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After Further Reflection: Maui in Review

So I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving day and is enjoy the time with their families. We took a rare day off from the blogging world yesterday, but are back with a vengeance. There is actually a lot coming later tonight, including Ravi Moss’s thoughts on the Maui Invitational, a preview of UT-UK football (non-serious) and a big update on Marshall Moses that you will want to hear.

But first a couple of thoughts from the beautiful island this weekend:

Upon further reflection this weekend, while trying not to pass out after the turkey, I have come to the conclusion that this week was a mixed bag for the basketball team. While many were on here after the games arguing either (a) that there was nothing wrong with this team or (b) that the sky is falling and we should hire Dave Bliss to be the new coach, after some reflection, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Here are my positives and negatives from Maui:

POSITIVES:

(1): Beginning to emerge before our very eyes is the Randolph Morris that Kentucky has expected since he arrived on campus. Morris was the only Cat to play well in all three games on the island and he is becoming the dominant force that we have all been waiting to see. The Chicago Tribune, a great paper only soiled by employing Jay Mariotti, called Morris the top Pro Prospect on the island. In addition, I spoke to my resident NBA scout who told me that “Randolph Morris is now officially on the pro radar. He is becoming what we knew he could be…..a scorer and a guy who can control things on the offensive end. Morris is officially the cornerstone to this team and keeping him on the court and scoring for the Cats is essential…..he did both in Maui.

(2): Those of us who have been singing the praises of this recruiting class are slowly being proven correct. Many called last year’s class “mediocre” because there were no McDonald’s All Americans or guys who played games on ESPN. But the start of the season has shown that they are perfect players for the UK system. Derrick Jasper will be the best college point guard in this class….mark it down. Lawson at UNC, Crittendon at Georgia Tech and others will be quicker to the pros…..but Jasper will be a GREAT player for UK for years to come. Meeks is showing why he was considered such a scorer, Stevenson had a so-so Maui trip but you can see the potential ooze out of him and Michael Porter who was written off by everyone who had never seen the kid play one game is showing why he is a future UK starter…..heady and a good shooter….two things UK teams have lacked in recent years. Folks this class is the real deal and should be the benchmark for what a Tubby Smith class SHOULD be.

(3): The UCLA game is a very encouraging performance for this team. UCLA may have the third best talent in the country (behind UNC and Florida), and is athletic at virtually every position. Kentucky did something that they simply would not have done last year. They took a very good team’s best punch, falling behind by 17, and came back….toe to toe before losing at the end. It bears repeating that if Ramel Bradley catches that pass, shoots the open three and makes it, UK likely wins and MAYBE leaves the island 5-0 to shouts that this team is for real. While that may have been premature, the UCLA game stands as encouragement for those who believe that UK may be a different team this year.

NEGATIVES:

(1): The performance in the second half against Memphis was downright lousy. There are many reasons why this may have happened…..five games in eight days….mental exhaustion….bad matchups….blah, blah, blah. But in a tournament that up until that point had been full of good, the end leaves a sour taste in the collective mouth of the UK fanbase. You simply cant lose like that, regardless of the situation. That game will end up being one that I believe will haunt UK through the season. I thought the Cats could withstand three out of conference losses and be fine….UNC will now (likely) be the third and thus the team will have to run the table until January….including victories over rivals Louisville and Indiana. Losing to Memphis, especially in the way it happened, is a loss will haunt the Cats and could be the worst legacy of the island.

(2): Where oh where is Bobby Perry? Why did he leave us here all alone? We searched the world over and thought we had a small forward….he met a bad jumpshot and MMMPPPPHHHH, his game was gone. Perry has been a true disappointment as this early season has developed. His point production hasnt been terrible but the parts of his game that had previously been his hallmark, defense and team control, have completely left him. All three games on the island saw Perry SITTING during crunch time with Meeks, Jasper or Sheray taking his spot. This may have been the most unlikely development of the year as Perry has played at crunch time always over the past two seasons. Remember the old Jay Bilas adage. To win a big game, you need three stars. Morris seems to be a consistent one. Crawford or Bradley seem to alternate the second star…..but we gotta have a third and Bobby Perry should have been it…..and it aint happening.

(3): This one will surprise some of you folks, but it bears mention. I am always considered on the pro-Tubby side of the coaching debate, and that is generally true. And I believe he is a strong game coach (although the defense this season has been difficult to swallow). Having said that, some long-run chickens have come home to roost this season. Let me be clear, the freshmen and junior class is good enough to be a Final 4 team. The junior class is star-laden, the freshmen class will be very close. But what we are seeing right now is that ultimately, the lack of development of the Senior class and the hideousness of the Sophomore class has left UK one (and maybe two) players short of being a national contender. UK thought Shagari and Woo would lead to one solid player….they havent. Sheray has not become a consistently solid player (UCLA game notwithstanding) and Bobby Perry just isnt there yet. Jared Carter is hurt, but hasnt shown anything yet and Adam Williams should have never been here. Those are six scholarships, with only one legitimate UK player (Perry). Recruiting is about taking chances and you are allowed some foul-ups…..but 1 of 6 isnt good enough. The reason UK will be the team they are this year (somewhere between the 12th and 20th best team this year) and the team they should be (4-8) are those two recruiting campaigns. What does that mean for this year’s recruiting class? We have one solid player (Stewart), one likely solid player (Harris), one reach (Williams), the potential for one very good player (Moses). UK needs Moses wrapped up and ONE MORE VERY GOOD PLAYER……remember Tubby, you promised we wouldnt be left short again….but this year, we are one (or two) short.

More tonight and give thanks for my man Woo!!!!!

Article written by Matt Jones