Now that John Calipari and his Wildcats have gotten their early season train wreck back on course, they will be afforded a few special opportunities over the next two weeks to build a stronger résumé and possibly higher seed come selection Sunday.
This Tuesday, down in Gainesville, Florida at the modern day Gator Alley, the Cats will be afforded what many have dreaded but a few consider a quality opportunity to pole vault back into national contention against Billy Donovan’s veteran No. 2 Florida Gators. In my eyes, UK does not have to pull an upset to impress the media who vote in the rankings, or the NCAA selection committee who decides the teams and seeds, but a solid competitive game by the Cats resulting in no more than a final six- to eight-point spread would provide a new image of UK for everyone involved.
Another winnable SEC road game this coming Saturday at Tennessee could keep the impressive road record UK has built intact. It is irrelevant; the SEC is considered down this year because nothing has impressed the NCAA selection committee over the years more than a team’s conference road wins when they set seeds, and it has been mentioned on several occasions by the chairman of the committee during the selection show on CBS. Even losing at both Florida and UT may not knock the Cats out of NCAA contention, but a loss at UT will more than likely keep the Cats out of slipping back into the top 25 and more than likely head them back toward the NCAA bubble.
However this week’s games play out the following week, UK embarks on a three-game home stand with a great opportunity to showcase their turn around to the nation when the No. 20 Missouri Tigers invade Rupp Arena Feb. 23 for the first time ever, with the ESPN Game Day cameras rolling nationwide and putting the Cats in the spotlight for an opportunity to knock off a top 20 opponent on a national scene.
It says here if UK is to crawl back into the top 25, and maybe top 15 eventually, and create a better seed for the big dance it must run the table at home the rest of the year, and win two out the three remaining road games after this Tuesday’s bout with Florida. But it does not have to beat Florida Tuesday, just play competitively.
The second Florida game at Rupp Arena will be much more important on the national scene if all these other suggestions fall into place.
Basically, if you’re UK and going to head down the home stretch with six losses, this is the year to do it and still come out smelling like a rose in March when you looked like manure in November and December.
Stoops sends a message to Cards & WKU on signing day
There has been a lot of talk by my buddies in the statewide media contingent the past year that UK is an ugly third out of the three NCAA Div. 1 A football playing institutions in our Commonwealth, and to be painfully honest there is a lot of truth in that remark, especially if you’re just considering wins and losses. However, new UK football coach Mark Stoops may have turned that scenario around in the opposite direction on national signing day with the new 2013 football recruits set to arrive on each schools’ respective campuses this coming August.
Based on all the various different recruiting service rankings and ratings of individual players and teams, especially Rivals.com, Stoops’ first class of signees at UK far surpassed his neighbor to the north in Louisville’s Charlie Strong, and his new neighbor to the west, our ole friend Bobby Petrino down in Hilltoppers land in Bowling Green.
Rivals.com gave UK the highest ranking this year, putting them at No. 28 in the nation, which is UK’s best ever since the recruiting service age began back in the early 90’s. Louisville had the 57th best class, according to rivals, and WKU had the 90th best class. All based on 122 Div. 1 - A schools being listed.
Stoops’ first class of recruits was a pleasant surprise to everyone with seven different four-star recruits (based on the four major recruiting services evaluations) in the mix and at key positions, which should positively impact the team on the scoreboard as early as this coming season. WKU fell about where most thought they would when Willie Taggart left them abruptly to take the sunshine state job at South Florida, where the recruiting grounds are much more fertile for high school football players. But make no mistake, Bobby Petrino will turn that recruiting scenario around in one year, if he’s still in Bowling Green after next year.
On the other hand, our friends down in The Ville really come up short. As a matter of fact, a real head scratcher to me. Here is a team coming off a conference championship playing in a BCS bowl against arguably the No. 2 team in the nation, which they embarrassed on national TV, and all that does is bring in the No. 57th ranked recruiting class in the nation. This will be the first full complimentary class of recruits to play in the ACC for Louisville in 2014, and will be doing so without Teddy Bridgewater, who will be long gone in the NFL draft that previous spring.
If this dilemma develops over the next few months, it makes me wonder if Charlie Strong won’t be headed out of town at the end of next season as well right on the tail of Bridgewater. What else can ole Charlie do at Louisville that he has now not already done? Remember the tantrum that Strong threw toward the Louisville fan base late last season? I haven’t and I don’t think ole Charlie has either. Wouldn’t that be a real turn around for Tom Jurich to deal with. No Bridgewater, no Charlie Strong, and the 57th best recruiting class as your base class headed into ACC country with Florida State, Miami of Florida, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and a possible game with Notre Dame every other year.
Be careful what you ask for Cards, you may get it. But then again, I or any rational thinking member of the BBN would trade conferences with you in a heartbeat.