Let’s all be honest for a second and look internal for a minute. If you are willing to do that you have to admit that coaches of all level college basketball have a commonly used way to sucker the fans into thinking they are going to enjoy the basketball they see more: FUN. We’ve heard coaches say it often: “this is gonna be a fun team”. And usually by fun, what a coach is suggesting is that his team is going to play more up tempo. That is what we have been led to believe, right? Up tempo is fun and slow down is boring.
Hell, Rick Pitino is out there right now telling everybody who will listen that his 2016-17 UL squad will play more like his 1996-97 Kentucky teams than any other team he has coached since. And fans eat it up. UL fans are expecting a full court press, lots of 3’s, fast breaks, steals. Everything we have been told is fun basketball. Now, let’s also face the fact that Pitino is full of crap. He has been playing a defense-first system for more than a decade at UL and has never really played the same style of play there as he did at Kentucky. To think a guy as stubborn and ego-driven will suddenly flip in a year is absurd. But hey, the fans are happy.
Well, we’ve also heard that this Kentucky team might be “the most fun of the Cal era”. I don’t know about you but the teams that win the most are usually the most fun for me. But some would argue they would take a couple more losses a year if their team would score 10 more points a game and shoot the long ball. So, what are we actually going to see from UK this year? Up tempo game, right? Here is UK’s TEMPO RATING nationally over Cal’s first 7 years:
Tempo Ranking Nationally
2015-16: 220th (Round of 32)
2014-15: 271st (Final Four)
2013-14: 221st (Final Four)
2012-13: 168th (NIT)
2011-12: 147th (NCAA Champs)
2010-11: 203rd (Final Four)
2009-10: 65th (Elite 8)
Cal’s teams have had a mixed bag of tempo’s played. John Wall’s team was the fastest of the bunch and this year’s team has been compared to that one the most. If this year plays out like that team did, it should be a fun year. But what is very interesting is three of Cal’s four slowest paced teams, all ranked outside the Top 200 nationally, made the Final Four. And his quickest team didn’t. Some would say that is only because of an anomaly game against West Virginia in 2010. I wouldn’t disagree with that.
But the point is that quicker might not always be better. The Final Four teams from 2016 and their tempo rating:
North Carolina: 94th
It’s not as if UK’s guards have been the slowest bums on earth after John Wall. But more often than not, UK actually slows it down over the course of a season. There is no doubt after watching the Blue-White game that UK CAN play very fast this season. They have the guards to do it. But if that speed leads to sloppier play, I think Cal will still be quick to pull the trigger and slow the game down. The numbers would suggest that. But I wonder what you will think:
If the chances to go to the Final Four didn’t change, would you rather have a 31-3 team that plays a slower pace or a 28-6 team that plays quick? And if the quicker team is sloppier but more entertaining, would you still rather have that team than a clean, slower team?