If it were not the fact that pictures of cheerleaders and dance teams increase our hits exponentially and have become a tradition here on game day, I would have led today with Larry Gatlin. His song “Houston” is one of my favorites (used perfectly in an ESPN Yao Ming commercial) and always comes to my mind whenever the Cougars are brought up in conversation. Larry Gatlin used to say that all the Gold was in California in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody’s elses name. For Kentucky fans, this year’s college basketball season has felt a bit like that as we have watched teams from all over the country have some degree of success (not counting our brothers in Louisville), but we are left, hoping and praying we can get to the SEC with a chance to make the tournament. You hate to call a game a must-win this early, but tonight’s tip against Houston is big. The Cats simply cant afford to rack up more losses and at 9-1, Tom Penders’ squad could count as a quality win come selection time…..and the Cats dont have that many more chances to rack those up.
We know that this Houston likes to move the ball and if you watched the game last year in Rupp, you know that they can stay with the Cats throughout the night. However this Houston bunch is certainly beatable. They played Texas Southern (official “worst team I have seen in Division I in a long time) to a relatively close game through most of the contest and they have no players like Robert Vaden who make you squirm. They try to win with athleticism and hustle and such teams are, in Billy Clyde’s career, usually the type of teams that our coach excels at stopping. So on paper, this looks like one we may be able to use to break the slide on national television.
BUT (and there is always a but), dont underestimate what a big game this is for the Cougars. They are retiring the number of Michael Young, the classic forgotten college basketball player who actually led Phi Slamma Jamma (remembered more for Hakeem and Clyde the Glide) in scoring during its 3 Final Four runs. There will be a lot of emotion for the Cougars who are getting their biggest marquee name to come on the road to their home court in many a year. Quotes from the players suggest they are ready to “shock the world”, although it might not be much of a shock and more a ripple if the Cats fall again. This is a big game….and one that the Cats should be ready to lock and load on. Jodie Meeks may, (key word MAY) be ready to play and with the news that Jasper’s MRI was negative pumping up the energy at UK, the Cats should be poised to come out swinging. According to Gatlin, “Houston means the last day of the tour and we are through”….lets hope that by “tour”, Larry meant losing and by “we” he meant the Cats. It is time to make a turn and tonight is the night….