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.