I’m starting to wonder if Sun Tzu is to basketball what Donald Rumsfeld was to competence, since his advice hasn’t being paying off for the orange-sphere team led by Mr. Gillispie. As a result, we will forego our normal opening and spring an uplifting little diddy on you before the rest of the Preamble (why can’t I call it the Preamble? You think the Constitution is more important than this post? Well that’s where you and I part ways, my friend).
When you’re down and troubled and you need a helpin’ hand
And nothin’, oh, nothin’ is going right…
Those words were originally penned by Eddie Sutton in 1988 and they ring true again at this particular juncture in the history of Kentucky fandom as the Cats are reeling from a 4 game losing skid–the first of which the program has experienced since 1989 (since you probably haven’t heard that factoid at all in the past 24 hours). On the bright side, at least the national media can’t say that our fanbase crazily set unreasonable expectations solely for our former coach; nope, we have done it for this coach as well, with a good number of fans considering William Jefferson Gillispie, III to be a horrible failure 9 games in. I could go on and on about why he’s great or why he’s awful or why Tubby Smith both developed and later cured polio, but it has all been said already by persons smarter than I (actually, that would require both Stephen Hawking and Isaac Newton to have said it), and my goal is to inform, not persuade.
Having said that, methinks a proverbial Balm shall be coming to Gilead this Saturday in the form of the mighty Tennessee Tech Endangered Species. The Techlers ride into Rupp this weekend not boasting a 4-7 mark with triumphant wins over Union (Ky) and Bluefield–neither of which are DI. Other wins come against Eastern Illinois and Oregon State, though I have no idea if either of those teams is good at all. Sad losses have come at the hands of the cream of the NCAA crop in North Dakota State, North Carolina Central, Northwestern La. State, North Vietnam, and North Korea (K.J. Il poured in 47). Former UK assistant and extremely likeable Mike Sutton leads the Technicians in his sixth season during which time he has compiled a respectable .585 winning percentage and has an OVC title to his credit. Now that we’ve gotten “interesting facts” out of the way, let’s proceed. LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S KNOW YOUR ENEMY!
Tenn. Tech is situated in Cookeville, Tennessee some seventy miles east of Nashville and began life in 1911 as “Dixie College” before taking on the stage name of “Tennessee Technological University” on the advice of its agent as it was breaking into the film industry. The agent, Murray Abramson, claimed it had a sophisticated quality to it and the name stuck. Cookeville likes to tout all its modern extravagances like zip codes and trundle beds, but also finds the time to promote its three museums (I personally like the depot museum the best). Cookeville also has a surprisingly vibrant arts scene with several art galleries and theaters. Of the latter, the Backdoor Playhouse has been known to be frequented by such illuminaries as the honorable Senator Larry Craig.
This is going to be a bit of a stretch, but Tech has no one of interest to put down. The only name I even recognize is that of country singer Rodney Atkins, but I read about his life story in my Grandma’s Reader’s Digest, and can’t say anything bad about him–I’m sensitive like that (Ladies, didja just hear that?). No, we will make a bit of a stretch and reach out for Orlando Magic warm-up wearer and national pariah, J.J. Redick. Everyone knows Redick attended Wonderbread University (because it’s so white–try to keep up), and some may even know that he prepped in Roanoke, Virginia. But, did you know that J. J. was actually conceived, born, and educated on a pool table in the family’s former home in Cookeville, TN? I’m not making this up (well, he wasn’t educated on the pool table). This alone destroys the goodwill Tech has gained by aligning itself with good guys like Mike Sutton and Rodney Atkins. Tennessee Tech may not have hosted J.J., but it is guilty by association to Cookeville. Shame, really.
Cheerleader Scouting Report
Look out, this squad’s sassy–as evidenced by the attitude and clever poses struck by the leaders of cheer in this pic. This squad is actually like UK’s basketball team this year in that they have a few really impressive talents, but their overall depth is weak. Also, is that Kige Ramsay in the back, center?
Tech established its basketball program in 1924 with Putty Overall at the helm although it can be argued that his on-again, off-again relationship with Elaine proved to be a distraction for this first edition of the Golden Eagles. Tech’s first win came in its first game as it defeated Monterey by a score of 48-16, though I’m kinda surprised they had to travel to Mexico to find an opponent. In fifty-plus years, the Golden Eagles have only won the OVC seven times and have graced the Big Dance only twice, getting blasted both times. They are currently working on a 44-year NCAA Tournament drought, though they did participate in the NIT as recently as 2002.
My forecasting has been off as of late, but I blame it on the freemasons and/or the state of our public schools. However, I feel good about this week and feel confident that Patrick Patterson, who led the team in rebounds against Houston despite not playing, will return to the lineup and continue to impress with a 61 point, 19 rebound performance. Meeks’ conditioning will steadily improve to where he no longer breathes like Matt Jones after two flights of stairs. Mark him (Meeks not Matt) down for a cool 34 points. Jasper won’t be back yet (I’m seeing the Louisville game, maybe), but he will transfer his powers to Michael Porter for one game through an ancient Iroquois ceremony involving feathers, face paint, and video poker. Porter ends up with more assists than Courtney Love has leg bruises (13). Putting it all together, the Cats come away with a respectable 176-14 victory, which leaves the pundits amazed at the beginning of what is sure to be a turnaround for the Wildcats’ fortune.
Fine, I’ll get back up on my soapbox because the masses are clamoring for me to pontificate on the current state of the program. My belief, again, is that you have to be realistic about what this team had at its disposal following a 12-loss season and an 8 seed in the Tournament. I’m not sure why everyone thought we would immediately be better although we lost, by far, our best player and only inside threat in Randolph Morris. At best, Patrick Patterson is his equal and this would make one think the ceiling for this team should be last year’s performance. Now throw in the fact that last year’s point guard hasn’t played a game and last year’s sixth man hasn’t seen much time and you shouldn’t really be surprised at this year’s performance. My philosophy has been to want to see the team get progressively better throughout the season and have a sense of toughness and tenacity that seem to have been absent in recent years. Has Billy G. been great early in the season? In my opinion, no, but I still find it hard to believe that you can make judgements based on a 9-game sample when he has been successful in the past. Maybe we try something crazy and actually let Gillispie have a season or two at the helm before we hang him in effigy. Either that or see if Eddie Sutton is still available–actually he’ll need a few hours…and a large pot of coffee. Go Cats!