“You can observe a lot just by watching,” baseball hall-of-famer Yogi Berra once observed.
Having watched Kentucky tune (and toy) with Clarion last week, this team may be the golden element away from being top five ranking early and a Final Four berth late.
Against Clarion, four starters tried 14, 12, 12 and 11 shots, team had 27 assists, and nine players logged double digit minutes. Signs of sharing.
Further, applying Yogi Berra logic, we saw …
• John Wall handle smoothly the kind of Superman swoon lavished on rookie Rex Chapman two decades ago.
• Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins may be a power base because Patterson, in his (NBA) money season, is unselfish and Cousins is impressed. Result? Opponents won’t have a double-down option. And both can play full throttle, because Josh Harrellson and Perry Stevenson appear enthusiastic with rotation roles.
What to watch for? Daniel Orton’s patience.
On the wings, newcomer Darnell Dodson is the starter, but Ramon Harris remains engaged and ready. And, Mark Krebs is happy to be here.
Backcourt. Wall deserves every adjective so far and will be every opponent’s nightmare. When he needs a dribble drive break … here comes Nightmare II, Eric Bledsoe.
Team linchpin could be Darius Miller. His is the face every coach wants to see — wide-eyed listener, anxious to follow instructions, embraces best-supporting-actor role.
Jon Hood is whirling dervish off the bench with whatever-it-takes attitude at both ends. Can shoot too.
Odd man out? DeAndre Liggins.
Friday night in Rupp Arena, Calipari, Chapter One. Morehead State. Kentucky is so good and deep in so many areas, the prime threat to beat this team is, well, UK itself.
Yogi was right, you can observe a lot just by watching.
Penthouse: KU, UK & UNC
Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina have in common penthouse occupancy, same school colors in varied shades of blue, preseason hype and Hubble high expectations from fans and media.
What else do college basketball’s tradition titans have in common at tip-off time?
Each is positioned to be first to 2,000 wins plateau. UK has 1,988 wins, Carolina 1,984, and No. 1 ranked Jayhawks, 1,970.
Why is this worth mentioning? Promotion, teevee ratings, Long Green and sidebar.
KENTUCKY. John Calipari should have a Neil Armstrong speech ready. The Wildcats should be 7-0 when North Carolina arrives in Lexington Dec. 5. Odds are against UK reaching win 12 without blemish, but members of Big Blue Nation have already penciled in Drexel at home in time for Christmas.
NORTH CAROLINA. Roy Williams’ defending national champions play Ohio State and Michigan State before a CBS date at Rupp Arena. The Tar Heels usual creampuff December might make them favorites to pass Kentucky, get to 2,000 first. But Carolina plays Ohio State and Michigan State before going to Lexington. And, of course there’s Calipari and UK’s prime recruiting class.
KANSAS. Bill Self’s team will be primed to “one game at a time, boys”. The Jayhawks need a Final Four run minimum to reach 2,000 in March.
As sidebar, put Vitale on mute, and enjoy. This should be a fun three-horse race to watch.
Rick Pitino’s team heads into the kind of year a coach prefers after losing two lottery picks. Stealthy. Under the radar … twice over.
First, the defending league champion is middle of the pack pick in the Big East. A good thing.
Second, all the rage, and most of the pressure, is down I-64 where Calipari’s cosmic nova and John Wall’s blue star glow have hypnotized media largely eclipsing Pitino’s daymare summer and ignores UofL prospects.
In fact, this scene is when Pitino is at his best. Da Coach can poor mouth and mean it. Says here, by mid-January, the Cardinals could be stirred into a potent and tasty (Italian) stew.
Let’s see if we have this straight — Western returns four starters, is favored to win the Sun Belt, A.J. Slaughter is preseason conference player of the year, recruiting class rated best in the league and this season could trumpet a theme WKU fans have never accepted. “We ain’t no mid-major.”
For grammatic correctness, we reach back to June for a testy(?) declaration by Toppers coach Ken McDonald.
“There’s nothing mid-major about Western Kentucky,” he said. “We have tremendous facilities, tradition and coaching staff. (WKU) can play in any conference in the country and hold our own.”
McDonald added, “I take offense to the ‘mid-major’ label and people need to get away from that moniker. There (are) plenty of programs that compete on a national basis, like Coach (Mark) Few’s Gonzaga program. The key is to have the coaching staff intact and take chances.”
Toppers taking chances has a good ring.
Western opens Monday at Diddle with Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a “see where we are” prep for a December 2 date at South Carolina.
News & Views
NEWS. Ex-Painstville High basketball coach Bill Mike Runyon will run for the State Legislature next year.
VIEW. Either Runyon has mellowed into a diplomat or his fiery personality, could be a stimulus package for Frankfort.
NEWS. Bob Knight had his attorney return a $75,000 check to Indiana University last month, telling ESPN, “In all the years I coached at Indiana and elsewhere, I never accepted a thing from alumni and I don’t intend to start now.”
VIEW. Admirable, right? Wrong. Bull-headed. Knight should have taken the money and given it to charities of his choice at Thanksgiving.
And so it goes. E-mail Bob Watkins at email@example.com