It’s been a roller coaster of emotions this season, to say the least. While Kentucky basketball is currently sitting at 13-4, a record I wish people would stop getting so torn up about, it seems all anyone can think about is how this time last year our team was undefeated. No one can deny we had an amazing run last season and it was hard to let go of our almost-National-Championship-and-undefeated team. But one thing is definitely getting out of hand: the “I miss you” tweets and posts in regards to last year’s players.
I hate to be harsh, but news flash, they’re gone! Don’t get me wrong, I would kill for a KAT in our front court or the shooting ability of a Harrison twin or Devin Booker, but that’s not who we have. It’s fine to miss them, but let’s not forget that who we have now is our team. Maybe it’s time we start respecting that. If we have confidence in them, maybe they will have more confidence in themselves.
And if you’re still feeling discouraged even after that little rant, may I now act as the Ghost of Seasons Past, and remind you that even if we aren’t undefeated our tournament dreams aren’t dead.
Close your eyes and think back. This was Calipari’s second season at Kentucky. The Cats’ season ended with a 29-9 record. With major losses to the team’s front court when Demarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson left for the big leagues, there’s no doubt fans were a little disheartened and missing two major favorites. Fortunately the incoming freshman Terrence Jones and veterans DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson each contributed to our front court in ways that helped keep the Cats alive. Kentucky struggled in conference play, losing to Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Arkansas around mid-season and not many games apart. Interestingly enough, Kentucky proceeded to win the SEC Tournament and go on a surprise run to the Final Four game that year, led by freshman team captain Brandon Knight and a supportive fanbase. See, a little faith from fans and hard work from the guys got them a lot farther than we feel like our current Cats are going to go.
Following the worst season of the Calipari era (circa not-so-wonderful NIT trip) was the ’13-’14 season that “surprise surprise” had more losses than the ’10-’11 team and certainly more than our present team currently has. This Kentucky team finished with a 29-11 record despite the high hopes everyone had for the season. It was this team that heard the “undefeated talk” when they arrived. With a packed freshman class including Julius Randle, James Young, the Harrison twins, Dominique Hawkins and Dakari Johnson, it’s a wonder we weren’t all falling apart around January 14th when we started the domino effect of six conference losses both on the road and at Rupp. But even after those hard hits inluding hitting rock bottom on the road at South Carolina (cue Aaron Harrison’s prophetic post game press conference when he said, “It’s frustrating to lose, but we know what we can do. It is going to be a great story“), the Cats still went on to make an NCAA Tournament run to the final game against Connecticut
where they ultimately lost but let’s just not talk about it. So before we start to get all up in arms about this season being down the drain, let’s not forget comebacks from the past!
Don’t get me wrong, both of those teams had a strong front court presence which is something this Kentucky team is lacking at the moment. There is no doubt we need to improve in that area if we’re going to get our act together come March, but I believe in Cal and the power of whatever “tweak” he might be working on and I believe in this Kentucky team.
So for the love of Joe B. can we all please stop crying about our now-NBA stars and start giving a little more attention to the guys rocking Kentucky blue right now? I can almost guarantee that when we really get down to the science of it, our behavior as fans impacts our team more than we think. Now turn that bitter frown upside down and GO CATS!