Admittedly, 7-3 is not what I expected our record to be coming into the Marshall game tomorrow, but it is what it is. We have losses to Duke (Barclays Center), Baylor (Rupp), and at ND. As much as I hate losing to Duke, they are the legit #1 team in the country. The Baylor and ND losses rub me the wrong way because we should be 9-1. Neither team nor coach is better than UK. Our Frosh played like Frosh, not like last year’s Frosh who played like Seniors. At the worst part of that is that we are in the part of our schedule where we should be improving…but we are not. I HATE this stretch of games because these teams don’t help us get better.
We are at the sissy part of our schedule, which is what has been bothering me for three weeks now. We are on the back end of three games in three weeks against teams with longer initials than tradition, and have beaten these rags by 30+ ppg. Well done…well not really. See, coming off our three losses, Calipari instituted “Camp Cal” where the team runs as if their life depended on it. This isn’t Indiana so we know it doesn’t but most fans see the three week stretch as a time for the team to work out their kinks and improve their chemistry and conditioning. Much of that is true and is happening on some levels, but what is getting lost is that just because we are waxing these knuckle dragging fools, we are still exhibiting the same problems that cost us our three losses. We still don’t rebound like we should. We have poor shot selection. The 3 & 4 positions never seem to know where they fit in the offense and our hustle is spotty at best.
When the season opened, the Big Blue Nation had unrealistic expectations of hanging #9. Fans were pissed off of the lack of quality opponents on our home schedule, while the athletic department raised ticket prices to $45/per. I never cared because I don’t have season tickets but I care now. I care now because these games aren’t helping us get any better. We are beating these little girl teams by intimidation, the name on the jersey, the hype, and flat out athleticism. We could beat these guys starting some Polson, some walk-ons, and Beckham. We aren’t proving anything and we are not improving either. Our post footwork is atrocious in relation being in position to help when a guy gets past his man, we don’t position well for rebounding, we jump at every fake, we don’t have an awareness of the court, and overall, are very lax in the half court.
Am I worried that this team won’t find their stride? That Calipari doesn’t have his pulse on the team or that he won’t figure out what combination of buttons to push to right this ship? Absolutely not on all counts.
My point is this: We have a soft home schedule designed to make the budget for the mom and pop schools that take their ass whipping gladly, and for us to work on and improve upon what plagues us. We are only successful with 2/3 thus far. We are still lacking in the improvement department. For that reason, I hate our home schedule. It’s weak and since the teams can’t challenge us based on pure athletic ability, we can’t use them to gauge ourselves against our losses.
In other words…these games are worthless. Well, they may help us gain confidence but I don’t think we lack in confidence. Based on the shots I’ve seen WCS throw AT the backboard with expectation that they have a chance of going in, to the cold blooded shooting slump of Wiltjer when he went 1-11, I can’t see a confidence issue.
What I do take issue with, again, is this stupid ass schedule. It doesn’t put us in position to improve because we could beat most of these guys one handed. We’ve gone from the Tom Izzo philosophy of playing anyone, anywhere to playing the deaf and blind at home. The pendulum has swung too far soft. Next season, the schedule ship should be a little closer to redeemable. If the home schedule this year is as soft next year, then we better come out on fire from Game 1 because if not, we will get our asses kicked when we play schools with comparable talent and coaching.
We gotta change this schedule. Conspiracy theorists are everywhere, and this weak ass schedule doesn’t help UK make a name come tourney time.
Oh, and for a little comparison of Out of Conference home schedules:
Penn State Morehead State
Radford Long Island
Ark-LR Eastern Michigan