By – Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
One SEC road game down and another on the horizon ( Arkansas 9:00 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN ) then (7) more after that before the all important seeds for the SEC tourney is set and the much more important NCAA seeds follow . Right now as I continue to watch this UK team fight thru some extremely ugly growing pains I still hold hope it will finish the season with a strong deep run in March Madness riding on the coat tails of at least an NCAA # 2 seed .
With the newly revised SEC basketball season now broken down into (9) home games and (9) road games for each of it’s 14 members with the conference office deciding the teams that play a home and home series and the teams that play alternate home and away games with the teams that don’t play a home and home series . Withall that being understood and UK still having road games to fight thru at ( Arkansas – LSU – Florida – Missouri – Ole Miss ) I’ll be tremendously satisfied with a 6 – 3 record on the road and would actually settle for a 5 – 4 road split with the way this team is performing to date but if any of the road games at Auburn , South Carolina , or Mississippi State turn sour with an upset loss you can kiss anything below a ( NCAA 4 SEED BYE – BYE ) .
UK now stands 2 – 0 overall in SEC play after it’s ugly 71 – 62 win last Saturday against a Vandy team that was seriously struggling with only (7) scholarship players going into their game with UK . Yes , I know UK had only (7) scholarship players most of last season but (2) of them are presently on NBA rosters and (2) others are playing(Poythress and Cauley – Stein) again this year for UK so don’t even think about making a parallel comparison to last year’s UK team with only (7) scholarship player’s and this year’s Vandy team with the same number of scholarships .
Many people inside college basketball circles think any win on the road in any respective BCS conference is a good win and there is some validity in that statement most years but it don’t hold water with me when debating the competition in the SEC this year with the roster full of talent UK has to compete with . However , speaking after the game saturday with CBS commentator Greg Anthony you would have thought John Calipari was as satisfied with his Wildcats as any coach in the nation was with their team .
It’s becoming more difficult each season trying to understand today’s college basketball coach and how to dissect his comments as to whether he is speaking the truth or when he is using the media to stroke a player or when he is trying wake up a player up with his media appearances .
But the simple truth is hard to recognize anywhere in our society today , especially in college athletics which leads me to my next segment for this weeks syndicated column .
Will NCAA Coaching Hires Impact Football Cats Future
Many longtime UK football followers will tell you that most Wildcat football teams best chance over the years at pulling out a winning record and getting a minor bowl bid is in years the Cats can crack the win column with the three Commonwealth Stadium buyout games annually on the schedule then manage to beat Louisville , Mississippi St. , and Vanderbilt then hopefully squeeze a surprise mild upset for a 7th win which usually lands the Cats in either Nashville or Memphis for the Christmas & New Year’s Holiday’s . Rarely does this happen but it’s been Big Blue Nation’s mindset over the years .
However in recent years since Rich Brooks left town it’s been all but non existent to beat the Cards , Bulldogs , or Commodores and for that matter the WKU Hilltoppers .
Maybe a new day is on the horizon and I don’t necessarily mean just Mark Stoops new recruiting success although that’s where it all starts but maybe or should I say hopefully some of the Cats opponents are about to backslide a little as the southern Baptist used to say due to coaching changes .
Speaking of backsliding let’s start with Louisville’s new coach Bobby Petrino who has resurfaced back into the loving arms of Tom Jurich , a guy that Petrino blatantly lied to his face just a few years ago but all is good in the world of college sports as long as you can crack the W’s column more than the L’s . That coach and A.D. speak of developing the student – athlete as a well rounded person ( academically – morally – ethically – socially ) all goes out the window evidently during the hiring process when selecting the leader to instill these traits into the student – athletes they will be responsible for .
Now that Penn State has finally pulled the trigger and brought James Franklin on board maybe the Vanderbilt Commodores will slid back into that bottom slot on the football totem poll of the SEC .
Only time will tell if UK football can get back to the Rich Brooks success level but you can be sure of one thing and that is everybody over in the UK athletics department especially those who reside over on Cooper Drive are tickled pink that they no longer have to compete againstCharlie Strong and James Franklin .
Only Game With Vols This Saturday
Due to the newly revised SEC schedule and it’s quirky nature with 14 teams now in the league this Saturday’s game with the Tennessee “Vols” at Rupp Arena ( Noonon CBS ) may very well be the only game between the two long time rivals unless they were to meet in the SEC tournament in the Georgia Dome . Which means no game in Knoxville at Thompson Boling Arena , a site that has been very kind to the Vols when the hated Wildcats come rolling into town annually in the past .
Don’t know about Coach Cal but this is a schedule former Hall of Fame Wildcat coach Joe B. Hall would have loved to have laid at his feet during his era of the 70’s and 80’s when Hall annually fought for his coaching life and usually ended up on the down side to the Vols in the old Stokely Athletic Center .
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By – Ira D. Combs