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:
*Manic Depression: Indiana beat Kentucky last week, 73-72. Though the loss itself isn’t a huge deal (UK is extremely young, it’s only December, it was non-conference game, it was the biggest game at IU in at least a decade, etc.), the one thing that should be troubling to UK coaches, players and fans is that what Tom Crean and company did last Saturday was provide the rest of college basketball with the blueprint on how to beat this Kentucky team. All you have to do is the following: Shoot threes at a ridiculously high clip (Indiana hit 8 in a row at one point), make almost all of your free throws (IU was 14 of 17), force UK to miss their free throws (the Cats were barely above 50%, including several key misses down the stretch), force a UK All-American to play the worst game of his career (Terrence Jones played as if he’d been injected with a horse tranquilizer before the game), get another UK All-American in foul trouble (Anthony Davis sat almost half the game as a result of same), force UK to make mental mistakes down the stretch (the Cats had two fouls to give in the closing seconds when IU had the ball down by 2, yet inexplicably failed to foul), and make sure that it’s the biggest game your once-proud program has played in almost a decade. Despite all the hype surrounding this freshman class, and despite the #1 ranking UK enjoyed, this is all it takes (along with an answered prayer at the buzzer) to beat Kentucky. Frankly, it’s a little surprising it hadn’t been done before Saturday.
*Castles Made of Sand: As the Commonwealth readies itself for the Kentucky/Louisville game on December 31, it appears that the matchup will feature a pair of top 5 teams. The latest polls have Kentucky #3 and Louisville #4. Upon closer inspection, however, these rankings seem questionable. The Cards, of course, are undefeated, while UK is not. In fact, the Cats have yet to win a road game all season. Yet, somehow, they’re ranked higher than UofL? Are John Calipari’s friends in the media pulling some strings for him? Also, Louisville beat Butler, yet Butler advanced further in the past two NCAA Tournaments than Kentucky did. So how is it that UK is ranked higher than UofL? And to top it off, UofL has done something this year that the Cats have failed to do: Beat an SEC team. In sum, it seems that the respective rankings of the Cats and Cards don’t make a lot of sense, at least as far as one of the teams is concerned. Oh well. I suppose this will all get worked out on December 31.
*Red House: Over the past two weekends, Kentucky has been involved in two closely contested affairs with traditional rivals, both of which ended with final scores of 73-72 in favor of the home team. However, while the outcomes on the scoreboard were the same, there were several glaring differences elsewhere. Specifically, I’m talking about the home crowd for each game. When one compares the behavior of the UK fans in Rupp Arena for the UNC game to the behavior of the Indiana fans for the UK game, one fact becomes crystal clear: Indiana fans care more about basketball than Kentucky fans. To wit: After the UK/UNC game, a North Carolina fan detailed his experience online. As one can see from perusing his account, he did not encounter even one UK fan who cared enough about the outcome of the game to physically confront him, or spit on him, or pour beer on him, or even scream obscenities at him. In contrast, a Kentucky fan who went to Bloomington last Saturday gave his account of the experience on this very website, and in reading it, one can not help but be awed by the amount of passion the IU backers displayed. Verbal taunts, non-stop profanity, and pelting UK fans with objects, liquids and bodily fluids. Just an impressive display by Big Red Nation. So while Kentucky likes to bill itself as “The Greatest Tradition in the History of College Basketball,” it could learn a thing or two from the folks in Hoosierland. And if IU is ever actually good enough to make the NCAA Tournament? Zip ’em up.
* On this date: On this date in 2007, UAB beat UK 79-76 in Freedom Hall. The Cats were unable to stop UAB’s Robert Vaden, who scored 33 points. It was the worst defensive performance the city of Louisville had seen since Karen Sypher in 2003.