The prevailing scheme of thought in the wake of Kentucky’s third loss of the season — this time to North Carolina’s schizophrenic Tar Heels, 77-82 — is that the übertalented Wildcat freshmen are selfish, immature and don’t play as a team.
All of which is true.
But, there are other factors. Not the least of which is the hubris undermining John Calipari’s belief that he can simply reload every season with Golden Arches All-Americans, and a ticket to the game on the final Monday of the season will be overnighted forthwith.
Yesterday in the DeanDome, there was more, one guy’s opinion.
Kentucky ran out to a lead in front of the white-clad Tar Heel faithful. Then, when the Cats got in some foul trouble, Carolina reeled them in.
After a Willie Cauley-Stein slam, the score was knotted at 30 with just a couple of ticks left in the opening half. Then the blonde-tressed Wildcat pivot was whistled for his third foul.
At which point, a less than in charge John Calipari was teed up. This was not a technical to make a point. This was a technical given because Coach Cal lost his cool.
Lost his cool, when what his team needed was a mature, calm presence. Three FTs later, the visitors were down at the half. On the scoreboard. And, more important, psychologically.
UK slipped ahead three times — twice by a digit, once by a deuce — in the game’s third quadrant. Marcus Paige pierced the Big Blue’s porous D for a 48-46 UNC lead at the 13:29 mark and the home team never trailed again.
Yes, the egos of Kentucky’s “greatest recruiting class in college basketball history” are too big. These very talented kids are thinking “I” instead of “We.”
But, I dunno, you got to figure the coach has the responsibility to fashion a “team” out of his squad. To blame it all on the kids, who “just don’t get it,” is kind of passing the buck, don’t you think?
By all accounts, Calipari is a really good coach. The truth is, other than recruiting, he hasn’t done a very good job last season and this. Plus, it’s fair to say that his recruiting hasn’t been so hot either, if he can’t bring in players who will meld together for the good of the whole.
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Speaking of coaches, wasn’t it just a short time ago that we were murmuring that perhaps the game had passed Roy Williams by? That his health was failing and that was affecting his coaching. That the Krzyzewski guy down the road was eating his lunch? That recruits, the elite ones anyway, weren’t as enamored with Carolina’s baby blue anymore, as they are with Blue Devil blue and Wildcat blue?
Two players down, and a couple of U.G.L.Y. losses early, the Tar Heels still have the glossiest resumé in the land with Ws over UK, Sparty and the defending national champs.
Apparently Williams hasn’t forgotten everything.
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In the last 1:03 of the game, there were 21 free throws attempted, 15 by the Tar Heels, because Kentucky was forced to put the team ahead at the line. Carolina only made 9 of those, six of them by Marcus Paige.1
Baby Blue grabbed six — yes, six — of those late misses from the offensive glass.
Now that’s some kind of bad effort by the Cats.
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Many have been the comments about the petulant body lingo of UK’s freshmen. All legit.
The guy with the worst is Julius Randle, who never looks happy until he’s tallied his double-double. Even then, he doesn’t seem pleased when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands at the offensive end of the court.
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Other random thoughts:
Cauley-Stein’s game changed after he had to sit with his second foul, which came early.
Kentucky let Carolina shoot over 50% in the second half.2
The game was a “white out.” Why on earth would a school with the tradition of North Carolina need to fall prey to that kind of gimmick?3
Note to Dickie V: Retire. Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top.
— Seedy K