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Guest post: “We were not that bad this year”

uk basketball logoBy TONY HOLMES

 As I sit here reliving the season and fighting back the need to scream and curse I came up with  this thought.  Was this season really  “That Bad “?   I truly wanted to answer YES.  Heck I wanted to scream Hell Yes.  Then I did something that I teach the young agents at my office to do.  I slowed down and gave it some additional thought and here is what I decided.
We were not “That Bad”.  Heck we were good under the circumstances.  In fact we may have been as good a replacement team as there ever has been.  Ask your self this.   Has there ever been a team (in a major conference) that lost it’s entire starting five and the best sixth man in the league and still managed to come in second place the following year in that league?  When was the last time any of us has seen something like that?
The Fab Five still had players on the bench who had started before and had been in tough games on the road before and underestimating those players value leaves you in the position UK was in this year.  The last team that even comes close to what we went through with losses of key personnel was Rick Pitino’s first year and that team was 14-14.  These guys were following a three year JUGGERNAUT that won three SEC championships (regular season or tournament), went to three Elite 8’s,  2 Final Four and  Won it all.  Those players on this years team had no idea what they were getting into.  There was blood in the water from the start and the sharks (media and other teams) were circling.
The loss of Nerlens Noel was the last straw.  With him we were poised to make a run (deep into the tourney). Without him we were on the run.  Adding the loss of the SEC Defensive player of the year and the nation’s Defensive player of the year to a totally new team was just too much.  These guys did more than could be expected under the circumstances.  Remove the top six retuning players from any of the current number 1 seeds, then have the top player on that team go down  and they would all to a team have a LOSING record! ! Of that I am sure.
So do not worry BBN.  This was a VERY good team for what they were up against.  I for one truly doubt if any team but UK could have accomplished what this team did under those same circumstances (and I know it wasn’t much by Cal’s or the BBN standards).  UNC lost players but still had several who had been in the system to step up.  Cal’s recruiting does not provide for that.  But a lack of success this season just might.
These guys faced game after game against  juniors and seniors that had never beaten the Blue in their entire college careers and they truly had no idea what that means.  I know many are already looking to next year.  BUT IN MY HUMBLEST OPINION,  THIS WAS AS GOOD AS IT GETS UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND I AM TRULY HAPPY WITH THE OUTCOME (yes I would have preferred better).
GO BLUE AND GET READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL! !

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30 comments

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  1. krautdog

    With all due respect-you are right. The bottom line of this year could impact the succeess of this program for years to come if some of these freshmen return with the incoming recruits. I suspect that there will be several who want to return to right the wrong and play on a championship team. The UKhaters are having a field day now but will soon rue the year of the CATS return!

  2. Larry Pup

    I agree with you Tony. It could have been much worse after Noel went down, for sure.

    1. UKFMLY

      Thanks Larry. I just think most are not looking at this team for what it was(not their high school ranking , but 5 guys who had NEVER been in a situation like this in their young lives) and what it was up against. Instead they only see what the wanted or expected and since that did not happen they are upset. I truly get it heck my wife does not agree with my position and we have been together 30 plus years LOL.

  3. Mike

    Tony….were you sober when you put this together? There is no way that you could call this team VERY good by any stretch of the word. Rember…we don’t rebuitd…we reload at UK. Were all of the early season prognosticators wrong when they picked up preseason #3 in the country? They must have seen something that you didn’t. My question to you would be…has any team in the country with this much highly rated preseason talent ever imploded like this team? This team did not improve as the season went on. In fact the further it went the worse it got. When you watch many of the teams that are currently in the dance you can see that we did not deserve to be there. Many of these teams actually have good offensive flow, have good outside shooting skills, and good defensive skills.

    1. Eric

      I recall Cal reacting to the preseason rankings by asking what the voters were smoking (or aomething like that).

    2. Anonymous

      Mike you fail to mention that UK had no one to help so these guys learn the ropes. or how to play down the over hyped expectations both from the media and the BBN. We were spoiled by the amazing success of the first three classes but they all had something this one did not. Guys who had been through the grind before. PP, Liggins and DM provided leadership. Most seem to underestimate that fact. and if you don’t compare them to anyone(which is they way it should be but not the way it is) they were a very good team under the circumstances. I know my position is not the one most chose but it’s mine and I stand behind it.

      KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

      GO BLUE OR STAY HOME

    3. UKFMLY

      Are you the same Mike that called some players loser? If so you and I are not even in the same world. I try my best to not denigrate players but that is something you seem comfortable with. so I can’t put much value in your comments . But try to take a moment and look at them and the entire situation(without comparing them to your predetermined expectations of UK basketball)l and you might be a little more objective. IMHO

      KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

      GO BLUE OR STAY HOME

    4. Kokamo Joe

      Re: reload
      That is the system, and it simply did not work this year. We are well into the reload system for next year and some are saying that some of our reload are possibly retreads. If they come back Calipari will have an option to change his philosophy. Will he actually play more than 7? Will he really begin to build a roster of 15 and will he play them all enough so that the lesser talented players can develop experience and their talent?

      You are correct we began the season with the best recruiting class in the country, again. Calipari warned us, but who really pays attention to this master propagandist, especially when he down plays what we think is another potential run to the championship?

      Some like to rationalize and pretend. We were bad. But, and this is the great thing about Calipari’s system. He can recruit and take the Cats from humiliation to glory in 7 short months.

  4. LindaS

    One thought…lost in first round of NIT…nuff said.

  5. HONDO2

    THE THING THAT WAS MISSING WITH THIS GROUP AFTER NOELS WENT DOWN WAS “THE WILL TO WIN”–NOELS HAD IT–POLSON HAD IT[EVEN GOT MORE AGGRESSIVE IN THE LAST GAMES]GOODWIN HAD IT BUT PLAYED OUT OF CONTROL TOO MUCH–CAULEY–STEIN HAD–WILTJER HAD IT SOMETIME BUT THE OPPOSITION WATCHED THE FILM AND CROWDED HIM ON DEFENSE SO THERE WENT THE OUTSIDE SHOT]MAYS HAD IT–BUT YOU NEED 14 PLAYERS WITH IT PLUS ALL THE BALL BOYS[DO YOU THINK MKG WOULD HAVE BEEN COMFORTABLE PLAYING WITH THESE GUYS??? THEY WOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED THAT WAY LONG WITH HIM IN THE HUDDLE–

  6. Judi Cole

    I agree with Tony. We had 21 wins and a better win-loss record than some teams in the NCAA. We also beat Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss. These very young players didn’t have the seasoned veterans to practice against like our teams from the past 3 years. You get better when you have the ooportunity to go up against someone better than you. That’s what will happen next year if these guys come back, which I hope they all do. I know, Nerlens will not, but I can always hope!

  7. TheProfessor

    Prior to losing Nerlens, this was a top 20 team (5 seed equivalent) and I don’t think that would have changed over the last month, had Nerlens not gone down.

    Without Nerlens, this was barely an average D1 team, and it played that way down the stretch, getting two impressive wins in the process, but also sustaining multiple embarrassing (for the UK program) losses.

    It was not a great UK team with Nerlens. But it was a very good team with Nerlens.

    1. UKFMLY

      ditto

  8. HONDO2

    WHEN CAL DOESN’T GET HIS PG STRAIGHTENED OUT BY MARCH FIRST YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG????HARROW WAS GONE FOR 2-3 WEEKS EARLY[DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT WAS ABOUT]???WHEN HARROW CAME BACK HE STARTED TO PLAY FAIRLY GOOD–THEN STARTED DROPPING OFF???–POYTHREES LOOKED GOOD TO ME IN THE FIRST 5-6 GAMES[VERY TALENTED]BUT WHEN THE COMPETITION TOUGHENED UP POYTHREES WENT SOUTH THOUGH YOU COULD SEE THAT HE HAD THE ABILITY TO PLAY BIG–CAL SAID BEFORE THE ROBERT MORRIS GAME THAT HE AND HIS STAFF HAD TO CHANGE THEIR RECRUITING GUIDELINES FROM GREAT ATHLETES TO GREAT ATHLETES WITH FIGHT–FIRE–WILL TO WIN–DETERMINATION TO COME OUT ON TOP–

    IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW ONE LOOKS–IT’S WHETHER THEY CAN PUT THE BALL IN THE BASKET///REBOUND–PLAY DEFENSE—WIN–WIN–WIN–

    WHO DOES THE HEAT GO TO LATE IN THE GAME WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE??? LEBRON–THE BULLS WENT TO MICHAEL JORDAN–THE CELTICS TO PIERCE–

    YOU WANT A PLAYER WHO WANT’S THE BALL WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE–

  9. oldkentucky

    This was a good team and I enjoyed watching them every game this year. I even got to see them play in person in College Station and it was a terrific game. I have no idea how good next years team will be but I expect to enjoy watching the games.

  10. donv

    We played two number one seeds and one number two. Early in their careers our freshman went toe to toe against Duke while playing without our point guard. We lost to the overall number 1 seed in their gym by 5. We split with the number two. All of this without a player who had ever started a college game. I too, think we could have made a run with Noel.

  11. Kokamo Joe

    Any body that saw the Vandy game and that hideous NIT game has to know that this was a bad year. Yes, Noel was injured, but teams have injuries all the time. If we had a more complete roster, the Noel injury would not have had such an impact.

    THIS WAS A BAD YEAR, AND NO AMMOUNT OF RATIONALIZATION CAN MAKE IT TAKE ON THE SHINE OF DECENCY.

    So let us not pretend and search for silver linings. There are no silver linings. We did not make the NCAA tournament. We had a worse year, despite a weaker schedule, than Billy Gillispie’s last year.

    There I have said it. Now I say this….so what! It the little kids skins his knee, he either cries or he gets up and moves on.

    Take off the blue glasses and admit the truth. We had a bad year…then let it go. We have the best recruiting class…ever. Next year will be epic.

    1. Karen Sprinkle

      I disagree that there are no silver linings in this situation. Cal has a tangible example to show to future teams about what happens when you don’t buy in and listen to the coaches, just as he has the 2012 national champions to show as an example of unselfish team play. Any players who return have a shot at redemption, but only if they are willing to work their butts off.

      1. Kokomo Joe

        So our silver lining is that Calipari has an example to show future players what will happen if they don’t listen to him? Maybe, but that is a bit thin. How about this….Calipari says…I ain’t gonna go through this again. I am going to change how I approach my job in the future.

        Regardless of what happened THIS year, the silver lining is that it won’t stay that way. New forces are coming.

    2. Larry Pup

      UK still won 21 games or so. They did it with a lot of set backs and other issues too. It could have been worse. We could be 12-21 or whatever. It could always be worse. But yeah, I agree it is much easier to move on rather than dwell on the past. Especially with the Harrison twins and company inbound.

    3. UKFMLY

      I DON’T NEED BLUE GLASSES I BLEED BLUE. You can call it like you want I choose to do otherwise. It wasn’t a bad year for what we had or went thru. This is not a search for silver linings LOL. It’s my honest opinion. For a group of guys who have NEVER PLAYED TOGETHER IT WAS A GOOD YEAR.

      KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

      GO BLUE OR STAY HOME

      1. Kokamo Joe

        Re: wasn’t a bad year for what we went through.

        IMO it was a bad year because of what we went through. Different strokes, I suppose. I just like to look at reality. Calipari recruits have never played together. For the most part they have done fine.

        UK does not make the NCAA tournament. UK does not lose to the likes of Robert Morris. Even the player claim it was a bad year.

        I simply think that .. at least for me…it is important to own both the good and bad. Here is the way I look at it and I have used this example before…..a little kid falls and skins his knee. He sees the blood and he feels the pain. He can do two things: 1. he can cry and blame the stone that he tripped over or (2) he can pick himself up, get a band aid, and go on. Either way, he cannot deny that his knee has been skinned.

        When something bad happens it does little good to dwell on it. With Calipari we don’t have to do that. We have a great group of recruits coming in, the best class EVER. They have not played together either, but I will be highly disappointed if they have don’t give a good accounting of themselves. They don’t have to win it all, but a great 8 would be good. Who knows, there could be a championship out there.

  12. Mike

    Karen S. …..agree with you on the no silver linings in this situation. I feel Cal has to stay with separation mode because of his earlier “non-coachable” comments as well as others. He needs to posterize a couple of guys to show what happens if you come here and aren’t prepared to work within team concept and give it your all.

  13. Anonymous

    I have always told N. C. and Duke fans, “We might not have the best players, but we’ve always had the best TEAMS”–that was not the case this year.

  14. Jim Boyers

    I can’t look at the overall season quite as fondly as you can UKFMLY, but I agree in principle that this team was probably as good as it could be. We were GREATLY over-confident in the talent of this team. They are talented, but were not ready for the pressure they were subjected to. They never got to mature and learn. Hopefully, many of them will return and be able to round into the players we expected them to be.

    The season, as a whole, was disappointing. However, it had many moments which were as good as I have ever experienced. Most recently, the Mizzou and Florida games. Two of the greatest atmospheres I have ever been involved in. Nerlens having four fouls against Ole Miss and playing like he had none, setting the single game block record. Julius icing the Senior Day win at the foul line. And many more.

    I will look back with mixed feelings about this season and I’m sure time (and a few more titles) will soften the edges and make it seem like the tiny bump in the road that it was.

    1. Karen Sprinkle

      I totally agree with your last statement, Jim. It may be that we expected too much from a team that lost its best 6 players, even if we did gain 4 players who made up a #1 recruiting class. I think we are disappointed the most because, at least in our eyes, they had the talent to play well (as shown by the Mizzou and Florida games), but just couldn’t sustain effort or smart play. I have faith Cal will do whatever it takes, as he said, to NEVER have to sit through a season like this one again. Whether it means he adapts his recruiting strategy, or whatever other adjustments he makes, his past performance indicates that he will get it done.

  15. UKFMLY

    I agree Karen. The higher the expectations the greater the depth of the
    disappointment.

  16. HONDO2

    CAL NEEDS TO STRESS 2 THINGS–EVERY DAY–MORNING–NOON–AND NITE–

    #1–YOU HAVE TO BE DETERMINED TO WIN–HAVE FIRE IN YOUR BELLY–PLAY WINNING TEAM BASKETBALL IF YOU ARE GOING TO PLAY HERE—

    #2–EVERYONE NEEDS TO WORK HARD AT THE FREE THROW LINE–WINNING BASKETBALL TEAMS SHOOT ABOVE 65% AT THE FREE THROW LINE–YOUR PLAYING TIME WILL BE STRONGLY DETERMINED BY YOUR FREE THROW SHOOTING[OF COURSE IF YOU GET 25 REBOUNDS PER GAME WE CAN LOWER THAT FREE THROW SHOOTING DOWN TO 60%]

  17. Mike Martin

    Personally I tend to agree with this. I remember times when a 20 win season had us dancing regardless of the rest of the conf. In truth, these guys never jelled in the team concept. There is a reason why teams never played freshmen in the past, but those times have changed. Cal did what he could this year. It’s impossible to repeat last years feat year after year for several reasons. For one, we had a couple of guys last year that we wouldn’t have if the kids were not required to do a year in college. You remember them, numbers 1 and 2 in the NBA draft? For an above avarage team, that’s a one in 20 or 30 year feet. With Cal at the helm, we may have the chance to do it a couple times a decade, but not every year. As for cutting down the final nets, if these young “kids” come back next year, I believe they will indeed have the chance to do it again. Experance will make the difference, but make no mistake. These kids we just saw under perform this year, can and may very well go pro. I truly not, but they have the tallent to do it.

  18. Steve

    I agree with the original poster. You take any of the #1 seeds or the eventual National Champions starting 5 away and the first guy off the bench, then halfway thru the season take away their best player and see how they do the next year, bet they wouldn’t win 21 games. Another thing people need to know is that even though Coach Cal gets the best kids coming out of High School, all classes are not created equal. Everyone that keeps up with recruiting knew last years class was a weak class. Calipari tried to tell everyone at the start of the season that UK was over ranked and that the media was crazy for ranking them that high. He said he still liked the team but they had a long way to go, but people were used to him working magic with these young guys so they didn’t really believe him. I think the biggest obstacle this team couldn’t overcome was their strength, whenever they came up against a physical team and the officials allowed the game to get “rough” they were not strong enough to finish playes. It wasn’t really their fault, it was that they weren’t strong enough to be fouled by 6’9″ 260 lbs guys and still make the basket. I think that is why they had a hard time winning on the road, the officating this year, not only in the SEC but across the Country was absolutely terrible for Road teams. Which in my opinion is why not only the #1 teams were getting beat on the road to unranked teams but all the ranked teams were losing on the road to unranked teams. It was like every night of the season their were fans storming the courts. I personally am ok with the season we had, would have liked it to have been better. The program is in good hands and Coach Cal is still learning on the fly with these young players and is still making changes in the way he does things. I am thrilled with the past 4 years and look forward to the future. GO BIG BLUE!!!

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