Sunday, December 5, 2010

Foul Play

     Any team trying to get by with a 7 man rotation can expect big time foul trouble with some regularity.  With four UK players fouling out at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, this was obviously one of those times.  It was almost a miracle that Kentucky came as close as they did to winning that game.  If it had gone into overtime, UK almost surely would have lost another player or two to fouls and been beaten much worse.
     Give the Tar Heel players some credit for stepping up big under pressure and making 9 straight free throws in one stretch late in the game.  It's worth pointing out that those were not freshmen making all those clutch free throws for North Carolina down the stretch.  In fact, with some of the finest freshmen talent in America on display in this one, it was the more experienced players who won it for the home team.  Tyler Zeller did a pretty good imitation of Tyler Hansbrough, while UK's best first year player, Terrance Jones, was suffering through a frustrating afternoon.  I only remember a couple of times all day when Jones made a good shot fake on the perimeter to bring his defender out on him and then took it strong to the hole.  I say be patient with this kid.  He's got enough mental toughness and athletic ability to to learn from his mistakes and starting consistently having monster games by tournament time.
      Ditto for Brandon Knight, and Doron Lamb now has proven he's not far behind his superstar freshmen brethren.
      Every team in the country has to be worried about the eventual outcome of the Enes Kanter case.  It's pretty obvious that if the new information UK has asked to present to the NCAA makes that governing body change its ruling and allow Kanter to play, the Cats suddenly have 5 more fouls to give in the low post, a lot more rebounds, and a presence that's going to make every other Wildcat on the floor better.
     If Kanter remains ineligible, Big Blue fans can just take a wait till next year attitude or they can sit back and enjoy watching the current group try to overcome their obvious deficiencies and go as far as they can in the Big Dance.
Maybe some day we'll remember them as the Sensational Seven.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Post Maui Musings

     Maybe we should have seen this coming.  Any time an entire team gets only 7 assists in a game and the point guard doesn't get any (as the Cats and Brandon Knight did in their Maui semi-final win over Washington) it's not a good omen.
     Kentucky was in good company in Maui.  Nobody had an answer for UConn's Kemba Walker.  I don't think I've ever witnessed a more spectacular three day run.
     Brandon Knight definitely had a bad tournament in Maui, but he's so athletically gifted and so intelligent that he will make the necessary adjustments to come back and have a great year.  It's also worth noting that Kemba Walker didn't play as a freshman the way he's playing right now.
     I've always felt that coaches need to be more flexible in their policy that puts any player with two fouls on the bench for the rest of the first half.  It was pretty obvious that UK was in deep trouble with Terrence Jones sitting instead of playing, and a 6'9" player with long arms should be able to still be a defensive presence without picking up more fouls if he plays smart.  I really think more often than not coaches would be better off going with their regular substitution patters and asking their players to go as hard as they can for as long as they can.
     Coach Cal says Josh Harrelson is probably as good a three point shooter as they have on the squad.  If that's true, why in the world would you let him go through the first three games of the season without taking a single one.  It makes sense to me that having a big man with the ability to take his tall defender away from the basket to defend the three would open up lanes for the dribble drive.
     Lack of depth finally reared its ugly head in the Land of Leis.  With an 8 man rotation, this Kentucky team ran out of gas on their last day on Maui.   3 games in 3 days was just too much them to maintain their edge.  I look for them to bounce back strong when they get their feet back on Kentucky soil again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pre Maui Musings

     If Patrick Patterson had come back for his senior year instead of winding up in the NBA's Developomental League, UK could have contended for another national championship even without Enes Canter.

     If Daniel Orton had come back for his sophomore year instead of taking Orlando's first round money to sit on his fanny, UK could have contended for another national championship even without Enes Kanter.

     John Calipari has finally found the combination to the vault and started making withdrawals from the vast potential of Darius Miller, and all it took was the simple strategy of using Miller behind the ball.  As a trailer, he is a great third option if Knight or Jones don't get something done early in the possession.

     Joe B. Hall used to expertly break players down and then build them back up to play the role he envisioned for them. Cal seems to have done the same thing with Josh Harrellson.  Because of an acute lack of depth in the low post, this team will lose several more games in the regular season than last years squad, but could go just as far in the tournament even without Enes Kanter if they can stay out of foul trouble.

     Harrellson got 12 rebounds against Portland.    If he gets 12 rebounds in an SEC game, Kentucky will win that game.

     If you're worried about Brandon Knight only having one assist against Portland, remember this.  Last year John Wall got the majority of his assists on lobs to Cousins or Patterson or Orton or Stephenson for dunks.  Knight doesn't have that luxury.  The only really big and athletic body he can lob it to is Terrence Jones, who spends a lot of time hanging around on the perimenter.  It's hard to dunk 20 feet from the basket.

     Knight's shooting stroke is a thing of beauty.  I could watch it all day long.

     I'm beginning to think the only reason Coach Cal recruited Stacey Poole was because he could, which meant that Florida couldn't.

     If UK wins its appeal and Enes Kanter is allowed back once the SEC portion of the schedule rolls around, the Cats will have as good a chance as anybody to win the national title.

     That's a lot of ifs, isn't it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cats New Star

     UK's season opener in basketball inspired this limerick.

The Cats have a new player named Jones
With greatness etched in his bones.
His arms are so long
He plays like King Kong
And can also shoot over zones.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cats on the Court

     Here are my early impressions of this year's UK basketball squad.

1.  Terrence Jones can become one of the best forwards ever to play at UK, but
      this team is not at its best when Jones is the tallest player in the line-up.  He
      needs to have either Harrellson, Vargas or ideally Kanter out there with
      him if this team is going to be great.  That frees Jones up to get away from
      the basket some and just roam the court.
2.   Josh Harrellson is not the kind of player who can rise up in the paint, catch
       a lob pass and dunk it all in one fluid motion, but Mike Phillips wasn't
       either, and Phillips  helped Kentucky win a national championship.
       Harrellson needs to be allowed to contribute by using the skills he does  
       possess.  Let's all just appreciate what he can do and stop harping on what
       he can't do.
3.   Brandon Knight is a much, much better shooter than John Wall was and
       runs an offense every bit as well.  He's not as fast as Wall, but nobody is,
       and being just a tad slower may help Knight prevent some of the high      
       turnover totals that Wall had.
4.    I'd like to see Doron Lamb become the best sixth man in the SEC, the kind
       of microwave player who comes off the bench and instantly heats things
       up every time.  Deandre Liggins and Darius Miller will be more than
       adequate starting on the wings, and on those occasions when Knight gets
       in foul trouble and Liggins has to move to the point, I can see Jon Hood
       becoming a factor as another wing player as well.
5.    My final impression comes in the form of a question.  How did Daniel
       Orton manage to get drafted in the first round?  Who would you rather
       have on your team, Orton or Terrence Jones?  I'd take Jones every time.  I
       have no doubt that he'll play big time minutes in the NBA someday.  I'm
       not so sure than Orton ever will.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Football and the Election

     I really enjoy watching University of Kentucky football games and I get a real kick out of observing politics on both the local and national level, but I have to admit that both have just worn me out this year.
     Thankfully, a UK team that can't seem to get ahead of anybody has a cupcake on the schedule this week and should lead from start to finish.  On the political scene, all the campaign nastiness is finally over following a mid-term election that showed how tired the majority of Americans are of business as usual in Washington.
     The campaign here in Kentucky was especially ugly this year with character assassination and outright lies becoming the norm rather than the exception.  Both parties resorted to those tactics rather than just tout their own accomplishments, but desperation fueled some incredibly outragious behavior this year.  I'm talking specifically about the altercation prior to the final debate between Jack Conway and Rand Paul when a woman rushed at Dr. Paul as he tried to enter the building and was forced to the ground by Paul supporters.  I am absolutely convinced that what happened was a premeditated and deliberate act of provocation.  That woman wanted to be assaulted and wasn't going to stop provoking until someone forcibly stopped her.  Obviously, voters were not fooled by the way the media portrayed the incident.
     The UK football team, on the other hand, has done nothing to make loyal Cat fans ashamed of them except lose more games than they've won.  But it's a gutsy, gritty group that never gives up and plays with tremendous heart and determination every week.  Their lack of success this season seems to be just a matter of bad timing.  If the game starts at 7:30, they rarely do anything too well before 8:30. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Houston, we have a problem.

     Kentucky was flying high after upsetting South Carolina but thudded back down to earth against Georgia and now must abort its plan to win the SEC Eastern Division crown. 
     Georgia linebacker Justin Houston created all kinds of problems for the Cats.  He forced one fumble, recovered another, and spent much of the evening in Mike Hartline's lap.  When he wasn't sacking the UK quarterback, he was at least breathing down his neck and making it difficult for Hartline to throw in rythym.
     Under the circumstances, it was downright remarkable that Kentucky's gutsy senior signal caller managed to complete 27 passes for more than 350 yards.  What wasn't remarkable was that UK dug itself another giant sized hole with poor tackling and turnovers close to their own goal line.  The former made Washaun Ealey look like the second coming of Bo Jackson, and the latter made things way too easy for Georgia to pile up points without having to go far to do it.
     As well as Hartline and his receiving corps have played this season, UK should be much better than a 4 & 4 team, but the defense never seems to play a full 4 quarters, and the Cats' kick coverage hasn't been nearly as good as their kickers.
     I don't have any answers for the inconsistency on defense, but offensively I do have a simple plan that should allow Kentucky to outscore every opponent remaining on the schedule.  Just pretended that it's 3rd and long every time they snap the ball, and the longer the better.  For some unknown reason, UK is almost unstoppable on 3rd and 14.  They tend to go backwards a lot on 1st and 2nd down, but when it's 3rd and an acre, this team is dynamite.
     The problem is that no matter what happens from here on out, it looks like the Cats are destined to go to another "lesser" bowl game while looking back at what might have been.