We often get accused here for being UK homers and apologists (which no one would believe if they could watch a game with Rob Gidel, the Turkey Hunter and I), but we love well-written critiques and clever viewpoints more than anything else. Thus when I read the column below from the clever blog Complain in Vain, I was intrigued and impressed. Good writing….good metaphor….thus we shall share:
Here’s the problem with Kentucky basketball – it’s boring. In fact, last night, we thought we had the Kentucky game on, but upon a more careful look, the television was actually on CSPAN. There’s just not much excitement about the program. We don’t mean in the state of Kentucky, or among the Kentucky faithful, but for the national audience, they are boring. Think of the end of the Daytona 500, now think the opposite. The Wildcats’ games are predictable. They win the games they are supposed to win, and lose the games they are supposed to lose.
This season, when the Cats are favored by the Las Vegas books, they have a record of 16-1. When they are picked to lose by Vegas, the Cats are 2-7. And even that adds up to a boring record of 18-8. Winning 18-8 means Kentucky is not so good as to create a buzz for their amount of wins, nor is it so bad that one could say Kentucky is having a down year. If South Florida had a record of 18-8, it would be notable because that’s a terrific season for the Bulls. But Kentucky is not South Florida.
We remember, back in the late 90s, hating Kentucky with the passion that we hated Notre Dame football or the Yankees. They got the breaks, made the big shots, always made a run in the NCAA Tournament. We would not want to miss a Kentucky game, mainly to cheer for the other team. But now, who cares?
Take last night for example, Kentucky was favored at home over LSU by 9 points. Kentucky was trailing by 1 at the half, controlled the final 5 minutes of the game en route to a less than exciting 7-point win over a not-very-good LSU team. Even though the Cats were down big at one point, you just knew LSU did not have the firepower, especially without Glen Davis, to hang on in Rupp Arena. And so, Kentucky won by 7 over a team that fell to 14-13.
But it’s just not fun. We all know what Kentucky is destined for: a so-so run in the NCAA tourney. Right now, most projected tournament brackets have Kentucky slotted in the 6 or 7 spot for seeding. And you know what that means? Kentucky will win in round 1 over the 10- or 11-seed, likely as about a 6-point favorite. Then, Kentucky will lose 2 days later to a 3-seed when they are the underdog by about 6 points. Perhaps the Cats get lucky and face a lower seed who pulled off the upset, but that only gives them one more game to win before losing to a higher seed.
If you look more carefully at the records mentioned above regarding when Kentucky is favored and when they are not, this will make more sense. The Cats only loss as a favorite was at home versus Vanderbilt 4 weeks ago. And as we have found out since, Vandy is a pretty good team (good enough to beat Florida by 13). Kentucky’s “upset” wins are not surprising either. The Cats were 2-point underdogs in a rivalry game against Louisville and won by 12 back in December. The other “upset” came when the Cats, also as a 2-point underdog, defeated Arkansas on the road. Neither of those wins is all that interesting, or surprising.
If Kentucky was really struggling, then at least you could enjoy their struggles. Say, if the Cats were 14-12 right now and had lost to South Carolina or Santa Clara, then there would be some excitement from basketball fans – even if it was negative excitement. But no. Instead, they are mired down in being slightly-above mediocrity.
For example, take the North Carolina squad from 2002. That team comprised a record of 8-20, highlighted by back-to-back home losses to Hampton and Davidson to open the season, as well as a loss to Charleston, a 1-point win over Binghampton, and a 29-point home loss to Duke. Now that was a season worth remembering (for some). The Tar Heels were horrible. As a result, changes were eventually made and the Heels won the title 2 years ago. The really bad ended up in something really good down the road.
Instead of surprsing outcomes, Kentucky just plods along creating no excitement in any respect. And to tell you the truth, that has to be a tough place for Kentucky fans. The die-hards were there just prior to Pitino when the Cats were in trouble with the NCAA and not winning very often, and they were there when Kentucky made it to 3 consecutive championship games, winning 2 of those. But was does the 2007 version have to offer? Basically the same thing the 2006 and 2005 and 2004 teams offered – win games when you are favored, and lose them you are you underdogs. Consistent mediocrity is not Kentucky basketball. They are not a C+ basketball program, but they have been recently.
The 1992 squad that lost the heartbreaker to Duke in the regional finals was called “The Unforgettables.” The last few Kentucky teams could be collectively called “The Forgettables.” Not so much because they were they did anything badly, but because there is no way anyone will remember anything about the way they performed. No signature wins, but also no signature losses.
Simply put, if your buddy just started dating 2007 Kentucky, and a friend who had not met her asked about the new girlfriend, you would likely say, “She’s nice.”
While I might have some minor quibbles, overall I think this is a well-thought out piece. And it is from a blog…..and you know that makes me happy.