Obviously we know more about this extremely young UK men’s basketball team now that November is behind us, yet we still have a truck load more to learn. Roles and responsibilities are starting to form and John Calipari is about ready to draw a line in the sand with several players concerning breaking old habits. In the past Cal has won most of those battles with players, except for last year’s frustrating fiasco, but this is a new year with new players.
So far we’ve had the two token exhibition games, one to support local charities Transylvania and the other, Montvello State, was a cordial favor from a UK administrator DeWayne Peevy. Then the Michigan State game gave us a taste of the big time , big game scenario and the Bill Keightley Classic gave us an opportunity to see several players play many meaningful minutes to try and make a case for busting into the rotation.
Now, big boy basketball goes full stride for the entire month of December. There are no ducks or pigeons among Baylor, Boise State, North Carolina, Belmont, or Louisville. All five are either ranked in at least one of the top 25 polls or have received serious votes to be in. The Providence game Sunday night being the first of these December battles came out OK for the Cats, and the rest will also if UK can shoot 64.3 percent from the field and 76 percent from the free throw line. Willie Cauley-Stein was two rebounds and one block away from having the first triple-double of his brief college career. James Young’s shooting touch came back as he led the team in scoring with 18 points and once again UK out-rebounded its opponent 35-30.
Dominique Hawkins had 17 quality minutes of play again off the bench and continues to make a serious bid for making the eight-man rotation a finished nine-man rotation.
Next up is Baylor down in Irving, Texas. Remember them? They were the team that stopped Cal’s 52-game Rupp Arena winning streak last year about this time. The Bears are very talented and have size to match UK’s, but the biggest problem to solve Friday night may not be the opponent — it may be overcoming the extremely large Dallas Cowboys football stadium venue.
Large, spacious NFL-style stadiums have many times in past years been a nightmare for the pure perimeter shooters of basketball because the backgrounds behind the goals and backboards are so vast and spacious the depth perception can sometimes wreak havoc on these otherwise dead eye dicks. Also, don’t forget this is the site of next April’s 2014 Final Four, so hopefully the first time run this Friday will be successful and plant a seed in the minds of this talented, yet extremely young and mentally sensitive UK team.
Over the next month this UK team’s high water mark for March Madness will be established. So far after one peek into the immediate future with Providence College it looks promising.
Mark Stoops’ first year comes to an ugly end
Mark Stoops asked for the reins to UK football and he got them. He then asked for upgrades in stadium renovations and more money for his assistants’ salaries and recruiting budgets. His assistants all got more money than the previous staff and ground will be broken for the renovations this month with a completion date set for August 15th, 2015.
Be careful what you ask for Mark Stoops, because you may get it. Then what do you do?
First of all, trust me when I tell you that you will never get the pure truth out of a Div. I A football or basketball coach when you’re conducting an interview or having a conversation with them whether it be public or private, unless you’re a close personal friend with the coach from the sacred college coaching fraternity.
With that being said, I’ve wondered many times over the last few weeks if Mark Stoops hasn’t wondered to himself with what is going on down at Florida State, maybe I jumped too early, especially into the deep rugged waters of the SEC.
But that’s all water under the bridge. It’s time to circle the wagons now that you know how deep those waters are your treading in. Many UK followers think the rehabilitation starts and stops with the playmakers, especially at the quarterback position, and there may be a little bit of truth in that belief.
I think it starts up front with the offensive line because all the speed and athleticism in the world isn’t worth a dime without holes and space to run through and timely safe pockets to pass out of. Tennessee was on a four-game losing streak when they invaded Commonwealth Stadium last Saturday and had a grand total of one sack during that streak. Against UK the Vols sacked Maxwell Smith five times. Need I say more?
Time will tell how many strides Stoops makes with the team and overall program between year one and year two, which usually is when the greatest gains are made in any NCAA Div. I football rehabilitation project. A lot of money ($110 million to be exact) is going to be sunk into UK football between now and August 2015, so the honeymoon is officially over and positive results are expected to start surfacing as early as next fall to a degree.
I’m talking much more than two wins and competitive play with SEC caliber competition.