With this Cats squad looking better and better with all we hear — and with all eyes on them nationally once again — Cal’s boys have their work cut out for them. While some teams on the schedule in 2015-16 don’t pose much threat, there are definitely obstacles to keep an eye out for as we head, hopefully, toward our next championship. Obstacles like:
1. A five-ranked Duke in two weeks. Coming off a national championship, even a Duke team down Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow is cause for alarm as star recruits like Brandon Ingram and Derryck Thornton have stepped into their shoes. A great offense is going to test the possibly still-gelling Wildcats at the Champions Classic and give us our first taste of real adversity.
2. LSU is growing stronger. Coach Johnny Jones is loading up in 2015 notably with the new addition of consensus-number-one recruit Ben Simmons. Add five-starrer Antonio Blakeney, recently cleared by the NCAA, and highly touted Louisiana Mr. Basketball Brandon Sampson — and that could be a handful for anyone the tigers face. Surprises are in order from the Tigers this season, possibly.
3. Freshman chemistry. As has become the norm for the Wildcats, the 2015-16 season has become another proving ground for talented freshmen, which means UK palm sweats as we wonder how the rookies will gel together. If they can find their groove early on, like the 2012 Championship team seemed to, we’ll be in good shape. But it goes with out saying that there’s a learning curve when pulling a bunch of superstar freshman together for the first time.
4. El NiÃ±o. Warmer than average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have led to a very strong weather system which is poised to affect the United States in unpredictable ways. A possibly wetter winter and late fall season than normal could cause potential problems as the Wildcats, when coming inside from dampened conditions outside, could slip on dry tile in wet shoes and fall down or pull muscles. The weather is going to really play into this team’s ultimate future in 2015-16 and the coaching staff would be smart to put in place a “shoes off inside” policy together earlier than later.
5. Non-indigenous bees. Sure, we’re used to the carpenter bees and honeybees of our home here in Kentucky, but what happens when a black-tailed bumblebee (Bombus melanopygus) native to desert regions finds its way into the dufflebag of an Arizona State player and is introduced to the population of the Eastern United States? Possible mutated versions and cross-bred new bee species which have yet to be studied pose a dubious threat. We won’t know anything about these bees. They could be destructive multipliers, aggressive or worse, we don’t know. These are the things we need to be thinking about.
6. Asteroids. Did you know that the earth was very close to being struck by an asteroid on Halloween? It’s one thing to have an entire hemisphere of the planet destroyed on the spookiest of holidays — but can you imagine it happening during the second half of a tight Kansas game in January? We would never find out who would win, and we have no way of knowing where the impact could be or how the structural integrity of Allen Fieldhouse could withstand the blast waves. It’s time we reallocate government funding to tracking asteroids, that’s all I’m saying.
7. The unavoidable onslaught of mortality. When time marches forward — and we can’t stop it — it’s inevitable that our bodies will begin to fail us as we’ll feel the tribulations of age. Our bodies will become frailer and slower and our fading organs will bring upon the sunset of our lives. We’ll remember the happier times through misted tears and, eventually, come to our own terms with eventual death. Life is fleeting, and beautiful, and we should enjoy it while we have it.
8. Vanderbilt. They might be better than usual.