We are now in the midst of John Calipari’s 3rd season as the coach of the University of Kentucky. Over the next few months, we’ll see whether he will finally be able to do what he’s being paid to do: Win an NCAA Championship. The stakes are high, but so are the pressure and expectations. Will the team flame out of the 2012 NCAA Tournament the way it did the prior two years? Will it suffer (almost) double-digit losses like it did last year? Will Coach Cal once again produce fewer NCAA Championships than first round draft picks? (h/t: Rick Bozich.) Stay tuned. In the meantime, to stay apprised and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
*Can’t Get High: Many pundits are calling Kentucky’s 73-72 win over North Carolina last weekend the greatest college basketball game of the season to date. And those Big Blue supporters who recognize good fortune when they see it would undoubtedly agree. How lucky were the Cats to escape with a victory? Let us count the ways: North Carolina hit 11 of 18 three pointers, while Kentucky went 4 of 17 from deep. Had UNC just missed one of those 7 that they missed, or had the Cats missed one of the 4 they hit, then the Heels win. Moreover, had UNC been able to knock down their errant threes, and had UK missed the ones they made, then UNC wins by a score of 93-61. That’s what they call an old-fashioned butt-kicking. The Cats were also lucky that UNC freshman P.J. Hairston was injured, and limited to 14 minutes, which is just 2 minutes more than he averaged going into the game. Had he been 100%, and not missed that one three pointer (he went 3 of 4), the Heels are victorious. Fate also smiled on the Big Blue insofar as dubious officiating and a tender ankle limited Harrison Barnes to just 24 minutes, and he too missed a deep ball that would have given UNC the victory (he went 4 of 5). Lastly, it should be noted that North Carolina was a 61% free throw shooting team going into the game, which means they were due to shoot really well from the charity stripe. Instead, they missed three freebies, any one of which would have sent the game into OT (they were 11 of 14, which is a mere 79%). The pragmatic fan knows that if the two teams meet again, and North Carolina shoots the basketball in a manner commensurate with its normal accuracy level, this will most definitely not be a one point game.
*Travelin’ Light: After Indiana’s win last weekend, Hoosier coach Tom Crean took to Twitter to plead with IU supporters to attend tomorrow’s showdown with Kentucky, rather than sell their tickets to UK fans. This is what makes Indiana basketball unlike any of the other “elite” programs in America. To have a coach so emotionally invested in a regular season game that he would take time out of his busy schedule to remind his fans to be sure to show up, well, that’s unique. And the fact that he typed this directive IN ALL CAPS shows just how intense he is. All that clapping and pacing during games is no act, folks. When Tom Crean was hired at Indiana, not even the most optimistic IU fan could have imagined that he would have the Hoosiers in the “Others Receiving Votes” portion of the top 25 poll in 4 short years. It’s been said before, but I think we can now make it official: Indiana is back.
*Chilly Water: SlamOnline.com released an interesting article on Terrence Jones this week, in which the author profiled the sophomore from Portland. In the piece, the writer outlined the reasons Jones returned to UK, rather than declare for the NBA Draft, as has become the norm under John Calipari. The gist of the article is that Jones came back because he was driven by last year’s loss to UConn in the Final Four, and wants to avenge that defeat with a national championship this season. In other words, his motives were completely selfish. Though Jones had the opportunity to turn pro, and make millions of dollars for his family, he instead opted to return to school simply in order to make up for the pain and disappointment he personally felt after the national semifinal loss last year. Notice the theme here. Terrence Jones decided against going pro because Terrence Jones was upset about losing in the Final Four last year, and in order to somehow make up for this, Terrence Jones decided that Terrence Jones would feel better if Terrence Jones came back and won a national championship simply for the sake of… Terrence Jones. I was under the impression that Calipari wants to promote Kentucky as a “Players First” program, not a “Terrence Jones” first program. It’s sad, really. And unfortunately for Big Blue Nation, the more UK wins, the more that Terrence Jones is getting what he wants.
* On this date: On this date in 2009, John Calipari won in Bloomington for the first time in his career, as the Cats defeated the Hoosiers, 90-73. However, he has failed to win a game on Indiana’s home court in the 100+ weeks that have followed.