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Content & Opinion by RON HAMBLIN / Photo by MONT DAWSON – Sports View America …
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I have been covering UK Men’s basketball every since the year before Coach Cal walked in to Rupp Arena. The year prior we were blessed with Billy Gillespie, (Insert Sarcasm here). That was in 2008-2009. It is hard to believe it has been 13 seasons of covering UK Sports, first as KY Sports Review, then starting and building Bluegrass Sports Nation to now doing Sports View America. Our sports group have been honored to cover 4 Final Fours and a Championship in 2012.
Over the years, the Wildcats have had a few up and down seasons with Kentucky going 21-12 in 2012-2013 which followed championship number 8 in 2011-2012 and a 38-2 record. I am sure UK fans remember the 38-1 season and losing to Wisconsin after a 38 win start to the season. So why is it so alarming to Wildcat fans that Kentucky lost 2 winnable games in Las Vegas? Those two losses give UK 3 games that should have all been wins. The home loss to Evansville still ranks as one of the worst, if not the worst of the Calipari era. UK fans expect the Cats to win every game and assuredly win games like Evansville, Utah and Ohio State.
Kentucky fans remember Tubby Smith’s last 2 seasons in 2005/06 where UK went 22-13 and in 2006/07 where he finished his UK career at 22-12. Tubby was followed by the Billy Clyde Gillespie 2 year run where he went 18-13 in 2007/08 and 22-14 in 2008/09. Gillespie’s total SEC, NIT & NCAA record was 3-4. Far below Kentucky Wildcat standards.
Kentucky fans got a view of things to come after Coach John Calipari came in and had a roster that included Darius Miller, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson & DeAndre Liggins. That team went 35-3 but also showed Cats fans one of many NCAA heartbreaking losses as this cat team fell to W. Virg. at Syracuse.
Coach Cal’s Record at UK
Season / Wins – Losses / SEC Reg Season / SEC Tournament / NCAA Tournament
2009/10 / 35-3 / 14-2 / 3-0 / 3-1
2010/11 / 29-9 / 10-6 / 3-0 / 4-1
2011/12 / 38-2 / 16-0 / 2-1 / 6-0
2012/13 / 21-12 / 12-6 / 0-1 / 0-1 (NIT)
2013/14 / 29-11 / 12-6 / 2-1 / 5-1
2014/15 / 38-1 / 18-0 / 3-0 / 4-1
2015/16 / 27-9 / 13-5 / 3-0 / 1-1
2016/17 / 32-5 / 16-2 / 3-0 / 3-1
2017/18 / 26-11 / 10-8 / 3-0 / 2-1
2018/19 / 30-7 / 15-3 / 1-1 / 3-1
2019/2020 / 8-3 / 0-0 / 0-0 / 0-0
So, as you see, 2 losses in Las Vegas this early in the season is not the end of the world. UK is exactly what we have become accustomed to. Young, with bad losses, lack of offense and still getting used to Coach Cal’s system. As a fan of college basketball, I am not a fan of the “one and done” system where we have to learn players names every year. As a reporter, I understand totally this is the system college basketball lives in and great coaches are the ones that recruit great players. I personally would rather see UK recruit more 4 star players that will stay on 2 or 3 years and build a great program year in and year out as for the most part, teams win with experience. Fans today believe that UK is nothing more than a NBA training program that is more interested in players making the jump to the NBA than it is about Kentucky being a place to build teams with experience and not McDonalds All Americans.
You have to ask yourself as a fan, are you interested in wins or do you want titles every year. You would think those go hand in hand but they do not. Depth, Experience and talent win titles. That is just the way it is. Two losses in Las Vegas will not doom this team and hopefully it will build their character and prepare the Wildcats for Tournament time as they have for the entire time Coach Cal has been coaching here. After all Coach Cal is 13-1 in SEC Tournament play in the past 5 years and 18-6 in the past 6 years in the NCAA. Let’s not get too excited just yet …..
Let’s follow the old saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, and move on toward another great season.