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Big Blue Christmas looks like lump of coal





 

 

Kentucky’s basketball season began with a number one ranking and a coach letting the words “40-and-oh” pass from his lips.

Two months in, a late game chant from North Carolina students at Dean Dome in Chapel Hill last week: “Over rated! Over rated.”

Suddenly, a happy Christmas season for Kentucky fans is looking more like a lump of coal.

Big Blue Nation grows restless as the stat watchers are moved to dredge up these less-thanpleasant numbers:

• Since the Anthony Davis-led Wildcats won the NCAA crown two seasons ago, Kentucky is 0-10 against ranked teams on the road.

• Since the championship season, Calipari’s one-and-done style has produced won-lost numbers that would have gotten former coach Tubby Smith booed at Rupp Arena, 29 wins and 15 losses.

At Chapel Hill last week, Calipari’s post-game body language was in glaring contrast to his “we ARE basketball,” pep rally palaver in October. Legend has it, a generous serving of crow goes down easier with a side dish of humble pie.

After Carolina, the smirk, snarky one-liners and swagger were gone. His young players had been schooled again — “Dean Domed” — and he had no answers.

It must be said, as one national columnist pointed out, “… quite frankly, (the game) was too tightly officiated by Roger Ayers, Mike Eades, and Joe Lindsey. The continuous whistle-blowing by the trio disrupted the game to the point where transition points from two transition teams were a missing entity.”

Still, Calipari affirmed what we could see, his “team” is not playing as a team. Elephant in the room? A two-word question, “Why not?”

Two months since practice began and the Wildcats are still soloists who in the heat of battle ignore their coach and revert to: “Get outta my way, lemme do this like I did in high school!”

So, a week before Santa Claus makes his southern run, a bunch of kids in blue who started ranked number one, then sixth, then 11th and now 21st, is, well, college hoops-underachieved?

These observations: v Nine games in and coaches screaming from the sidelines are already getting those blank-faced “look the other way” reactions seen in late February. v Willie Cauley-Stein’s hair style is amusing (advertisement for a shoe company), and begs for blond jokes, but it reflects an emphasis on “I’m cool. Look-at-ME! v Coach’s reaction to Cauley- Stein’s “do”? Shrugged and said “I’m not the tattoo or hair style police.”

Neat quip, but abdication to coach responsibility to insist on team-ness and appearance, grooming and behavior are reflections of the university and Commonwealth. v Sign of the Apocalypse for Kentucky fans? A Wildcat player compared to Dennis Rodman. v Major problem last year was lack of depth, Calipari complained. Through exhibitions and nine games this season, playing time to gain experience for later for freshmen Derek Willis and Marcus Lee has been none. And, Jarrod Polson’s role seems to have been reduced to (team) Grade Point Average.

Media Hype ‘Retreat’

Just how savvy are college basketball fans in the Bluegrass State?

Six weeks ago the media herd of self-anointed experts led by Dick Vitale became a Mormon Tabernacle Choir roaring tribute to freshmen Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Jabari Parker (Duke) and Julius Randle (Kentucky).

This week all are in hasty retreat and claiming, “Too much hype, baby, too much hype.”

Then there was the blizzard of accolades heaped on the Kentucky Wildcats. Number one … best recruiting class in history … Final Four for sure … another NCAA title in the bag. Media herd hung on every chirp by John Calipari as gospel all the way to reporting the remark about 40-and-oh.

A week before Christmas, a marvelous grasp-of-the-obvious newspaper opinion: Kentucky won’t be a good team until “me” becomes “we.”

Clever. Did it take fans around Kentucky two months to figure that out? I wonder.

Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals (9-1) climbed to No. 2 in the power ratings this week. But Cardinal fans know the real season opener is still a week away — a road game at Kentucky.

The Cardinals’ No. 2 perch is more about defending national champions, and testimony on Rick Pitino’s sway with voters than where UofL fits into the national picture at Christmas time.

So-called experts have failed to notice the Cards have played an array of unranked, mostly lightweights all at home. One road game against one ranked team? A loss to North Carolina.

Eastern a Mac Fit

Eastern Kentucky University athletics may be headed out of the Ohio Valley Conference. New neighborhood: Sun Belt or MAC?

Hope here is Colonels sports administrators lobby for and accept an invitation to the MAC. Much respected for its football quality and tradition and anchored by an I-75 corridor, the MAC is more a natural for Eastern fans than the scattered Sun Belt.

Hollow Heisman?

More than 900 sports media and former winners cast votes for the Heisman Trophy. To the 13 per cent of voters who did not include Jameis Winston on their ballots, including me: Congratulations.

Those who voted for Florida State’s freshman quarterback did not read or chose to ignore the last word in the Heisman qualification: Integrity.

According to the Heisman Journal, “The Heisman Memorial Trophy recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

Winston, with a girlfriend in tow, picked up his award in New York City last weekend. Forgotten, DNA evidence matching the alleged rape victim was explained away by his lawyer as “consensual sex.”

And so it goes.


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