makes all of us cynical about the rest of the season.

  16. Sarah White

    I said the same thing yesterday on another blog. And, to top it off, my husband and I were at every single one of those games. I live and work in TN, and my staff volunteered to pay for me to go to TN so we could lose. Turns out, we beat TN and that seemed another big turning point.

  17. bluefan

    Nice post, Kristen. I completely agree. Love these kids!

  18. Hurting

    bigbrother #7 has a lot of right on. One thing, if we lose all of them this year, I will be shocked. Nerlens is the only one that should leave and based on recruits coming in-all staying should expect to see some “pine time”. This is not all bad and should start another few years of having some good-getting-better players back to help with days like yesterday. I have to say I am disappointed in this year but only because of the success we have the past 3 years. I will not give up on Cal and this team until the buzzer blows for last time this season. Just hope that is in the NCAA in late march.. However reality says it could happen sooner and maybe in the dreaded NIT. We may be a bubble team but looking at the rest of College basketball, I do not see 63 other teams better. Sad part is some league champions that could not beat anyone in the tourneyment.

    Lastly, BIG day for past Murray choaches. Kennedy and Gottfried both were impressive yesterday. The real test for them is in the tournament, lets see how they do then, until then Good luck Coaches, great job yesterday.

  19. WOW!

    Russ Smith has a torn ACL and MCL.

    http://www.zagsblog.com/Louisville‘s-Russ-Smith-devastated-ACL-MCL

  20. TN Cat

    #16 Nice friends you have to send you somewhere in hopes you will be disappointed. I live in TN too. Obnoxious UT fans everywhere.

  21. shorthop69

    This team is going nowhere. Accept it. Move on.

  22. UK Homer

    I hope Cal and the players aren’t forgetting that great bit of advice: “Don’t let them steal your joy.” Don’t let trolls, critics, and disillusional fans make you forget you’re at the best basketball school, you have a great future, and you had to earn your way here. Also, the season isn’t over. This team could watch the game at MSU last season and expand that “down but not out” mentality from one game to this entire season.

  23. Butler 88 IU 86

    This team will rise and fall with someone stepping up as a leader. Cal is proven as a coach–but these guys have to buy in. Noel said yesterday it was time for the team to take responsiblity for itself. Best thing that could happen–Noel and or someone else needs to step up and be the leader. Its almost personal for him…..he hates to lose and you can see his game getting better because he is working on it everyday. Obviously he accepts what Cal tells him he needs to work on. The rest of the guys (save maybe Harrow and Mays) need to adopt that idea. We can still be a dangerous tourney team come March–but the margin for error is pretty much gone.

  24. UK Homer

    This year’s freshmen could pull a Liggins in 2 years if they stay. That’s the thing about UK: show a good attitude and improve and you’ll get 4 years of constant NBA exposure. It may take time (Miller, Liggins, Harrellson), but it’ll be there as long as Cal is here

  25. Chris

    I remember a team with two juniors and a senior in the starting lineup

  26. RealCatsFan

    The biggest thing that this team lacks is a defensive stopper like Liggins or MKG playing on the wing. In the past, we could put one of those guys on a player with a hot hand to shut them down, or at least slow them down. Of course, that still didn’t work against Downey of USC or Walker at UConn.

  27. Ken in Middletown

    #19-You’re kidding, right?

  28. Cats R Back

    Liggins, Harrellson, Knight, Miller, Jones, or Lamb aint walking through that door…

  29. UK Freshmen

    Wow. UofL is now #1. Congrats.

  30. Catlogic15

    #19- Didn’t I hear your mommy calling?

  31. Bob Loblaw

    I agree, there’s no comparing this team with the 2011 team. This team will be lucky to make the sweet 16. These players are playing like they already have their pro ticket punched. They are not playing up to their ability.

  32. catinthehat

    Why concerned about not having any quality non-conference wins and an SEC out for young Wildcat blood the Cats are my team and will get my support no matter what, in Cal I trust hopefully by the middle of SEC play the Cats will no longer be making Freshman mistakes and come together as a Team, play Cal’s outstanding defence and reach the potential of their talent to win the SEC Tournament and be the most dangerous underrated Team in the Big Dance, if not I believe next years Team could be pretty good!

  33. Sammydog

    Not every team develops no matter the talent level. Noel and Harrow can be coached. Willie too. The other freshmen aren’t buying what Cal is selling. It appears they don’t really understand the basics of basketball…floor position, boxing out, running and defending the pick and roll,how to attack a zone, how to feed the open man, how to inbound etc. They look more like a group of individuals running around on the court with no plan, no cohesion…like bumper cars. One would think they would be taught these thing in peewee basketball. A coaching staff as good as ours has to be teaching these things but they are not getting it. I also think they may play better on the road than in Rupp due to lack of confidence and fear of failure before a quiet, judgmental crowd. I think I heard a few boos yesterday. As individuals, they seem guarded. With the exception of Nerlens and Willie, they have not fallen into the open arms of BBN like Cal’s other teams. They are distant and difficult to relate to. This is not bashing the kids. This is just what I see from this team. Maybe they will come around but I have my doubts.

  34. CAUKFAN

    Thanks for the reality check. Things look a little bleak but I would never bet against Cal’s teams this early. Anything can happen.

  35. Hal

    love this site, but this is a terrible analysis.
    ’11 team:
    -had lamb & knight (& miller) to shoot the 3.
    -had 3-4-5 miller/jones/harrellson to rebound
    -had liggins to lock down other team’s best player
    -never lost at home and uconn (neutral) was eventual champion
    -MUCH beter road team:
    they lost @unc by 2, @uf by 2, @bama by 2, @miss by 2, @vandy by 4 and @ark by 1.
    even jones said on his post game that this team is certainly not that ’11 team.
    just put up a pic of hot chicks next time…..

  36. Syrin

    Yeah, I know people will think I am crazy, but I STILL believe this team can go far. We have one of the best centers in the country, and we now have a very good point guard. Those are your two key positions, and we are solid there. We looked good against Duke and UofL. I still think that Archie and/or Poythress will eventually “get it” before the tournament, and that will make us dangerous. If not, we are in trouble. Cal could try a little less verbal abuse IN GAME, and a little more support, and I think we’ll be good.

  37. CAUKFAN

    Speaking of reality check: If any of these kid really think they already have their pro ticket punched; they need a big fat reality check! I’m sure scouts are looking at these guys and shaking their heads right now.

  38. Syrin

    And oh yeah, there are NO dominant teams this year, so this is the year there will be a TON of upsets in the tourney, and anyone that’s an 8 seed or better has a legit chance to go far. Watch out for Butler.

  39. UK Freshmen

    Wow. UofL #1. Congrats.

  40. LongWay2Go

    All of the previous Calipari freshman laden teams have had three+ experienced Kentucky players. That probably helped the maturing progress with the freshman. This team does not have that luxury. Only one of our current freshman could contribute in the NBA next year. The other three should return. Last year’s team made it look too easy, but we had two exceptional freshman and three very solid experienced players. This is more difficult than it looks. Hope they can meld as a team, learn to space better on offense and position better on defense or it may not be pretty.

  41. Syrin

    #37, unless you know some scouts, you’re just speaking out of your ass. These guys get drafted on “potential” and this is a very weak draft.

  42. Card Troll

    39. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut eventually. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  43. Bob Loblaw

    #41 Only Nerlens has this “potential” you speak of. The others don’t even have that. At least we’ll see some of them here next year.

  44. Syrin

    #43 – yeah, so you say. Too bad your opinion means absolutely nothing, and NBA draft boards still have all those guys listed.

  45. dave

    38-maybe, but the past 20 years tells us that the team that wins the championship is already in the top overwhelmingly ranked in the top 8 already.
    past 10 years say runner-up (if it’s a bcs team) is prob. already in top 25 too. 3rd bsc team in final is already ranked & it’s about 50-50 that a 4th bcs final 4 team is already ranked.

  46. JLivermore

    Two home losses should be enough to counter any argument made that this team can be compared to Calipari’s first three. A trip to the Final Four would be a much more significant turnaround than in 2011.

  47. Bob Loblaw

    #44 Why so serious?

  48. Kevin

    I’ve been saying the same thing for a while: this is like the 10-11 season. I’m beginning to convince myself otherwise though. In 10-11, the main issue was chemistry and development of an identity. With this team, those same concerns are apparent, but other issues also seem to be present. Specifically, I don’t see a desire to compete, which is alarming. I hope I’m wrong and am simply being an alarmist, but something seems really problematic with this team. At any rate, I’ll be with them until the end. Go Cats!!

  49. Tampa Satchel

    “I’m not ready to write this team off yet, or talk about the NIT, or even use the phrase “bubble team.”

    Then you are in denial if you don’t believe an NIT appearance isn’t at least a possibility and probably quite likely. It is what it is and sticking our head in the sand won’t change things.

    For whatever reason this team just hasn’t clicked. That doesn’t mean they won’t. It just means that past performance is the best predictor of future performance and we have sucked (in comparison to years past) most of the time.

    I will continue to watch and hope for improvement, but each loss or even poorly played win edges me closer to football season and next year’s epic basketball recruiting class and team.

    To all the writers, commenters and fans who berate the purveyors of truth, I say to you that denial is not a river in Africa, but rather is defined as a psychological defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.

  50. Tularosa Tom

    Thank you Kristen. I’m breathing into a paper bag and backing away from the ledge.

  51. What

    @#7 – Lambs draft stock would not have got any higher at all. He came off of an amazing tournament and scored 22 in the title game. It was his best chance to leave. Without the elite athleticism, his draft stock was not getting any higher.

  52. The Juggernaut

    I’ve said this before but it’s high time we let go of the comparisons to 2010-11. Even if the teams were similar (and they aren’t, as many others have already pointed out), that 2011 team redeemed the season in large part by making a highly improbable run in the NCAA Tournament. If you’re banking on redeeming the season by making a Final 4 (or even Elite 8) run from a 4+ seed, the odds are extremely high that you will be disappointed.

  53. WRONG

    51- U R 100% WRONG. How could his stock not have gone up? He was picked in the late second round. Seriously, u have to be kidding.
    These arguments made by people defending kids who should not leave are hilarious. Do u really think the end of first or second round money is going to last those dudes? No frickn way.
    Lamb or Teague or both should have came back. They would have dominated and their stock would have rose BIGTIME.
    Its ok to disagree with some of these kids leaving as early as they do. Not everybody is Wall or Davis.
    I know you guys love Cal (as I do) but he has to stop pushing these kids out the door. Its ok to stay. And its ok to expect them to stay.
    Have a great day everybody and GO CATS!!