Today was exactly what Nascar needed. After a week of having their headlines about cheating on the front page of the nation’s newsscreens, NASCAR capitalized on that attention and put together one of the most exciting finishes possible for the Daytona 500. While all of Nascar (including me) cheered for Mark Martin to finally win the Big One, an amazing finish that saw Kevin Harvick come from 7th to 1st in a half of a lap, a huge wreck that sent the Clint Bowyer Jack Daniels car across the finish line on its roof while on fire and a photo at the line thrilled America and showed why Nascar is (at its best) the king. There were a ton of stories on the day including Tony Stewart wrecking while in the lead, the Toyotas performing relatively poorly and the so-so debut of Juan Pablo Montoya, but ultimately the finish will be one to remember. Great day of televison and a great, great race.
Onto the news….
(1) Things really could not be much worse at this point in UK land. Coming into a crucial three game stretch that saw Florida at home and two road games against Tennesee and Alabama, the Big Blue Nation could be optimistic. The Cats were playing relatively well and the energy was back around the program. Then the Cats went 0-3 and the sense of gloom and dread is as high as I can remember. There is much to feel down about. The Cats are 7-5 at this point with tough road games to come against Florida and Vanderbilt. The chance at getting the 2 seed in the SEC Tournament seems difficult and the NCAA seed is in flux. Possibly even more disconcerting is that a home loss to either LSU or Georgia puts the spector of a non-bid from the NCAA a real possibility…..a fate that no one would have believed three weeks ago.
I would like to be positive at this point, but it is somewhat difficult. I have always supported Tubby Smith as Coach at Kentucky and will continue to do so, certainly through the end of the season. However it is clear to anyone looking that there are major concerns for the state of the program at this point. Much attention has been put on the Senior class and they have received a great deal of criticism. But even the stalwarts of the team, the vaunted Junior class are breaking down as we come through the stretch. As with all highly emotional issues, I think it is best to make long-term decisions with the relative perspective of a cooler head. One thing is clear….the 2007 season for UK is not over….but it is on the brink. And the 2008 version of the UK program needs to look and feel much different than this one.
(2) Along those lines, I think personnel changes are on many folks’ minds. At the outset, I think it is important to make clear that there are no viable rumors of departures from the Freshmen class. Unlike past years, when those that have followed the team saw movement coming, here no such problems exist. There has been some talk about Perry Stevenson, but that talk at this point is unfounded and I believe he will be back next season. Randolph Morris on the other hand is a slightly different situation. At this point, it is all but assured that Morris will be in the NBA next season. Plans have been made anticipating such a result and all around the program expect it to happen. Folks can question to what extent his recent play showcases an NBA-type performance, but at his best Morris is as good as any big man not in Columbus, Ohio. The NBA folks see that and I expect Senior Day to be his last game in Rupp Arena.
(3) Now onto the prevalent question of Tubby Smith. I know this will disappoint a lot of folks, but Tubby Smith will not be let go by Kentucky at the end of the season. Lots of people have dreams that writing emails to Mitch Barnhardt and yelling online and on the airwaves can change that reality….but it wont. Having said that, I think there is an ever-growing chance that Tubby is not the coach in Lexington come this summer. I think a very likely scenario sees him stepping down this Spring and either taking some time off, or an NBA job (the Bobcats is the one to remember). I honestly believe the way the season ends and the decision of Patterson/Lucas decides the future. IF both go wrong, I dont think Tubby stays. Valid or not, this program needs a change in momentum….a good finish and those commitments might do that….changes at the top will too. We will see which one happens. The ship hasnt sailed….but the sailors are beginning to board.
(4) We had both Patrick PAtterson and Kenny Frease on our show Saturday. Their interviews were very interesting (at least to me) and will be ready for your consumption around noon. I think the show is good, but those interviews are must listens.
(5) I dont need to say the LSU game on Tuesday is a must-win. Everyone knows that. But the thought of losing to a 3-9 team at home is almost too much to bear. And yet I think it is a distinct possibility. Maybe I am wrong, but I dont like the feeling around the team at this point.
Finally, if you get a chance today read our Bracket Buster Blog….Chris Tomlin and Chris Mosley made it amazing and it truly has some good stuff. Take it and read it when there is nothing else for you to do.