The 2012-13 season is mercifully over, and despite having the #1 ranked recruiting class in the country, Kentucky failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and were unceremoniously dispatched in the First Round of the NIT by Robert Morris. Hard to see things being any different in 2013-14. To stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof: After beating Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino took a thinly-veiled shot at John Calipari and Kentucky when he boasted “we don’t play the game for the lottery draft. We play the game for Louisville and then our guys move on and they’re very successful people in and out of basketball.” When he says he pays very little mind to the NBA Draft, he’s obviously telling the truth, as he doesn’t even know what it’s called. (It’s “draft lottery,” coach lol.) At any rate, his point is that by filling his roster with guys who probably won’t play in the NBA, he doesn’t have to worry about things such as players trying to improve their draft stock, or people ever knowing who they are once they leave campus. And his approach clearly works. In just 12 short years, he has fielded a team that is the favorite to win it all. And why do you think his players play so hard? Easy. Because most of them know this is the last time they’ll ever play basketball in their lives. Kudos, Rick. It only took half of a quarter century, one sex scandal, an extortion trial, an AD who chose to ignore your transgressions, 2 NITs, 3 first round losses, a down year in college basketball, and a local media that may as well be on your payroll, but you finally did what John Calipari did in his first season at Kentucky: You fielded the best team in the country.
*Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares): Speaking of Rick Pitino, talented scribe Pat Forde made waves (and sense!) recently when he said that this was “the lowest point for Kentucky basketball in 24 years.” Though UK fans took umbrage, Forde nailed it. While some would argue that the Billy Gillispie era was worse, they would be wrong. Throughout his entire UK career, Gillispie never lost a 1st round NIT game. And there would be some who would say that the malaise that engulfed the program during the latter part of Tubby Smith’s tenure was worse, because with it came a sense of hopelessness, restlessness, and fatigue. Those people would be wrong too, because Tubby never lost a 1st round NIT game. What else so you need to know? Kentucky lost a 1st Round NIT game. Ergo, this is the lowest things have been since probation. And while it is true that Kentucky won the national championship in 2012 and that the 2013 recruiting class is the #1 ranked class in the country, so was the 2012 class. The result? They lost a 1st round NIT game. It ain’t brain surgery, folks.
*T-R-O-U-B-L-E: ESPN’s Chad Ford said recently that next year, UK could place more players in the NBA Draft than any team has ever done in the history of college basketball. This does not bode well for Kentucky. What does this mean for the 2014-15 Cats? They only have one commit from that class right now, and I hardly think Karl Towns will win many games playing 1 on 5. Unless John Calipari lands commitments from several underclassmen in the near future, the guess here is that Big Blue Nation will spend the entire 2013-14 season worried sick about the future. In the meantime, lace up your sneakers, Brian Long and Sam Malone. You got next.
* On this date: On this date in 2008, Indiana was on probation, even though they had been to just one Sweet 16 in the previous 14 seasons. The moral of the story? Indiana sucks at cheating.