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2009-2010 Kentucky basketball: What we know so far

magicdoesthewall
Magic does the ‘John Wall dance’… moment of the year at Rupp Arena? (Kentucky.com)

Cal’s the man: When UK hired John Calipari, critics and fans alike spoke of how he must embrace what it meant to be the head coach in basketball-rich Lexington. It’s clear now that Calipari has not embraced his opportunity. After going 29-2 overall (18-0 at home) and leading Kentucky to the top ranking in the country, there’s only one word for what Cal has done with the job: he’s dominated it.

Whether it was getting a young team of superstars to play together, having world-renowned guests take in the sights at Rupp, or winning the hearts of the most unreasonable fans in sports (save the Yankees- maybe), Coach Cal has truly dominated the job on all aspects. Even though it seems his speeches are more prepared than a monologue on Grey’s Anatomy and some of the Cats wins this season have been more drawn out than an episode of American Idol, there’s not a better man in the country for this job.

Calipari seems to have a time-inventing machine, as he’s able to juggle public appearances, celebrity relationships, recruiting demands, and a Twitter account all at once. Oh, and he’s got those games to coach, too. A+ job by Cal this year, and kudos to A.D. Mitch Barnhart for bringing him in.
 
Coach of the year? Is an A+ effort good enough to win National Coach of the Year? It may not even garner SEC COY this season. Joe Biddle of the Tennessean (go figure) writes that “considering the circumstances, no SEC coach has done a better job than [Bruce] Pearl,” and I… don’t… really… (sigh) disagree. With the dissention the team (and the university) faced, it’s quite an accomplishment for Pearl to have knocked off two of the top three teams in the country this season. Don’t let his appearance fool you: this crazy, orange-clad, red-faced fella can coach.
 
Or how about Mark Fox from Georgia? Mark Bradley of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (yeah, go figure again….) makes a valid argument, noting how well players such as Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie have developed under Fox. And if that doesn’t impress you, Mark Pope works for Fox, too, which has to be good for something, right? Let the debate begin.
anderson96teamwall10team
’96 or ’10: who’s better now? In ten years?
Talent-to-burn: Have you ever seen a team with as much talent as the 2009-10 Cats? The easy answer you just muttered, the ’96 team, is the best comparison, but how do these names compare now…
 
Calipari, Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe, Orton, Miller, Dodson, Stevenson, Hood, Harrelson, Krebs vs. Pitino, Delk, Walker, Anderson, McCarty, Mohammed, Mercer, Edwards, Sheppard, Epps, Prickett, Pope…
 
…and how will they compare in two, five, or ten years? After 31 games, both teams have/had 29-2 records (the ’96 team reached 31 games after their SEC tournament and first-round of NCAA). Let the debate resume.
 
Chock full o’ fan favorites: Have you ever seen a team with this many guys you love cheering for? Bledsoe’s a stud, everyone loves Boogie, Dodson’s lights out, Harris overcame (more than one) injury, Liggins surprised everyone, Miller is Kentucky’s own, Orton blocks everything, Pat-Pat is an all-time favorite, Stevenson overachieved, and Wall lived up to the hype.
 
billygwhoknew
I mean, who knew? (Kentucky.com)
 What a difference a year makes: After its regular season ending loss to Florida last year, our 2008-9 Cats stood at 19-10, had lost four in a row, was 2-4 in their last six at Rupp and had lost eight of its last 11 games. People say to be careful what you wish for. None of those people are talking right now.
 
Next year? With Wall, Patterson, and perhaps Cousins/Bledsoe gone, the Cats will look to names like Orton, Miller, Liggins, Dodson, and Hood to fill in. Stacey Poole and perhaps a couple more recruits (Knight? Leslie?) also join the ’10-’11 fold.
 
What will we say if… two short years ago, Coach Calipari’s Memphis Tigers had a nine point lead slip away with two minutes left in their national championship loss against Kansas. Gavin Brownstein of the Memphis Tigers Bleacher Report wrote that it was like “watching the Titanic sink… if Calipari is such a great coach, he would have done a better job of motivating his shocked bunch at a time when his players really needed his guidance… great athletes can only take you so far… nobody remembers who came in second…”
 
What will happen if our super-Cats lose in the same fashion? I’m sure Brownstein won’t have much to say; he’s probably been busy chronicling this year’s edition of the Memphis Tigers bubble watch. Or watching more Leonardo DiCaprio movies. And if you ask me, seeing Kentucky’s NIT loss at Notre Dame last year was much more similar to watching the Titanic sink….
 
Side note: Brownstein posted a comment (on his own article… who does that?) a short time after the he wrote the linked article above. The comment included the following:
 
The backlash of hate and vitriol I received by Memphis fans was reason enough for me to continue writing about the subject. I had an article prepared had they won which would have explained how wrong I would have been about this team. I am humble. I would say I was accurate about 80 to 85% of the facts that I wrote.
  1. No one uses a dead, boring word like ‘hate’ and follows it up with ‘vitriol’ in the same sentence. Here’s betting he originally went with ‘hate and anger’ and pulled out the ole-shift-F7 on us. Shame on you, Gavin.
  2. Who ‘prepares’ articles before games? If you cheat on a test and you still fail it, don’t tell your teacher you ‘prepared’ multiple cheat-sheets… 
  3. If you have to tell someone that you are humble, you are, most definitely, not humble. Not at all. 
  4. This last one’s my favorite. You ‘would say’ that you were accurate ‘about’ x% of the time? No, no, no Gavin. Would’ve been better to go with ‘my mom thinks I am special, and that I am right 100% of the time.” Stay hot bud, and enjoy Shutter Island.

March Madness is officially upon us. It’s good to be back.

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