There is hope for this Cats team. Yes, I said it. This version of the Wildcat Basketball team can be good. Maybe not great, maybe not a conference title or final four, but they can exceed my preseason and early season expectations. I’ve been in the doldrums for the last month since the season started. I was coming to grips with the fact that we were likely to lose between ten and fifteen games this season and would endure another off season of the negative Nancy’s bitching and moaning about how Tubby isn’t the man for the job. Well, after the last two games I now have hope.
Let me preface this by stating that I DO not believe in moral victories and I am VERY disappointed in our team’s performance at Chapel Hill last Saturday. My optimism does not come from the thought that our team is jelling, or even from the solid play from our younger players. It comes from the idea that we can ride one man, and one man only to respectability this season. That man is Randolph Morris.
The last two games Randolph Morris has proven that he is the best big man in the SEC East. (take that JOAKIM NOAH—as I barf in my trash can picturing his gigantic mouth and fuzzy muff on the back of his head) Randolph has shown a touch that no big man in recent history has had at UK. He has shown the ability to spin away from double teams and hit a sweet baseline jumper that looks like a flash back to Hakeem the dream. Randolph Morris is developing into the player that we all hoped for when he arrived on campus. The man looks focused and motivated for the first time in his career.
This article is not intended to be a love fest for Randolph Morris, it is intended to be a line in the sand for Tubby Smith. I am not one to challenge coaches. I do not think this practice is productive in the world of blogs or message boards. But Tubby Smith is at a cross roads for this team. Will he adjust his system to rotate around a big man and focus all of our offensive energy on getting him the ball?
This team can make waves if Tubby decides to scrap whatever system he has and focuses on getting Randolph good touches every time down the floor. Randolph has forty points on twenty two shots in the last two games. This is an amazing stat. He is shooting upwards of eighty percent from the field and is doing very well on the boards. From my experience watching Tubby’s system he likes to be able to take out and put in different pieces to the puzzle without changing his strategy. This has to change now if he wants to have a shot at making a run in the conference and the NCAA tournament. If he doesn’t, teams will simply allow Randolph to score twenty points on 12 shots and make somebody else beat them. Now, you might say, gosh, that’s not bad, in fact that’s really good. But, twelve shots means the offense isn’t going through Randolph. Twelve shots means he’s only a small part of the effort and we’re still relying on others to make big contributions on their own. And lastly, twelve shots means we are still watching the dribble fest offense that we have witnessed against good opponents this year. Yes, I’m saying it Tubby, scrap the offense, get Randolph the ball and make teams adjust. If we get Randolph the ball, teams will have to make big time adjustments. I predict these adjustments will free up Crawford, Bradley, and Perry to thrive with open looks and open lanes to the basket. In the current system, teams can take solace that we aren’t going to do everything possible to get Randolph involved and will simply play straight up. But, with constant sagging and double teams, our contributors will have open look after open look and our supporting cast will thrive.
This will be a very big adjustment for Tubby as his system is focused on team ball and not relying too much on one player. This is the chance to rite the ship and show our remaining recruiting targets that there is life in the UK basketball program. This is the chance to show Patrick Patterson that Tubby can have a big man thrive in his system. Will Tubby swallow his pride and make the adjustment? Stay tuned…
Further, let’s try something new. Instead of this discussion becoming a question of whether or not Tubby should be retained, let’s discuss whether or not this drastic of a system change early in the year is good or bad for our season….