Cal trying to lay foundation for 8th title
by Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports
The next two pigeons to pluck out of the sky over Rupp Arena this week are Samford University on Tuesday and Loyola, Maryland on Thursday in an unusual 1 p.m. matinee tipoff before we can have one of those tasty southern holiday meals and open the presents.
As we approach the 2011 Christmas Holiday weekend, and a brief break in the 2011-12 college basketball season, let’s reflect on the initial short part of the early season to date and set the scene for what’s left before SEC play begins.
As we write this column, Coach Cal has his green but immensely talented team setting one point away from No. 1 perfection in both polls. Had it not been for a simple-minded mental mistake by two back court players at Indiana in the closing seconds UK would be setting a top the college basketball world 11-0 as we enter the Christmas break.
However, you must consider that on the other side of the ledger the Cats could be setting at 8-2 along with a very ugly win against a 5-5 Old Dominion team for realistic perspective.
All things considered, I think Coach Cal has done another super early season coaching job. Molding a team of one-and-done first round picks is possibly the most challenging chore for today’s top 10-type college basketball programs, and I for one don’t think the college coaching fraternity of these type programs aren’t getting their just due, even from their buddies on ESPN.
Basically, it had been smooth sailing and status quo until the Indiana game, and the now two-week long Terrence Jones dilemma.
On the high school level it’s usually just simple petty jealously by a player, and sometimes the player and his parents, for the coach to overcome. On the NCAA Div. 1 college level it’s a combination of immense player egos, deviously lurking unethical agents and over-hyped media driven accolades that the coach must overcome to develop that special type of team chemistry that championships are won with.
At the present time, Terrence Jones may well have an injured pinky finger on his shooting hand, but I also think he falls in two of the above mentioned categories.
They may sound and look the same, but there is a significant difference between “will to win” and “will to play 100 percent” in a college basketball player and / or team. Unfortunately, what I fear is Terrence Jones has neither one at this particular juncture of this season.
There is an old and extremely short yet very accurate biblical verse in the Old Testament that I think applies to Terrence Jones’ present situation, and if you’re an astute basketball fan you can translate it.
The verse simply states “you can only serve one master,” and in this basketball scenario it better be Coach John Calipari. Are you listening Terrence?
Because every day that this mind set continues you’re putting your team deeper in the hole and taking money out of your own pocket in the process.
Also, let me remind everyone that Coach Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals are 12 days away and licking their chops to get an opportunity to give Coach Cal his first loss in Rupp Arena.
It’s time to circle the wagons, Terrence, and come back to the camp fire. Chief Calipari is trying to prepare for the biggest battle of the year, the Battle of the Bluegrass, and he needs all his warriors hungry for this battle.
Have Coach Cal’s Remarks On SEC Hoops Future Been Validated?
In recent days the talk of the Bluegrass has been future scheduling changes being pondered by Coach Cal on whether to continue the pre-conference rivalry games with three longtime opponents in Louisville, Indiana and North Carolina, and continue on with the new Champions Classic rotating each year with Kansas, Duke and Michigan State, and then plow head first into a new SEC conference schedule of 16 or possibly 18 games.
If you will look at the recent week’s Associated Press and USA Today’s coaches polls you will get a better understanding of Cal’s concerns.
Before this past weekend’s games commenced, the present SEC conference had five teams in both top 25 polls. If you were to fast forward 10 months to November 2012 with the new 14 member SEC you would have seven of the top 25 teams in both polls from the SEC. Missouri is No. 8 and Texas A&M is No. 22.
That’s half of the SEC conference in the elite status category folks, a far cry more competitive than past years.
With that being said, Cal may be on to something that may make more sense than what we give him credit for. The NCAA tournament committee can stand on a stool and preach all they want to, we all know losses in February hurt much more in the seeding process than losses in November and December.
Cal may talk a lot, but this time he may have a vision that none of us are seeing into the future.
I’m still lobbying for a best case scenario of holding on to the Champions Classic and Louisville rivalry game, then continue both the Indiana and North Carolina series on an alternating year home and home basis, at least we’ll get to see either Indiana or North Carolina every other year and twice each over the eight-year period.
In all reality, I think the key to this whole scheduling scenario, especially the non-conference rivalries, is whether there will be a 16 or 18-game conference schedule.
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