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Vitale urges Kentucky fans to be patient, says “win over Louisville could be just the medicine they need”


Kentucky fans should not panic. Or at least that’s the advice ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has in spite of UK’s weekend loss at North Carolina that dropped the Cats to 19th in this week’s Associated Press poll.

Vitale thinks Kentucky, which has also lost to Michigan State and Baylor, will find its way back into the top 10 in the near future.
“Number one, there is just too much talent for them to get back up high,” said Vitale Monday. “Ultimately, their talent will prevail. They played really hard against North Carolina. Really hard. They made some key mistakes, especially on missed free throws, but they will eventually get it together. They just need to get that one big win. Playing at home against Louisville, that could be the key to getting them rolling if they win that game. The win over Louisville could be just the medicine they need.”

Vitale doesn’t think losing to three teams ranked in the top 14 is a long-term detriment for Kentucky.

“You don’t lose anything by losing early. It’s not like football,” Vitale said. “People hear so much great recruiting news about these players, but they have to learn, too. They were all the top options on their high school teams. The ball was always coming to them. They were the guys to always make the plays. Defensively, they could relax and not have to play with the intensity they do now.

“It’s hard learning to be like the third or fourth option and not be the first option like you have always been. It just takes time to blend and better understand team strengths and weaknesses. Playing those good teams helps you do that.”

Vitale says not every player progresses as fast as former UK stars John Wall, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did.

“You expect everybody to do that, but this group just need a little longer to adjust,” Vitale said.

He noted that twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison “have talent” but still need to get “more in sync and cohesive” with teammates.

“There was no cohesiveness at North Carolina between the inside and outside games,” Vitale said. “(Julius) Randle never got in the flow of the game, and Kentucky can’t have that. But the cream always rises to the top, and they’ve got talent. Don’t doubt that and panic over Kentucky.

“That 2012 team with Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist was so unique and all about winning. A lot of these kids are thinking about too much. Look at the body language. It does not demonstrate joy. They are playing so hard and want to please the coaches, fans, family, everybody. They just are not playing in a relaxed, flowing motion like you would want. When they get that, watch out. And it will happen with one major win that they need badly.”

Vitale says early-season upsets are good for college basketball, but fans should “not get carried away” with giving up on a team that loses games early, especially to ranked teams. He says messages he’s got on Twitter from some UK fans questioning coach John Calipari’s ability, blaming officials and belittling players “ruins Kentucky basketball for the 90 percent of the fans” who use logic.

“Right now everybody is just too carried away. People there in Kentucky are not patient, but they need to be with this team,” Vitale said. “Some fans there don’t understand other teams get players and have good coaches, too. It’s not automatic that you just go out and win.

“Hey, they better not take Belmont lightly. It’s a bit deceiving that they beat Carolina because Carolina missed 26 of 48 free throws that game and was actually probably 15 points better. But they are well coached and get the most out of their talent. That game is no gimme for Kentucky, either, and they can’t afford to lose one like that now.”


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  1. Larry Pup

    I’m no big Vitale fan, but he makes some good points here. Nothing that any true UK fan didn’t already know however. I have never thought he was a big UK fan. I also felt that he was a bit condescending here in some of his remarks concerning UK basketball fans, and in giving us a lecture on what he says “ruins Kentucky basketball for the 90 percent of the fans who use logic.” Another example of this is, what makes him think UK will take Belmont lightly? Then he goes on to point out Belmont’s win over UNC was really a fluke. I guess their loss to UAB was a fluke too Dick.

  2. Kokamo Joe

    Louisville has played one ranked team and lost. This game is in Rupp. Louisville is very weak at the center position, which is where Kentucky is strong. The only chance that Louisville has is to bomb from the outside. Kentukcy will win that game. After that game it will be smooth sailing for both UK and UL and by tournament time neither will have been truly tested and the December 28th game will be on the back burner.

    The old goat is right about one thing. The early three loses will not doom this team. Come tournament time the Cats will be rolling and those that decide seeding will place them high. Teams that have fans who travel well always get looked out favorably and no fan base travels as well as the BBN.

  3. King Ghidora

    Wow you know your team is losing ground when Vitale starts trying to cheer you up. I don’t think anyone believes this is a bad team or even that they consciously try to be selfish. They just don’t know how to avoid mistakes. Some things certainly can improve quickly especially on defense. It was defense that made that 2012 team really good. Whenever the offense would get in a rut the d would get going and that would make for a good offense. Good defense leads to easy shots on offense. That’s been a staple of UK basketball since Rupp first came to town.

    This team is kind of at a crossroads I believe. They can either become the great team we were expecting or they can self destruct like the team did last year. Good press as a high school player doesn’t equate to being a good college player. All the talk of being the greatest class in history could have hurt this team actually. They aren’t hungry enough it seems. When I see a guy like Randle just let down on defense instead of trying to be the same kind of force he is on offense I have to wonder if they will ever get it. Only time will tell.

    I worry about the program if this team fails to do well. The staggering list of recruits could dry up in a hurry. Recruiting is a tricky endeavor and even small things can rock that boat. But losing when you’re supposed to be winning is about the quickest way to scare away recruits.

    I do still have confidence in Cal. But he has to get it done this time I’m afraid especially after his own talk of 40-0. He could end up being his own worst enemy because of that.

    This team will grow. People want to compare it to the Fab 5 (the Mich. version) but they forget those guys stuck around more than one year. 4 out of that 5 played 3 years in college. If this team played that long together they would be extremely good. I think we all got spoiled by some special players from Cousins and Wall through Davis and MKG. Not all freshmen come out of the gate like that.

    Let’s just hope this team catches fire before tournament time. There’s a lot of basketball to be played yet. Titles aren’t that easy to come by. There are 351 Div. 1 basketball teams. There have been 74 NCAA champions. UK has won 9 of those. The odds of that happening are staggering when you think about it. Yet UK is still a good pick to win it all this year IMO. If their talent gets together and learns some things then watch out. And they don’t have to give out fake grades to get players either. Let’s not forget that UNC got a lot of players the old fashioned way – by cheating.

  4. Gene T.

    I still don’t remember Cal saying this team was going 40-0. That was fans and media. Cal said he would like to coach a 40-0 team before he retired. Give that a rest. We need to just win as many as we can. We need to beat Belmont, and then UL. I really feel we win both of these.

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