If rumors are true, and they always are, the addition of “the people’s trainer” Rock Oliver back to Lexington is encouraging. As was Randolph Morris’s 10 and 7 effort Tuesday night that saw the big man clap and almost smile on a couple of occasions. However, the 2005-06 model wildcats have made little secret that, well, they flat out stink. A myriad of problems accompany this team on the road to the NIT, but there are two glaring concerns that I feel to be most prominent…and probably obvious.
The pre-season hype surrounding this team seemed worthy, even with the uncertainty clouding Randolph Morris, and the absence of team leader Hayes, and the versatility of Tarzan/Jane (congrats on being the 3rd option for the Ft. Worth Flyers by the way). We have stars in the making (Rondo, Crawford, Smoov), talented veteran leadership (Sparks, Moss), solid role players eager to step up (the rest of the roster), and the expertise of Tubby Smith to steer the ship. Little did we know, the stars in the making seem to shine every fourth game, or when it’s convenient for them. The talented veteran leadership has “lead” us nowhere (sans Moss’s effort against Vandy). The solid role players have been as solid as a steaming pile of…well, you know what, in the summertime, and the ship’s captain seems more like the skipper from the Titanic than an expert. As broadcasters and Rob Gidel have pointed out, the pre-season hype was just that: useless paper jargon. Staunch Tubby cynics like to say that this team has the talent but lacks a game plan and respect for their leader. Yet, if this team had the necessary “talent” to be consistently competitive, surely it would have surfaced at some point in the Indiana game, against woeful Central Florida, in Lawrence, or at Rupp on Tuesday night. Even a talented team running the four corners offense could outscore this bunch. Coach Smith has run the same game plan the majority of the years he’s been in Lexington, and to far better results. But when you look out on the floor and see personnel like Bobby Perry, Obrzut, Thomas, and the horrendous play of the McDonald’s All-Americans, reality rears its ugly head and the bitter truth surfaces that this team simply is not very good (by Kentucky stand…no, by anyone’s standards). After all, even 2001-02’s Team Turmoil managed to win the SEC East, and even occasionally defend their home court. Which filters into the other problem:
2)The Tin Man Syndrome
One thing is for sure, almost every Kentucky team since the 91-92 “Unforgettables” are more talented, on paper, then the overachievers who scrapped their way into the elite 8 and immortality. However, few have been as successful, because few have possessed the heart and pride that they had. It’s been proven that the glaring holes created by a lack of talent can be adequately patched up with effort. When this team gets down, they stay down. If the shots don’t fall early, they continue to ‘clang’ late. When the offense isn’t clicking, the defense follows suit. One can excuse a player for not being taller, or faster, that’s the biological hand they were dealt. There isn’t however, an excuse for not playing your guts out for the love and pride of the uniform, unless of course, the love and pride aren’t there. I don’t care how awful Tubby’s offense is, or how much you would rather be playing for money. The reality is you are here, playing for the most storied program in college basketball, and making a mockery of it. If you want to continue to let sub-par teams waltz out of your gym with a ‘W’ then you’re not welcome here. Go to Louisville, Michigan St., the NBDL, the Canadian National Team, but please, take your heartless “talent” and sully some other program.