It looks like a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas for UK fans this year after their performance against Indiana. Maybe I should have said lack of performance. I have not seen a UK team look so out of it. Some of the players looked as if they had never played organized basketball in their life. The team had four assists for the whole game. Is that even possible? Four assists? That must be a mistake. I could pick up four people from the Times-News staff and get six assists against Indiana.
Once again, Tubby has to go back to the drawing board. This season has been a season of ups and downs and trips to the drawing board. When UK plays a Georgia State they look great. When they play a North Carolina they look like mush. The only thing UK fans have to hold on to is the fact that UK seems to beat the teams they are supposed to beat (except for North Carolina and Indiana). All the small schools that have been scheduled to give the young players some experience have been beaten and beaten soundly. Bully for them.
Now we find out that Randolph Morris will not be eligible for this season and from what I hear there is about a 0% chance that this decision will be overturned. Perhaps when this ordeal is totally finished and the players know Morris will not be back to bail them out, things will get better.
In some ways I feel bad for Morris, but I also feel like he got what he deserved. He wanted out so bad he gambled with his career and he lost. I find it hard to believe that a player that was so anxious to leave college after his freshman year will want to hang around for a year NOT playing basketball.
I feel that once this semester is over, Randolph Morris will be in Turkey playing ball. I do hope that the “advisors” that convinced this kid that he would be a first round pick have had their mouths super glued shut. They have no business being around basketball because they obviously did not see what the rest of the country saw in Randolph Morris.
What can Tubby do to help this team rise above their obvious lack of talent? Or is it lack of athleticism? Or is it lack of shooting ability? Or is it all of the above? I am not exactly sure what the main problem is. It appears that UK is one great player, Rajon Rondo, and a group of role players. So, how can I, a Julliard trained columnist help Tubby out? I can give him some suggestions, some creative and some more realistic.
First things first, this team is not that tough. When a team has three seven footers but they can be blown out of the post by a mild gust of wind, you have problems. I have a great idea that will toughen these big men up. You put them in the post, one at a time, and throw them a ball. When they catch the ball in the post, they have to take a shot. When a player gets the ball, the rest of the team will swing bags of oranges at the player. Until all three big men score ten points the exercise will continue. This helps toughen up the seven footers and helps the team take out their frustration on them.
Another thing I would suggest is a lay-up drill especially made for the Wildcats. In this drill the player must lay in or dunk the basketball. Every time a player misses he gets a small but painful electric shock. Because the UK players cannot seem to hit the easy lay ups, they will miss many of these shots and will be shocked many, many times.
After a few weeks of this intense drill, they will not miss another lay-up again. This of course would also be used with free throws, only the small shock would be even more painful. Because, well, hitting a shot while standing alone with nobody defending you should be easy.
Another suggestion would be to not start Patrick Sparks. I believe he would be better utilized in a Cameron Mills role. He could come off the bench to spell Rondo or Ramal Bradley and hit a couple of threes. Sparks seems to be struggling on the defensive end and his shooting is too streaky. Perhaps this role will take some pressure of Sparks and enable him to get into a better groove. At this point I would try anything.
Who to start ahead of Sparks? That is a good question and right now I would have to say Joe Crawford. Crawford has been playing with reckless abandon since he came back from his injury. Not only is he scoring some points, but he is rebounding as well, and if the team needs one thing, it needs rebounding. I also think Ramal Bradley should be looked at as a starter. He needs to take better care of the ball, but he is just so quick that he and Rondo could average 8 steals a night.
The only thing I know for sure is that UK’s athletic director must be sweating bullets. He surely has had the boosters and fans all over him for the Rich Brooks situation, the last thing he needs is an under 20 win season and a first round NCAA tourney exit from the basketball team. I truly think that Tubby can right the ship, but it will be a task and a half. If he doesn’t right the ship, it may be hard for him to hang onto his job.
While I think that Tubby is a great coach and he should be given a little lee way considering he won a title at UK, I do believe his recruiting does leave something to be desired. In this day and age you need players who are ready to contribute and in some cases dominate as a freshman and sophomore. UK right now has a solid group of players who are just not quite ready for prime time. The juniors have about as much experience as the sophomores. The only way to remedy this situation is playing time.
There is some good news for UK fans. I believe that the Louisville Cardinals are in the same boat. I think they will struggle this year in their new conference. The Big East is big boy basketball and U of L has a brutal conference schedule. The Cards, like the Cats, have not shown me much so far this season. They are number 5 in the country but have struggled to beat mediocre teams by seven and eight points. As an example of things to come this year, they only managed to score 53 points against Arkansas State. In more good news for UK fans, I believe UK will beat U of L this weekend if only because it will be at Rupp, but it will not change the fact that it will be a long season for the Wildcats.
Perhaps with one season under their belts as major contributors, UK’s juniors and sophomores can make a difference next year. I have a feeling that scenario will not work for about 90% of Wildcat Nation. It is a fan base that craves instant gratification. Unfortunately whether you like it or not it may be a long and sometimes ugly waiting game before these Cats provide that gratification.