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. Though the Cats were fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament this year, they did not obtain the favorable draw they hoped for. As such, their postseason figures to be a short one. 🙂 At any rate, for those who want to stay informed and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
* Still Not a Player: There was quite an uproar among Kentucky fans when the seeding for the NCAA Tournament was announced, and UK was a 4 seed in the East, the same region as overall top seed Ohio State. Meanwhile Florida was a 2 seed in the Southeast, which is generally considered the weakest region in the field. Cat fans will point to the fact that UK won 2 of 3 games against the Gators this year, had been the more impressive of the two teams of late, had a higher RPI, had a better ranking, had fewer bad losses, and had just won the SEC Tournament with a blowout win over the Gators. However, these arguments fail to acknowledge the importance of the fact that Florida had a better league record this year than UK did. And how a team performs in the regular season is what really matters. Granted, Alabama won its division in the regular season and got left out, but other than its victory over Georgia, Alabama didn’t win a game in its conference tournament, and how a team performs in its conference tournament is what really matters. Case in point: UConn finished 9th in its conference yet somehow managed to get a 3 seed, simply by virtue of winning its conference tournament. Kentucky fans may want to consider removing their blue-tinted shades before casting stones at Committee Chair Gene Smith. After all, his record as AD of Ohio State speaks for itself.
* Please Cal, Don’t Hurt ‘Em: In the last minute or so of Kentucky’s SEC Tournament game against Alabama, with the Cats up by 16 points, both DeAndre Liggins and Doron Lamb went down with ankle injuries. This resulted in several UK fans (gasp) criticizing John Calipari. I happen to agree with these fans, as there is no excuse for both Liggins and Lamb being on the floor in the last minute of a 16 point game. In fact, an argument can be made that none of UK’s top 6 players should be on the floor once the outcome is essentially decided. Of course, some will argue that because Kentucky only has 10 players on its roster, one of the top 6 will have to be on the court at all times. They will then say that even if Calipari emptied his bench with 3 minutes left, there’s a decent chance that either Liggins or Lamb would have had to play until the final buzzer. Not so. The rules do not require that a team have 5 players on the floor; they just prohibit more than 5. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be unwise to sit those top 6 players if the game is a rout, and just let the 4 bench players play. In fact, given the production of Eloy Vargas in the SEC Tourney final against Florida, it would be prudent to keep him on the bench too. Also, you never know when Jon Hood will come in handy, so you probably want to keep him over there as well. Going forward, in order to avoid the risk of injuries, the only players who should be in the game in the late stages of a blowout are Jarrod Polson and Stacey Poole.
* Check Yo Self: Eight losses. Seeded 4th in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. 10-6 in the SEC, including losses to Georgia, Alabama and Vandy. This is the resume of the Kentucky Wildcats. The 2001-2002 Kentucky Wildcats. Yes, the infamous “Team Turmoil” of 9 years ago is almost the mirror image of the current UK team. Yet, if one remembers, then-coach Tubby Smith caught a lot of heat for the performance of that team. Conversely, current coach John Calipari is being lauded for the performance of this year’s team. Double standard? In the words of Sarah Palin, “you betcha.” In fact, one could even make the argument that the accomplishments of the ’02 Cats was more impressive than those of the ’11 Cats, as the former group was able to earn a 4 seed after overcoming several obstacles that year, including 3 home losses (one of which was to Western Kentucky), seeing its star freshman refuse to shoot in a game because he was upset over playing time (the precocious Rashaad Carruth), dealing with several off-the-court issues with almost every player on the team, and getting blown out by South Carolina in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. On the other hand, the current team had to win its last 6 games, including a cakewalk through its competition in the conference tourney just to get that 4 seed. In addition, it is inarguable that Tubby had accomplished more at UK by the outset of the 2002 Tournament than Calipari had by the time the 2011 Tournament kicked off. More NCAA Tournament wins (12 to 3), SEC Tournament wins (9 to 6), SEC Tournament titles (3 to 2), national titles (1 to 0) and overall wins (130-60). And if one remembers, the 2002 season was considered by many to be the “beginning of the end” for Tubby. Is this the case with Calipari? We’ll see.
* Happy Anniversary: 20 years ago this week, Kentucky was on probation.