As Kentucky Wildcat fans and John Calipari has discovered this year, replacing five starters is not an starters is not an easy process. Especially from a national title team. Things can get bumpy. Just ask Billy Donovan, who had the task of introducing four freshman to his lineup after winning back to back national titles. Back to back NIT appearances followed. No one is saying that the NIT is a destination for this UK team, but former UL coach Denny Crum has a bit of advice for John Calipari about this years young Wildcats:
“If I could give him some good advice, it’d be ‘patience,'” Crum said last week. “They’re all young kids. They all don’t automatically mesh like last year’s team did.”
“What happened last year is not going to happen very often,” Crum said. “I don’t care who your freshmen are.”
Regardless, no matter how patient John Calipari is, Kentucky fans will not be. UK has just finished their third week out of the AP rankings and despite three blowout wins in a row, Kentucky has dropped four spots in the USA Today poll in that time. That in itself is mystifying. But the fact that we are in the very dead part of the basketball season gives us a new thing to obsess over: how much these Wildcats talk to each other on the floor.
Cal has said several times that this team is “too quiet” and despite getting their clocks cleaned, opposing coaches like Scott Sanderson seem to suggest that UK is resisting their coaches teachings and not a very good listening team either:
“Listening is a skill, and if those guys buy in and not resist what he’s trying to teach them, they’ve got a chance to be as good as they want to be,” Sanderson said. “But if they resist the coaching, that’s on them. … Their ability to listen, in my opinion from where I’m sitting and watching as much film as I’ve seen of them, that’s the key for them.”
And as is the case, Calipari seems worried … but not TOO worried:
“I’m not cracking at all,” Coach Cal said. “This is part of what I do. Having a young team does not bother me. I’ve had young teams before. Having a team that’s not responding as well as I’d want them to, that’s probably every year that I’ve coached. Maybe this is more so than other teams, but most of the time I’ve had players that held back.”
Regardless of how bad Kentucky beats Marshall on Saturday, expect the same kind of worrying and doubt to surround these Wildcats until the Louisville game. Even the sites that figure the RPI seem genuinely confused about where to place the Wildcats. This site has them at 61st while this site has them 68th with a double bullet up (yay). However, Rick Bozich tells us that UK is 12th in the latest Ken Pomeroy rankings, Speaking of power rankings, I found UK ranked 11th here. To be honest, I would go with the power ranking folks like Pomeroy put together at this point in the season rather than the RPI … although the SEC won’t do a ton of favors for the RPI this year.
If Kentucky want to not have to worry about all this, its pretty simple: Beat Louisville.