Something that has been rattling around my head over the weekend was this idea of the differences between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 basketball squads. It’s pretty amazing to me that in the span on 1 year, we have 2 significantly different teams in Lexington. First off, I think the 09-10 team is more talented. Wall and Cousins could potentially be the most talented point and center in UK history. Add to that 3 other first round draft picks, and you have more talent than any other UK team.
But, something that strikes me as hard to say is this: The 2010-11 team may actually be more LIKEABLE.
Now follow me here. I am not talking so much about the UK fanbase. Because I don’t care if we had 5 Charles Mansons’ out there last year, a 35-3 season and a SEC title will make you well liked with your own fanbase. Last year’s team will go down as a fan favorite in this state for years. But nationally, besides Duke, there might not have been a more hated team in the country last season than ours. That team was cocky, brash, had more swagger than any team in the country, talked trash, and had a couple tough guys who were not afraid to exchange an elbow or two or a curse word here and there.
Demarcus Cousins was thought of as a thug, Eric Bledsoe was thought of as not much better, Daniel Orton was pouty and immature, and Darnell Dodson wasn’t even really liked by this fanbase. John Wall got some grief from fans, but I don’t think he was unlikeable. Obviously, Patterson was not unlikeable either. But in general, the way that team played, with a chip on their shoulder and with a cockiness that is great from your own team but hated coming from opponent, made that team unlikeable.
This years team, with the infusion of this new freshman class, has a different vibe around it early on. Their isn’t that “loudness” to them. You don’t see alot of the showboating and swagger that Wall and Cousins had. You don’t see the arguing between Cal and the players. You certainly don’t have the storming off the court issues like with Orton. There just isn’t the extra-curricular happenings of last year.
What we have seen so far is a team that really plays well together. A team that has already shown a better ability on the defensive end of the floor (sans dribble penetration). A team that really seems to like one another, and makes their voices heard on the court. Brandon Knight, who could have every bit of the outward swagger of Wall, doesn’t seem to have any of that. Doron Lamb is almost TOO quiet on the court. Terrence Jones is the closest of anybody to last years team, but even he doesn’t have that flamboyance of a Wall or Cousins.
Throw in the “scrappiness” of Josh Harrelson, the continuing maturation of Liggins, and the general like-ability of Miller, and you just have to enjoy watching these guys play. I have no idea if they can accomplish what last years team did. On paper, I wouldn’t think so. But, the 1992 team did not accomplish as much as the 1997 team, but they are more loved. And maybe it doesn’t matter nationally who we put on the floor because as long as Cal is the coach, they will hate UK.
But early returns tell me that come March, the UK fanbase is going to find this team special. And maybe, just maybe, some of the rest of nation could get on-board as well.