It’s that time of week again. Time to take an unbiased look at what’s happening with Coach Cal, World Wide Wes, and the overly-hyped freshmen who seem to comprise the UK roster each year. This season, the team hopes to make the NCAA Tournament, obtain a favorable draw, and a relatively simple path to the Final Four. They also hope against hope that unlike the previous Final Fours in which John Calipari has coached, this one will stick. For those who want to stay informed and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
* No Time To Kill: Kentucky has long been the favorite son of SEC basketball, and ESPN is well aware of this. The 2010-11 league schedule is, shall we say, very generous to the Wildcats. During the week, as part of the contract between ESPN and the SEC, teams play either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. ESPN essentially chooses which teams play on which night. During the weekend, of course, teams generally play on Saturday. Last week, Vanderbilt was forced to play on Thursday, then it had to turn around and play Kentucky roughly 38 hours later. (Despite this handicap, Vandy easily defeated the Cats.) On the other hand, at no point this season does Kentucky play on Thursday then again on Saturday. Is this unfair? Sure it is. Did ESPN and the SEC conspire do this simply in order to avoid fielding complaints from angry UK fans that its team was being treated unfairly by having to play Thursday then again on Saturday? Probably. Did Kevin Stallings have a point when he complained that UK is being given preferential treatment? Of course. But what to make of the cause-and-effect relationship at play here? Does UK get to avoid the Thursday/Saturday double-header because it is the winningest program in league history? Or is it the other way around? In other words, was Kentucky able to rack up all those wins simply as the result of preferential treatment such as this? It’s definitely an intriguing question.
* Baby, Things Change: In home games this year against Kentucky, SEC teams have tried every trick in the book to get their fans excited. Ole Miss had a “red out,” Vanderbilt had a “black out,” Tennessee will be retiring Allan Houston’s jersey, etc. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is one that has to be frustrating to Kentucky fans: People simply don’t care about watching Kentucky play basketball anymore. Why else would seemingly every SEC school have to resort to some sort of gimmick to get its fans to show up? In years past, UK’s SEC foes would fill the bleachers with fans who were there to watch a basketball game. Now, it seems that these teams have to bribe people with free t-shirts, promotions, giveaways, etc., to come watch Kentucky play the home team. To be sure, this is a sad state of affairs for the self-proclaimed “greatest tradition in the history of college basketball.”
* Hurt: Darius Miller strained his groin in the game at Vanderbilt, and after declaring him “doubtful” for the following game against Mississippi State, John Calipari then proceeded to play Miller 33 minutes against the Bulldogs. At the time Calipari inserted Miller into the game, the Cats were getting beat. After Miller was put in the game, UK came back and won. Was this simply an act of desperation on the part of Calipari? Did he see the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes fading in the 1st half, and in order to salvage these hopes (and his job), did he then decide to play Miller? Most importantly, did playing in the MSU game put Miller’s health at risk? At least one medical specialist thinks so. In a recent email exchange, Misty Mayhew, a licensed massage therapist based out of Fargo, ND, lambasted Calipari for his decision to play Miller. Ms. Mayhew stated that it was, in fact, “maybe theoretically possible, I guess,” that Miller could re-injure himself . Though Mayhew cautioned that she “isn’t a doctor,” that she doesn’t know the specific nature of the injury in question, and that she has “no idea who Darrien Milner is,” her 7 months of experience should not be ignored.
* Confessions, Part I: Kentucky opponents have long accused the Cats of getting a “friendly whistle” at Rupp Arena. However, no Kentucky player, coach or fan has ever publicly agreed. Until now. After being down by as much as 11 points against Mississippi State earlier this week, UK rallied to defeat the Bulldogs, 85-79. A big reason why was a controversial call at the end of the first half. With 1.1 seconds left, a shooting foul was called against MSU on Brandon Knight, though replays seemed to clearly show that Knight was passing the ball, rather than shooting. After understandably objecting to the call, MSU coach Rick Stansbury was assessed with a technical foul. Subsequently, Knight hit 4 of his 5 free throws, thereby cutting the lead from 5 to 1, which was the difference at halftime. In the 2nd half, Kentucky pulled away from a Mississippi State team that appeared deflated and dejected about how the 1st half ended. As for that public concession that the zebras were favoring the Cats? It came from none other than head honcho, John Calipari: “How we were down 1 at half, I have no idea. We should have been down 15,” Calipari said after the game. Bravo, Coach Cal. I, for one, applaud your candor.
* Instant Karma: Kentucky has been on the losing end of several close games this year. As a result, they are ranked by stat guru Ken Pomeroy as the 324th luckiest team in America. There are only 345 teams in college basketball, which means that UK is one of the unluckiest squads in the land. Pomeroy defines luck as a calculation that measures whether a team is playing above or below its statistical expectations. In other words, based on all other metrics reflecting its play this season, Kentucky should have a much better record than the 18-7 it’s currently sporting. Many UK fans will blame bad luck, inexperience, bad calls, an opponents’ hot hand, etc., as possible explanations for this perceived misfortune. However, is something else at play here? Is it possible that, given all his prior “alleged” misdeeds and shenanigans, that John Calipari is simply a victim of karma? At least one person thinks so. After Brandon Knight missed a three pointer that would have given UK the win at Florida, MARRABABYMAMA, a Louisville blogger who frequently contributes to InsideTheVille.com, penned the following entry on her MySpace page: “HAHAHAHA!!!! SURVES CALAMERI RITE!!!! CHEETER!!!! LOLZZZzz!!!8”
* Happy Birthday: Finally, a big Happy Birthday to Michael Avery, the Californian who verbally committed to Kentucky in 2008, following a scholarship offer from then-coach Billy Gillispie. Michael turns 11 this week.