After being ranked number one in the preseason, the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team have limped out of the gate with an 8-3 record. This coming from a team where John Calipari seemed to openly endorse that this team had the potential to do the unspeakable and go 40-0.
With the three losses, a lot of the national media are starting to wonder as to whether Coach Cal was crazy talking 40-0? It is somewhat interesting that the staff at Coach Cal.com issued a commentary this weekend saying that this team shouldn’t be judged by the preseason chatter … even the 40-0 talk initiated by their coach.
It probably didn’t help that Coach Cal didn’t squash the 40-0 talk when asked about it this preseason, but he’s never been one to back down from a challenge. After the 2011-12 Cats won the national title with a record of 38-2, Calipari admitted he’d always dreamed of coaching a team that goes 40-0 because people say it can’t be done.
But that doesn’t mean he necessarily endorsed the talk with this group.
“Before I retire, I would like to coach a team that goes 40-0,” Coach Cal said at UK’s Media Day in mid-October. “Will that happen? I don’t know. Every game we play, we play to win. We’re not playing any game not to win. The reason I like the mentality of every game matters is you don’t want to get upset by people that you shouldn’t be beat by. That game matters as much as a North Carolina or Michigan State or whoever else. Those games matter too. We don’t talk about it as a team. I mean, I don’t — it’s not like, oh, we’re going 40-0. We don’t. The way we do this is a process.”
Two months to the day of that quote, we now know a couple of things for certain: One – obviously – this team isn’t going 40-0. Two, Calipari was right about the process.
I’ll be honest, I love Coach Calipari, but the 40-0 talk was ridiculous. I was never a fan of it. And by mentioning it on media day, it is kind of direct correlation to this team. This commentary is an attempt to distance Cal from his talk but the only way to do that at this point is to start winning and living up to the expectations. I’m not expecting 37-3 … but beat Louisville.
I know that it is way to early to think about, but the Harrison twin may still have a chance at 40-0. Next year. The folks over at Draft Express have dropped the Harrisons out of their mock draft for 2014 and moved them to 2015.
Aaron Harrison is projected as the No. 14 pick in 2015, while Andrew Harrison is listed at No. 22 in 2015 — one spot behind Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis.
The DraftExpress mock drafts, maintained by Jonathan Givony, are fluid and moving the Harrison twins is his response to how they are playing right now.
“With him struggling as much as he has this season, NBA guys don’t have a whole lot to go off so far,” Givony explained to SNY.tv regarding Andrew Harrison. “They say they know he’s supposed to be a really good prospect since he was rated so highly by the recruiting services, but he simply hasn’t done much to show that to them so far.”
“It’s very early at this stage still and he’s got plenty of time to turn things around.”
At one point, Andrew was listed as a top-5 pick in 2014.
“They both should stay in school for sure,” one NBA executive told SNY.tv. “Based on what we have seen from both of them so far this season, they are not ready to compete at the NBA level night in and night out. They are not even dominating right now at the college level.”
One NBA GM recently told SNY.tv that Andrew Harrison ”is a mid-first-round pick” in 2014 while expressing concerns about Aaron Harrison’s NBA future altogether.
Granted, this a knee jerk reaction to the first eleven games so far and as Kentucky starts to win, all the Kentucky players will move up. But as of now, no one, not even Julius Randle, should be thinking about the NBA.
The most interesting thing about the UNC/Kentucky game on Saturday was not the talent on the floor but the unique pressures facing both guys on the bench. Roy Williams has been dealing with off court problems seemingly for the past two years while Calipari’s pressure is on the playing court.
If it appears I’m going full “Stan” for Williams, it’s only to counter the absurdity that emanates from Chapel Hill. Will Graves rolling trees in a rental house, the summer of Hairston, stubbornness with the starting lineup, bouncing before the completion of a game, hoarding timeouts, booting fans, comparisons to Haiti, suicide jokes, Kansas stickers and all the other dumb periphery. It’s always something.
Williams has his faults and he’s brought plenty of the silliness upon himself, but the coach tends to know what he’s doing. Guys just don’t stumble into several Final Fours and a couple NCAA titles. Not everyone is capable of wringing out maximum effort from a talented, but flawed roster missing their leading scorer from last season.
Just look across the way and notice the headache Calipari is dealing with at the moment. The Wildcats should be a vastly better team once the calendar hits March, but the preseason No. 1 has no signature wins and armchair body language experts are dissecting the exasperated look over every player.
“What we are right now is we’re not a good basketball team and we’re not a good team because our emotion is all based on our individual play, instead of our team play,” Calipari said. “We’re not close to that right now. Our stuff is all based on, ‘Did I miss a free throw? Did I get beat on the dribble? Did I miss a shot?’ I mean, it’s just we got to get through this.”