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:
*I’d Like to Have That One Back: ESPN recently aired a documentary on the 2008 SEC Tournament in Atlanta, and the tornado that struck the Georgia Dome while the tournament was being contested. The premise of the feature was that an unlikely 3 pointer by Alabama’s Mikal Riley saved hundreds of lives by sending the game to overtime. One point the film failed to make, however, was this: Had that tornado (which was the first to ever hit downtown Atlanta) not struck, Billy Gillispie would still be the coach at Kentucky. The chain of reasoning goes like this: If there’s no tornado, then UK plays Georgia that night in the pro-UK Georgia Dome instead of the next day in an eerily deserted gym on Georgia Tech’s campus. UK wins that game, instead of losing on a fluke play in overtime. Emboldened by the win, the Cats win the next two games, bringing home the SEC Tournament title. They then get a higher seed than 11 (which is what they were saddled with after losing to UGA) in the NCAA Tournament, and since they play a weaker foe in the opening round, they win. Heading into the next round, they are flush with confidence, and end up making a surprise run to the Elite 8 before bowing out to North Carolina thanks to a controversial no-call on a Tyler Hansbrough travel. Then, heading into the next season, the Cats are completely different team, thanks to the fact that they return a healthy Patrick Patterson, a healthy Jodie Meeks, and a healthy Derrick Jasper, who decided to stick around to make a Final 4 run. That season, 2008-09, UK wins the SEC regular season and the SEC Tournament, before being upset in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament due to the fact that, in order to “prove a point about toughness and those sorts of things,” Billy Gillispie insists on starting Michael Porter at point guard instead of Jasper, and a homeless lady at the two guard instead of Meeks. Nevertheless, Gillispie is retained for the following season, Calipari stays in Memphis, and history is forever altered thanks to a freak tornado. (On the bright side, at least Kentucky would have made the NCAA Tournament this year.)
*Chill of an Early Fall: Is John Calipari headed for the unemployment line? A complex and detailed statistical analysis I just made up says yes. Here’s the study: In 1989, Eddie Sutton missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time and was promptly fired. In 2009, Billy Gillispie missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time and was summarily axed. In fact, the last time a Kentucky coach wasn’t fired for missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time was in 1974, when Joe B. Hall and his team stayed home following a 13-13 record. And since Hall played at UK and was an assistant coach there under Adolph Rupp, he doesn’t even count. He’s a legacy. So really, you can say that every time a coach at Kentucky has missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time, he has been given the boot. If the Cats miss out on the Big Dance this year, will the same thing happen to John Calipari? According to over 100 years of history and tradition, yes.
*You Can’t Make a Heart Love Somebody: The University of Kentucky, at last count, has sold over 33,000 tickets for its Spring football game. This does not bode well for Kentucky. Though UK bills itself as “the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball,” the numbers tell a different story. The 2012 football Cats averaged almost 33,000 fans per game. That’s over 16,000 fans per win. The basketball Cats, however, are averaging a mere 24,000 fans per game, which is a little over 1,000 per win. John Calipari may be the highest paid basketball coach in America, but it’s the Kentucky football fans who are driving the financial bus at the university. And to make matters worse, the interest in UK basketball seems to be waning. At the recent Kentucky/Arkansas game, only about 100 Kentucky fans even bothered to show up. As a result, UK lost. “Rise,” indeed.
* On this date: On this date in 1996, Kentucky beat Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, 100-76. The Gators would get the last laugh, however, when Kentucky lost to Mississippi State in the finals, while the Gators were at home relaxing.