When Elston Turner sank his fortieth point at the free throw line to put Texas A&M up twelve with a minute and a half left, a stark, somber realization settled over me: this team isn’t very good.
Deep down, I’ve known for a while, but three seasons of Calipari squads kept me in denial. In the past (stop looking in the past!), the freshmen have always played beyond their years, inspiring the few veterans on the team to raise their level of play. There’s always been one player who we could rely on to lock down the opposing team’s best scorer and one player who would hit shots when we needed them.
This squad simply doesn’t have that. Nerlens Noel is great, but he can’t do this all on his own. Nor can Ryan Harrow, whose improvement has saved the Cats from potentially an even worse record. Archie Goodwin can either be a good scorer or a good defender, but he showed us Sunday that he’s not ready to be both at the same time. Willie Cauley-Stein’s potential is staggering, but he’s still realizing it. Alex Poythress? Glimpses of greatness overshadowed by lapses of laziness. Kyle Wiltjer has been reduced to a timid shadow of his former self. I love Julius Mays, but for him to be a real factor, he’s going to have to hit threes when they matter most.
And you know what? It’s okay that this team’s not very good.
“What?!” You cry, “No, it’s not okay! This is Kentucky! A bubble team?! Blasphemy!”
Never have we ever been so spoiled and so out of touch with reality. Only now can we fully realize how special last team’s squad was, how they instinctively knew things that even the most talented veteran teams still fail to master. Sorry kids, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ain’t walking through that door.
Is there still time for this group to get it together? Of course. But, instead of pulling my hair out waiting for that to happen, I’m going to put down my expectations and accept this team for what they are right now: a young group searching for answers. Instead of becoming a Maryland fan in hopes that their wins will boost our resume, I’m going to step back from the ledge and watch this group grow. If it takes three or four more losses as Cal said it might this morning, then so be it. I just hope they learn from it.
It could happen. If everyone on the team “buys in,” as Cal would say, there’s a legitimate chance this team could surprise us all and gel just in time for the postseason. Could this be the team that has to win the SEC Tournament in order to make the Big Dance? If so, would it be the most rewarding conference title in recent history?
It’s time to sell stock in “will” and buy in “can.”
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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