Cats Lick Their Wounds, Hit The Books , Back In Rupp On Saturday

Let me pat myself on the back and take a bow . Thank You .

Reflecting back I thought I set the scene at Assembly Hall in Bloomington , Indiana about as accurately and pointedly as it actually turned out to be in last weeks column and the game actually ended about like I thought it would . However , judging by the few e mails I received in response to the column several UK fans just didn't buy into the fact that it could happen but they are probably the same ones that will be saying the same thing when the Cats head into Nashville and Gainesville later .

The only thing I didn't project was I just didn't think UK would put two team fouls in it's hip pocket and carry them back to Lexington with them , especially in this game .

But don't blame Coach Cal for this one folks .

If you've ever been on a bench coaching a bunch of players who have already anointed themselves as special then you well know that they don't always carry the coaches instructions from the bench onto the playing floor and execute them . As a matter of fact rarely does it happen even coming out of timeouts and that's when you would think it would resonate in their minds most often but youthful exuberance sometimes takes over , that , and occasionally brain cells simply go dead .

Oh yes , all you young and supposedly astute basketball fans of today's young generation that have been saying today's young but extremely talented college players can handle anything because they've played in these large NBA arenas and high profile McDonald's all american games before . What have you got to say today ? Somebody ask Anthony Davis if he's ever experienced anything remotely like Assembly Hall as an opposing player before , heck , ask Terrence Jones , it appeared to effect him as much as anyone in blue and white and he's a wily old veteran sophomore .

You simply have to experience it a few times before you can mentally prepare for it in future road games . Hopefully , a valuable lesson was learned saturday and this young group doesn't have to weather the storms that last years 2nd crop of famous freshman did under Coach Cal .

Time For Cats To Recover Emotionally & Physically , Hit The Books , and Move On

It appeared to be an extremely emotional and physically draining loss for the Kentucky players but in today's world of college and high school athletics most will tell you that it leaves the players mind and body when they go out the back door of the arena , especially the mental and emotional part .

Fans , especially UK's , well that's another matter all in it's self .

Hopefully none of Big Blue Nation jumped into any of the Commonwealth's 19 gorgeous state park lakes or off any of eastern ky.'s beautiful mountain topps because the players and coaches I'm sure are alive and well this week working to get better at the Joe Craft Center , live goes on for them and it should for the fans . Fans can't see the benefits at this point of a loss like at Indiana nor can some coaches or players either but these are the type of games that toughen teams like UK up for the March Madness run . Having played thru this type atmosphere and arena that UK did saturday makes those neutral site games in the NCAA tourney feel like playing in Rupp Arena as they go thru the various levels and weekends of tournament play because the vast and loyal fanbase that follows UK will always garner enough tickets to make a presence in post season play .

Is it the best of times early this week for the Cats to be taking grade altering semester exams ? Probably not , but when is studying conveniently appropriate for today's college age youth . Fear not Big Blue Nation and Coach Cal because Bob Bradley and the folks over at the Cats Center will make sure their role in Wildcat athletics is achieved and that is to make sure basketball players and all athletes are well prepared for their semester exams . They have done a super job for many years and rarely get recognition for it but the UK players all know how important and accomodating Bradley and his staff is .

The problem or should I say concern for this young Wildcat roster is that the NCAA mandated 20 hour per week practice rule is dropped the day each student - athlete has their last exam and doesn't come back into play until the 2nd semester of classes resume around Jan. 5th .

What does that mean for the Cats ?

It means a lot of time between the lines on the Joe Craft Center practice facility floors and with only three dead pigeon style opponents before Christmas you can lay money that Coach Cal is preparing a part of each practice from today until Jan. 31st for his italian friend down 1 - 64 In Louisville and you can rest assured Coach P is saving a few special moments of his day for Cal and the Cats as well .

Bottom line if you’re a UK player , losing your first game of the season one or two days before the 24/7 practice routine becomes available for your coach isn't a very pleasant experience to look forward to . Trust me on that one.

Cal's Future Scheduling Delimma Concerns Me

Anybody out there think Coach Cal still has concerns after the Indiana loss on this too many early season big game scenarios for freshman to deal with controversy that he has spread thru his twitter account the last few days ?

Yes , he probably does but he should have known what he signed up for , now in his most glorious days as the leader of the Kingdom of Blue is not the time to start wiggling on longtime traditions that the program was built on .

Personally , I think the whole scheduling controversy Cal has created is about two things :

# 1 - Possibly having to beat a long time close friend of the coaching fraternity , ( Tom Crean & Roy Williams) .
# 2 - The possibility of losing to a guy that you once was jealous of and now you've grown to hate for various reasons that can't be accurately validated ( Rick Pitino ) .

In my eyes that's making decisions concerning your team and school based on personal reasons instead of just about Kentucky basketball .

To my knowledge Adolph Rupp , Joe B. Hall , nor Eddie Sutton ever scheduled a game at UK for any other reason than the betterment of the total program including fan interest and by the way Joe B. took them all on even after he was forced into playing Louisville . Remember those years when UK played Louisville along with Indiana and/or Kansas and/or North Carolina and Jerry Tarkanian's UNLV Running Rebels or Guy Lewis and his Phi Slamma Jamma teams at Houston not to mention those tough teams the Big Ten used to produce like Illinois and oh yes what about those old time honored matchups each holiday season with ole "Digger" Phelps and his Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" . Oops , I forgot another one , what about the Big Four Classic UK annually participated in at the Hoosier Dome .

Also , let's not forget the SEC in those years was at it's peak in hoops producing quality NCAA tournament team type competition at Auburn under "Suitcase" Sonny Smith and Hugh Durham at Georgia and Norm Sloan at Florida and the Ernie and Bernie show at Tennessee and Wimp Sanderson at Alabama . Oops , I forgot ole Dale Brown and his 20 years of solid basketball at LSU as well . Simply and painfully put , in those days the SEC was putting players in the NBA at a similar rate that they do the NFL in recent years .

Now tell me ole crystal ball would you rather face a 16 game schedule of those teams with a few UK juniors and seniors sprinkled in or an 18 game schedule of today's inept SEC hoops competition with a bunch of UK NBA lottery picks .

I rest my case your honor .

Rick Pitino , Orlando "Tubby" Smith , and even lose lipped Billy "Clyde" Gillispie who reportedly built an ugly reputation on supposed toughness all had their fair share of battles in the scheduling department with various UK athletic directors during their eras but they all ended up playing for the most part " The Big Three " that Coach Cal wants to cut to the terrific two .

Having spent eight summers in the late 80's and 90's alongside Coach Pitino and still in touch fairly often with his associates at Louisville and also having a few coincidental family contacts with the Calipari camp I can attest to the fact that these two coaching Icons seriously don't want to continue the UK - Louisville series but they both also know along with their A.D.'s that it would be seriously damaging to both coaches and schools in the all important PR department not to mention some help they both may need in the future from the Kentucky legislature who remember was the initial lightning rod starting that particular series .

So with the Battle of the Bluegrass being pretty much agreed on into the future let's just see if we can come to a common ground with Coach Cal .

How about signing a series of four game contracts with Indiana and North Carolina over an eight year span and playing each one every other year and keep the Champions Classic in tact between ( UK - Michigan State - Kansas - Duke ) then that scenario will give us at least three big non conference December games ( one at home , one on the road , and one at a neutral site ) instead of the four we presently have and Coach Cal can say he won another battle with the powers that be .