Billy Gillispie is a jerk. Billy Gillispie works the players too much. Billy Gillispie is too stubborn. Billy Gillispie’s boot camp is too extreme. Billy Gillispie is responsible for the injuries last year. Billy Gillispie’s game day practices have cost UK games.
Since Billy Gillispie took over for the departed Orlando Smith almost two years ago, he’s been accused of a number of things, but most of them come back to one factor: the man is a bad ass and expects his players to be physically and mentally tougher than their opponents. Alex Legion couldn’t handle it. Derrick Jasper said “no thanks” and Mike Williams, Dusty Mills and Kerry Benson all decided that it wasn’t for them. Also, somewhere in the middle of all of that, he managed to suffer some of the worst losses in the history of the program due to, most notably, stubborness and a “my way or the highway” mentality.
But, what Clyde has been working toward isn’t designed for VMI. It’s not designed for Gardner-Webb. What he has in mind with his drill sergeant tactics is a tough, scrappy team that can go toe-to-toe with a more talented squad and win because they’re hungry and efficient. And, today, that’s what Louisville presents for Billy Bad Ass and his boys – a team of players who’s egos have been stroked for the entire off-season and one that can easily be thrown off kilter by a team willing to outwork them and make them take tough shots. Billy Gillispie probably likes where he’s sitting right now.
If Kentucky doesn’t come out shaky early, then they will win the game. Without a doubt, the first 5 minutes of this ball game will be the most important. If they can just avoid getting blown out or giving Lousville easy baskets off of turnovers, then the Cards will eventually fold. It might not be at the 10 minute mark of the first half. It might not be at the start of the second half. Heck, it might not even be until the final possession. But, I promise you, the Cards will buckle.
You’ll see T-Will flailing at the basket or heaving contested threes. E-5 will do his best Ironhead Heyward impression and bury his head and go steaming at the basket with the ball under his arm. Sosa and Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles and McGee will start heaving ill-advised shots because the Cards do not respond well to adversity. There’s a famous saying that says “Basketball does not build character, it reveals it”. And, if I’m being forced to bank on a team’s character at the end of the game, I know where I’m going.
I’m going on the side of the team that struggles to make it through boot camp. I’m going with the team who’s coach will put a super-talented freshman on the bench when his junior starter is struggling out of principle. I’ll go with the team that takes nothing for granted and expects nothing on any given night. I’ll take the team that puts pride in their defense and can hold a team to 12 second-half points. Basically, I’m old fashioned. I’ll take substance over style.
I’ll take Kentucky.