As a UK fan, last night was depressing. I got up before the sun rose and the Jones and Bruce caravan began its trip around the state bringing forth legal help to its citizens throughout the day. We returned to Louisville late only to watch a game against Vandy that could not have been more frustrating. I would be remiss if I didnt note the unbelievably poor officiating (a common theme in all SEC games throughout the season) that took a thin UK bench and made it thinner, culminating in foul trouble for nearly all of the Cats’ players (AJ Stewart of all people fouled out). While it is worth noting that the Cats played as a jump shooting team while the ‘Dores took the ball to the basket more often (who thought you would ever read that sentence), the game nevertheless was a series of ticky-tack, questionable calls that made me wish for the days of John Clougherty and Don Rutledge. The Cats lost on their own, but the officiating was putrid.
Nevertheless, the story of the game once again was the bizarre decisions made by the current UK coaching regime. In a game in which a young Vanderbilt team has only one real way of beating you (on the inside), the Cats’ best opportunity to stop AJ Ogilvy sat the bench for nearly all the game. Josh Harrellson started, played 3 minutes with one mistake and then found only sporadic time on the court again. Why? Coming on the heels of the game in Fayetteville in which Kevin Galloway played three minutes for no particular reason, it reinforced my belief that the Gillispie substitutions patterns alternate between poor and irrational. There are reasons to play virtually all of the players that are in the rotation at various times. But why would you take your somewhat slow, but big and bulky center and NOT play him often in the one game you are playing against a slow, big and bulky center who is killing you inside? These players all make mistakes….why have some players mistakes be the end all be all and some players’ mistakes be forgiven? It is hard to understand.
Finally, watching the game continued a frustrating, and at times infuriating, tradition of running virtually no plays for Jodie Meeks Most of Meeks offense comes from (1) taking a guy one-on-one, (2) running around the offensive end in circles, hoping to lose his man or (3) the pick and roll, with the irrational hope that both men will not come out on Meeks (and bizarrely, sometimes they dont). Very rarely is a set piece designed, the goal of which is to get Jodie the ball in a position to score. Most of his offense is either self-created or in an NBA-style two-man game to get off a shot. That is great for an NBA game but in college, where the defenses are less sophisticated and the players less athletic, running set pieces for Meeks (a la JJ Redick at Duke) could get him even MORE open looks. How can that never be done?
The issues of who to blame for bad games for Kentucky usually make cries of “Billy has no players” to “Get rid of him, he cant coach.” Neither is true. Billy Clyde is a good coach who has the potential to win big. But in order to do so, I think he has to firmly adjust his principles to a new reality of Kentucky basketball and players/coaches on an elite level. Right now what we have makes little sense. I can take losing because of a lack of talent or even mistakes. But losing for irrational decisions that seem to have little to no purpose….that is difficult to accept.