It’s the morning after and I’m sitting in the Houston airport wasting time until my flight back to Nashville. Last night’s game is still depressing, but honestly, the disappointments are becoming the norm this season instead of the exception, so I can’t say I’m all too surprised.
While I try to avoid awkward airport eye contact, here are some things on my mind as I reflect on the first three-game losing streak of the John Calipari era.
This team is lost
KSR didn’t send me to College Station to report what anybody with two eyes can see, but I was amazed at how bewildered this Kentucky team looked last night, particularly in the second half. This group has definitely regressed, looking miles away from the team we saw in the earlier part of the season, or even the second half vs. West Virginia. During the game and after, Calipari looked more frustrated than ever, and honestly, exhausted. He insists that he’s not cracking or giving up — his manic and fervent behavior on the sidelines is proof he’s trying — but based on his body language, I think he’s battling with the realization that he just might not be able to get through to these guys.
What is going on with Hami?
That last point is nowhere more apparent than his interactions with Hamidou Diallo. Diallo has chirped back at Calipari numerous times this season, but their relationship looked like it was on thin ice last night. Hami had to sit most of the first half due to foul trouble, but it speaks volumes that Brad Calipari contributed more in the first half than he did (that defensive rebound may have been the highlight of his dad’s birthday). As the team came back onto the floor for the second half, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Hami was the last player out of the locker room, preceded by John Calipari, who was throwing his hands up in exasperation.
Hami’s erratic behavior isn’t just directed at Calipari; more than once last night, he argued with his own teammates. After getting whistled for a foul, he turned around and lit into Quade Green. WTF? Hami had 13 points in the second half, but even points don’t make me feel better about him right now.
Who is capable of leading this team?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the obvious answer, but is he willing to take over the locker room? It’s not going to be Hami. Kevin Knox can do it on the court, but lacks consistency. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones are veterans, but are best as role players. Calipari has tried numerous times to hand the reins to PJ Washington, but he has yet to follow through. That leaves Jarred Vanderbilt, Quade Green and Nick Richards. Can someone give Quade his sunglasses back? Maybe that will help.
Seriously, I miss this team:
The Johnny Football sideshow became my main entertainment
As the action on the court got more and more depressing, I began to turn more and more of my attention to Johnny Manziel, the beloved Aggie quarterback seated on the baseline right in front of me. Johnny Football’s presence made an already big night huge for Aggie fans, who made signs in his honor and completely lost their mind when he walked in. There’s never a dull moment with Johnny, who became a sideshow all his own. His entourage included his Megan Fox lookalike fiancée — the first person I’ve ever seen pair a t-shirt with four inch Louboutins — a few friends bedecked in Bape and Johnny jerseys, and, oddly enough, a small, adorable dog, which one of said friends in Bape was tasked with watching the entire time.
There were also three women in charge of keeping autograph/selfie seekers away from Johnny, probably the most difficult job of the night. To be fair, he granted the requests that got through — although there was a rumor going around that he started charging $20 per picture in the second half. I really hope that’s not true.
The other Matt Jones is in on the joke
When I saw Dave Flemming was calling this game, I knew I had to get my picture with him just so I could tag Matt in it. I managed to find a moment before the game to introduce myself and I’m happy to report that he couldn’t be nicer. He’s also well aware that he’s Matt’s doppleganger and was therefore pretty curious about KSR. Shoutout to him to being a good sport. Sadly, he’s not working any more Kentucky games this season, so our dream of a Matt/Dave reunion will have to wait.
It’s almost time to board and I’m too cheap to pay for United’s Wifi, so I’ll end with this: I’d like to think last night was rock bottom for this team, but after seeing them up close and personal, I just don’t know. Prior to this trip, I had a weird feeling that, regardless of what happened vs. A&M, Kentucky would upset Auburn just for the sheer absurdity of it all — shame on us for giving up so early! — but watching them aimlessly flail around brings me back to a telling quote from Calipari after the game.
“Each week that goes by, it gets harder and harder to get this thing where you want it to go. At some point, you’re right — you’ve gotta have somebody step up and say hey, enough is enough.”