Tag:Indiana Hoosiers
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:04 am

Kentucky Sits Atop The World

Which Is Harder, Getting To The Top, Or Staying ?

When John Calipari took the UK coaching job, he promised a return to excellence. A renewal of the glory days of UK Basketball. He made no bones about what he intended to do, and how he intended to do it. He has reinforced this at every turn. He has once again made Lexington, Kentucky the capital of the world of college basketball. For the second time since his coming to Lexington, the Kentucky Wildcats are on top of the polls and nationallt accepted as the best team in college, for the moment. But can they sustain this rise to the top by maintaining that ranking?

Some will say that rankings mean nothing when it comes tournament time, because you have to beat all comers when they hit the floor. But Kentucky has had to deal with the "cards they have been dealt" when it comes to the seeding in recent years, and that can be helped by maintaining that #1 ranking. Kentucky has not only the talent this year to win it all, they have the intricate pieces they need to be exactly what they need to when it comes to playing different styles against different teams as they face them in tournament-style play. Running and gunning one night, slugging through the trenches the next, and lobbing grenades from three point land the next are all possible with this squad. They play defense like they were born to it, and there is not a selfish bone in even one of their bodies. If there is a weakness it is at the point, but that gets better every time they hit the floor. Marquis Teague is a big time point guard with an upside which is phenomenal, and with Doron Lamb and Darius Miller backing him up he has nothing to worry about. But after the Christmas break he will get even more help as Twany Beckham becomes eligible to play.Beckham has size and bulk to fight through screens and loves to make plays, and understands his role, as do all of the others.

Of course, what really scares most coaches is the versatility of this squad. Anthony Davis can bring the ball up the floor as easily as he can dunk it from the foul line. The pieces are virtually interchangeable up to the 5 through the first 10 guys on the bench. There is power, finesse, speed, amazing one on one defense as well as team defense.And they are going to get better every time they take the court.

Kentucky has gotten through the toughest part of their early schedule by overcoming UNC. Now they face Indiana and make the next step towards taking it all. Standing in their way are those same Hoosiers, the Louisville Cardinals, and a host of SEC foes who all want a piece of the action. But it will be to no avail. This team has that special difference making quality that will let them overcome the obstacles they face. No matter who they may be. This season is not about who the Cats play, it is about who they are. 
Posted on: December 5, 2011 9:01 am

The Search For Perfection

Cats Reaching For the Platinum Ring This Year

One of the sporting world's most ancient taboos is talking about having a perfect season. First off, it's so rare when it happens it is something to behold, but more than that, it takes so much pressure and heaps it upon coaches and players, and everyone else associated with a team it would topple even the staunchest of constitutions.

Now I am not talking the world of college football here. In today's world of college football, it takes perfection to play for that National Championship that everyone loves and covets. This year's LSU squad is just the latest example of what happens when the best of the best put together a great run. Winning 12,13, or even 14 games as a football team is not only doable, it is expected if you want to be recognized at the end of the season. Of course the current college football setup simply exacerbates their problem of legitimacy when the subject of a championship is discussed. The BCS is nothing more than a joke, and everyone knows it, including those who run it. But it makes so much money, garners so much publicity, and provides the bowl system it's own brand of justice, so to speak, that it has become a different world.

But there are others who have to become something more than human to succeed. This year's candidates include the Green Bay Packers. Clearly the class of the NFL. But to win 16 regular season games, then back that up with a clean run through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl? That takes some doing.

Professional Baseball, Basketball, Hockey all have placed the perfect season outside the realm of possibility. Collegiate Baseball also considers it an unapproachable target. But then we have the world of College Basketball.

Bloomington, Indiana is a somewhat mythical place. By mythical I mean it is the home of the last perfect season in college basketball. Bobby Knight and his Indiana Hoosiers hold that title. Perfect. There is no other word that describes it quite so succinctly. Winning 30-40 college basketball games in a year is possible. IT is not only possible, it is within the realm of possibility every year. The winning school in the NCAA tournament often has between 1-5 losses. That means that depending on the point spread, perfection could be no more than just 2-3 baskets a year from happening. 

Come Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats start another push for perfection this year. We have National Championships, we have SEC Championships, we ship boatloads of talent to the NBA, we are the center of the Basketball world once more. But we want that perfect season. There are milestones you have to cross of course to get there. Tubby Smith managed a run through an undefeated SEC schedule on the way to the tournament where they came up short. We have had a lot of pre-conference undefeated runs before hitting a loss of a game or two along the way when conference play got rolling. The big rock was UNC last Saturday. That hill had to be climbed, and it was, in amazing fashion. But a one-point win does not allay the fears of the Big Blue Nation. Had the Cats waxed UNC by 15-20 (which would have been possible with making their FT's and shooting better) then the entire fan base would have been whispering over the back fences. 

But to do it, the Cats have to win each and every game. One at a time, and in a variety of ways. Just being a good fast break team is not enough anymore. Being good defensively is not enough either. You have to have Kyle Macy shooting FT's one night, and John Wall running the point another. You need Eloy Vargas coming in and working in the trenches one night, and Anthony Davis racking up triple doubles on others. You need unselfish guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller saying they don't care of they start or not. And you need coaches who, although they would never mention it, prepare those same kids to do the very thing this piece suggests.

I look closely at this year's Wildcat squad and I see the pieces necessary to do this. This team and beat you in a variety of ways, and they are only going to get better as the season wears on. They have depth, youth, senior leadership, and basketball acumen running out of their ears. But all of that will not be enough. They have to play unselfish and smart, with both brute force and finesse', and they have to do it with a huge target on their backs. 

Saturday is the next obstacle to that perfect season. And wouldn't you know it, the next team standing in the way would be the new and improved Indiana Hoosiers.
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