This is what happens when you are forgetful. Normally this Sunday night slot is mine, but since we are out of town, I meant to find someone else to do it. I forgot and so I have had to leave my seat at the Lagasse Sports Bar (where we cashed 5 of 6 tickets today…money on the second half NFL lines…not money when betting against Eric Bledsoe) to come give some notes. It has been a fun trip, highlighted by a bizarre interaction with Jay Z (he wasnt fond of my picture taking), Drew hurting relations with Germany and watching a random person win a million bucks. But we will get to that on the radio show this week (live tomorrow from Las Vegas at 10-noon, 7 am local time). For now, a few quick thoughts on the weekend in UK sports land:
— I am not nearly as down about the UK loss to UNC as others seem to be. I saw a lot I liked about the UK performance, specifically the continued improvement of the Harrison Twins. The Twins gave their best game of the year and Andrew Harrison was a baller throughout the contest. While they made many mistakes (and Andrew’s passing and free throw shooting still need much work), they looked like guards who can be elite, and we havent seen that for all the games this season. I also loved the fight of these Cats…on the road, with the crowd into the game and UNC shooting well, the Cats fought and stayed in it. They didnt get anything from Julius Randle (who had his worst game at UK), but they found a way to grind and got to the basket at will. It wasn’t perfect (clearly because they lost), but there were good signs in this loss and thus I am not apocalyptic at all.
— With that said, it is clear that I/we overrated this team at the beginning of the year. I thought this team was going to roll…I never thought 40-0, but I did think they would get through the year with only 2 or 3 losses and would put some beat downs on teams…and that simply isnt happening. The loss to Baylor hurt (the Mich St and UNC losses arent the worst thing), but more importantly, the team just hasn’t gelled like I suspected they would. There are a lot of theories as to why, and depending on who you talk to it could be the players being overrated, the fact that you cant win without a few veterans or that Calipari hasn’t done a good job finding how to get this group to play together. I can’t pinpoint the reason to my satisfaction yet (there are nuggets of truth in all the above but there are also counter points as well), but regardless of the why, the fact remains that I missed the boat on how good they would be right out of the gate. I still think the talent is there and this team can be excellent by the end of the year. But I no longer think that is certain and a lot remains up in the air. You win some and lose some in the prediction game, and on this one, I didn’t make solid contact.
— There has been a lot of negativity around UK land (from what I have seen from afar) since the UNC loss and I can understand that. People want this team to get #9 and right now that feels like a long way away. And most of the points made, while occasionally blown out of proportion, are understandable and valid, as the problems are evident. But two things are being said that I definitely do not agree with on the topic. One is the idea (to be fair, put out by one of our writers on this blog) that Kyle Wiltjer would have helped this team significantly. Look I love Kyle, but the problem on this team is defense more than anything else. The Cats are still 5th in the country in offensive efficiency, but it is there 59th place finish in defense that is causing issues. Wiltjer would have only hurt in that regard and probably would have played little. He could have been of major impact next year (when they will play a different style I assume), but I dont see any major change if he were on the team. As for the notion of “leadership” of a veteran, Kyle was quiet and not the leader type. I would not see him taking that role this year either. Second, this team is not like last year. Yes, they are struggling and yes they have been overhyped. But last year’s team was fundamentally flawed and then collapsed when its best player went down. This team has all the pieces there, but the question is only if they connect. They clearly arent 2012 (which I thought they might be), but it is also clear that they arent 2013 either.
— While there are opinions to the contrary, I now feel good about Matt Elam to Kentucky. This could of course change, but with just a couple weeks to go, a source I trust has made me feel that Kentucky is still in the driver’s seat. Most around his area believe Alabama will be the pick and one certainly wouldn’t be shocked to see him pick the best program in college football. But as of now, I like where he stands and when I make my first 247 Sports Crystal Ball picks this week, I will put Elam in the Kentucky category.
— Finally, a shout out and prayers to Stevie Johnson, who played after his mother’s passing this weekend. The picture above is him at the game today and we wish nothing but the best for one of the most fun (and talented) players to walk the sidelines in Lexington.
Tune in the show in the morning and we will be back in Kentucky and towards normality around here by tomorrow night.