So if we’re at the top, are we a… hawk with a mustache? Baller.
With the new polls coming out yesterday, it’s time for us to sit down and come to terms with a harsh reality.
We’re number one again.
That’s not news to any of us, because I know we all were continually refreshing ESPN yesterday around noon until the rankings came out; not because we had any doubt, really, but because sometimes, when you’re number one, it’s just fun to look at. This time, however, I didn’t get quite so much fun out of it.
Two years ago, when Kentucky was a newly-minted Number One Team, I was excited beyond belief. We had waited and waded through years of tumult and borderline scandal, inundated with underwhelming play from our beloved Cats. Though there were a couple high spots, they didn’t do enough to make me want to remember my out-of-state friends texting me when we lost to Gardner Webb. And Virginia Military. And San Diego. So when Calipari got his team to the top, even for just a week, it was a validation of everything we’d hoped for, and a firm repeal of our worst fears; Kentucky would not fade to irrelevance, or even struggle to recover from its precipice. That number one ranking was a big deal.
This one? Not so much. That’s not to say that the team isn’t playing extremely well. At this point, I absolutely think that they deserve the spot, and will do a good job defending it. However, to the fan at home that agrees with me, maybe we’re beginning to see the ranking the way Coach Cal sees it: just a little number next to the name, and that’s it. I think it’s neat that we’re number one (anybody else say “we” when the ranking is really high, but “they” when it’s low?), but it just doesn’t have the same appeal that it used to a couple of years ago.
And I think that’s healthy. The fanbase that gets its collective panties in a wad anytime their team ascends to the AP’s zenith, is the fanbase that isn’t used to it happening. If we lose, and Missouri is ranked number one next week? Bedlam in St. Louis. Absolute pandemonium. And that’s fine; they’d have good reason to be excited, and I would probably be excited for them. Kentucky, though? Old hat. It’s a sign that the team is performing well, but it really has no further consequence.
Anybody else feel the same way this week? During the week of Cal’s first number one ranking at UK, I was calling friends from out of state to belligerently tell them to suck it. Hard. One of my friends is a Duke fan, and she couldn’t tolerate me at all for those seven days (or however long it took for us to lose to USC); I couldn’t tell enough people about how Kentucky was ranked number one. Now though, for me, and I hope for some of you, the “Number One” mythos has lost some of its luster. Not because it isn’t a great accomplishment for a team that deserves it, but because we acknowledge that we’re not surprised by it. We knew this team was going to be that good, and they’ve not disappointed. Number One? No big deal, we’ve been there before. This time, though, the team can be less focused on getting the top spot, and more focused on just winning the next game. Because as good as that honor is (and it is an honor), this team knows that it can’t let the best it’s done so far be the standard for the rest of the season.
Oh, and speaking of the rankings, and hating Dook (I was thinking it), Eamonn Brennan had this to say about the Blue Devils over at ESPN.com:
Either Duke lost to a good team at home Saturday, and Florida State deserves to be in the polls, or Duke isn’t that good, a close win at Cameron Indoor isn’t that impressive and FSU deserves to be ranked outside the Top 25. You can’t have it both ways. Naturally, the coaches’ poll does. The Blue Devils just lost to an unranked team on their home court. Their wins leading up to it — a near-escape over Virginia, uninspiring road wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech and a home blowout of Wake Forest — hardly spoke to this team’s overwhelming excellence. Anyone who has followed this squad closely this season, and anyone who saw Saturday’s loss to FSU, knows it was hardly a fluke: This team doesn’t defend anywhere near as well as we’ve come to expect from Duke teams, and its offense, which has been very good, relies on perimeter play and can be slowed by good man-to-man defensive schemes. Like, oh, Florida State’s. Sorry, but until this team’s defense ranks better than No. 89 in adjusted defensive efficiency, it is not the sixth-best team in the country. Not even close.
Good point, Mr. Brennan. Good point.
Also, GAME NIGHT tonight at 9 pm (ugh) against the Flying Kentavious…es. Are they good? No! Will we stay up too late to watch anyway? Of course! Live Blog, maybe? We’ll see! Stay tuned…