So the Cats fell to Kansas today and begin one of the more unstable offseasons that the program has seen in recent memory. After an up and down year, that saw the Cats lose close game after close game and showcase an astonishing inability to get even one break, the Wildcats finished up the season by being beaten by a team that was simply better…..actually substantially better. Kansas showed they had more team speed, athleticism and overall talent….and were simply better at every single position. But the story going forward is not about Kansas, or even this year’s team. The story is what the program will look like in the next week, month and year. With that, we begin the fall out from the game…..
(1) The first question on everyone’s mind is of course, what will happen with the head coaching situation. Tubby himself had this to say after the game:
Just as I said earlier, everyone is evaluated at the end of the year. Some get evaluated during the year. I’ll sit down with Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and Dr. Todd (University President) and whoever else and we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. I expect to be back, let’s put it that way
So with that, Tubby expects to be back. The national media has been clamoring all day for Tubby to rise up and go elsewhere, as Andy Katz and Dick Vitale have openly argued that he would be better off to head to Michigan and their new opening. Tubby’s reaction today suggests to me that, at least today, he expects to be back in Lexington next season. Now, there are some road bumps before that will occur. First, Mitch Barnhart must decide if he will invite Tubby back. The answer to this question has to be yes. If Tubby were to be fired, Kentucky would be a laughingstock nationally and would face unrelenting criticism and ridicule. I see no way in which Mitch would make such a decision.
But it could be the case that Mitch makes demands on Tubby that he chooses to not relent and agree to. Specifically, he may ask for a change in assistant coaches. Tubby Smith is a very loyal man and could choose to hold his ground and say no….and may then to choose to walk away soon after. However I dont expect that to occur either. Tubby sees the deficiencies in this team and the talent levels…..changes need to be made and he knows it. So will Tubby be back? The Vegas money is on yes……but Smith may get home and decide he is ready for a change…..and if so, I wouldnt be shocked. But whatever happens needs to happen quickly…..like this week. And I expect that to be the case.
(2) Second only to Tubby is the question about the return of Randolph Morris. Randolph was non-committal after the game, suggesting that he would likely come back “if he had eligibility,” but then later said that he was going to have to wait and make a decision later. Joe Crawford suggested after the game that he expected Randolph to be back, but Ramel Bradley said he wasnt so sure. Truth be told, no one knows. However I expect the smart money is on Randolph leaving. His performance in the last few weeks ensures that a pro team will offer him a contract and unlike draft eligibles, he will know for sure what his future holds when he makes his decision. Two months ago, I was certain he was headed for the league….now I am not as sure. But it is likely the smart move for Randolph to head to the NBA…..if he stays, it will show a strong amount of loyalty to the program and Tubby Smith. We shall see.
(3) The third decision that must be made this offseason….what is happening with recruiting. And this could be the thing that decides what happens with #1 and #2. In a manner that I have never seen before, the lifeblood and optimism of this program resides on the decision of two young men that the vast majority of UK fans have never laid eyes on, Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas. Start with Patterson…..his team just won the state tournament this weekend and now he turns his focus directly to his college decision. He has said for weeks that this would be the week he would narrow his schools to three. Will that happen? We shall see……but dont be surprised if he doesnt simply make a final decision in the next two weeks. He will know Tubby’s future soon…..if Tubby leaves, Patrick is in Florida. If he stays…..well then it gets interesting doesnt it?
As for Jai Lucas, the time frame is much shorter. If we find out Tubby is coming back, I think we find out soon after that Lucas is coming as well. And if that happens, then the prospects with Patterson look better and better. Jai wants to make a decision within the next two weeks and it is likely that the trigger will be pulled as soon as possible. We hope to be able to let you know as soon as we know…..but we expect that by the end of the McDonald’s game, Lucas will have a home.
However all of these decisions hinge on the one that Tubby makes. I dont think that you can trust ANY information on these guys until the Tubby scenario is played out. Nothing is for sure until that happens…..which is why it MUST be done soon.
(4) Finally, everyone take a deep breath this week. There is a lot that will happen, lots of words that will be flying in every direction and lots of passion that will be displayed. Ultimately whatever happens, UK basketball will survive.
Quick NCAA Thoughts:
Louisville will be good next year, really good. But remember, this is now 6 years he has been at UL….only one of which has resulted in a Sweet 16.
When people tell you that the ACC is the best conference, point to the one team in the Sweet 16. Along with the Big Ten, the ACC has proven to be as underwhelming as we all predicted.
Bruce Pearl over Ohio State? Maybe so….this bracket could not have set up better for Tennessee…..two teams they match up well with and the potential for two teams they have already played. The Big Orange may have their day yet….
Kansas will win the title. And Gregg Doyel will owe me some big money. I cant wait.
More through the day…..