The 2012-13 season is winding down, and just like in 1989 and 2009, the Kentucky Wildcats will struggle to not make the NCAA Tournament. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Prayers For Rain: On Wednesday, Kentucky coach John Calipari picked up his first legitimate win as UK coach over SEC doormat Mississippi State. While his official record against the Bulldogs was 4-0 heading into this week’s contest, each of the four victories was marred by controversy, conspiracy and outright cheating. In the first UK/MSU game with Cal at the helm (February 16, 2010), State led visiting Kentucky by seven with three minutes to go. Thereafter, 11 calls went against State, none against Kentucky. UK won in overtime. So should that game really count as a UK win? (No.) Then in the 2010 SEC Tournament finals, Kentucky rallied to win again in overtime, this time with the help of a non-call (John Wall broke into the lane too early to rebound an intentionally missed free throw) in the final seconds. Poof. State not only lost the SEC Tournament title, but also failed to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Incidentally, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive also fined MSU coach Rick Stansbury $30,000 for daring to say that the league had a vested interest in the success of mighty Kentucky rather than lowly State. The following season in Rupp Arena, State again led at halftime. But a technical foul on Stansbury in the final seconds of the first half helped the Cats rally for an 85-79 victory. Finally, last year saw State lead a national championship-bound Kentucky team by 13 points at halftime. But Rodney Hood’s injury late in the first half led to the Bulldogs’ unraveling and UK rallied for a 73-64 victory. Conspiracy theorists would argue that the SEC office, officials and even the injury gods all had a hand in UK’s conquests of Mississippi State, and that Calipari didn’t have an asterisk-free win over the Bulldogs until this week. And they’d be right. (Though one could argue that the multitude of injuries and suspensions suffered by State this season means that this week’s win doesn’t really count either.)
*One Hundred Years: In last Saturday’s overtime win against Missouri, Julius Mays scored 24 points, including several key baskets down the stretch. He also provided emotional stability to a team full of untested greenhorns. This is not what John Calipari wanted to see. By relying on a transfer senior to propel the Cats past (unranked, lol) Missouri, the Cats unwittingly transformed the image of the Kentucky program from “where the nation’s best freshmen play” to that of “where journeymen seniors who plied their trade in the Horizon League play.” I’m not saying this will be crippling to Calipari’s efforts to recruit McDonald’s All-Americans to UK going forward, but don’t be surprised when it happens. The guess here is that if he had it to do all over again, Cal would revisit his decision to offer Julius Mays a scholarship.
*10.15 Saturday Night: Last Saturday, in front of the 10th biggest crowd in Rupp Arena history, UK edged (unranked, lol) Missouri in overtime. John Calipari credited UK fans for the win, and said it was the best crowd he’d ever seen. This does not bode well for Kentucky. Unless UK is allowed to play in the NCAA Tournament (or dare I say, NIT) in Rupp Arena, then a fat lot of good beating Mizzou in that venue helps. In fact, it will probably hurt. What happens the next time UK is losing on a neutral floor, or in an opposing gym? They will likely expect the fans to provide them with the emotional push required to get over the top, but the crowd won’t be there. As such, the Cats likely have a false sense of security about who they are and what they’re capable of. Nice job, BBN. Hope you’re happy.
* On this date: On this date in 2013, Kentucky was unranked.