A lot to cover isn't it. Six degrees of separation? Not really. A bad movie title? Nope. The Kentucky Wildcats have made light years of progress this season in a lot of areas, and it has brought to light some serious problems, but not what you think they are. And not what the rest of the world of college basketball wants to see either. We are making some people very nervous. Want to know why?? Read on, McDuff.
Anyone other than me tired of 40-70 whistles per game at some of the latest, and biggest, games of the year? It seems as though the men in the striped shirts have started a campaign to rid the game of college basketball of playing the fast and loose style we have all come to love here in the Big Blue Nation. The game is seeing more whistles than a stripper at a bachelor party. Coach Calipari has recruited a new stable of stud horses, and we cannot seem to get them the room to run. We have cried "conspiracy theory" at the TV screen, screamed at the top of our keyboards, at the lousy calls, and consumed bourbon in complete frustration at our inability to "put away" our opponents because we can't run off and leave them. Well, I have found out who's fault it is, and I am here to explain the problem in detail, and I don't need "stattracker", or kenpom.com, or even Forty's wealth of statistical knowledge to do it. The answer is as plain as the wildcat on your shirt.
The game has changed. And we are about 5 years behind the curve, or were, until Cal and his band of merry men arrived to drag our sorry behinds into the 21st century. The only problem is that we are in year one of what will probably take 3-4 years to accomplish, and every once in a while, a la South Carolina, we stub our toes a bit.
The referees are reading these posts by the way, don't think they are not. They see and hear what we all say about them and their attempts to legislate college basketball. They know that the NCAA has their own agenda, and no one wants the balance of power to tilt in any one direction, except for those in the direction which the balance is tilting. This is not just an SEC problem, it is over the entire college game. However the refs have their own problem. They are not able to keep up with the frenetic pace of the game, nor the size and speed of today's premier college athletes. They spend more and more time looking at monitors on the sideline and slowing down the action so that every minute detail is clear to them. So when the refs think that a player is gaining too great an advantage because they cannot catch all of the action, they start blowing that beaded mouth pipe, and thinking that will cure the problem, but it is only exacerbating the problem, not solving it.
Now that brings us to the curious case of Mr. DeMarcus Cousins. DeMarcus, man-child that he is, has a temper. Not a spoiled brat temper from not getting what he wants, nor a maladjusted, out of sorts, unrepentant baby who cannot tell right from wrong. He is literally fighting for every inch on that court, and trying to scratch and claw the Cats into a National Championship, and up until last Tuesday, a perfect record. And he is doing it in spite of what everyone is saying about him, the 3-4 fouls per game the refs are saddling him with, and the results of what that behemoth of a body is doing during the game. Must he learn to control this? Yes, undoubtedly. He has to turn that rage and frustration into something more. He has to make every play count for something, because in his effort to become the best at what he does, he has become the heart and soul of this Kentucky Wildcat team. Where DeMarcus goes, we go. In all of my years of watching Kentucky basketball, I have never, NEVER seen this kind of all-around intensity from one player. He doesn't have the style of John Wall, nor the polish of Patrick Patterson, nor the smooth stroke of Darnell Dodson. He just gets in there and declares war against anyone who shows up. If you come into the paint, he's there. If you try some cute footwork to put him to sleep so you can get by him, he's there. If you slip up and let your concentration lapse for even a second on the floor, he's there. Fighting for every rebound, grabbing every loose ball, guarding point guards, swatting layups, forcing bad shots, banking the ball in from every angle possible around the basket, and working like a madman to win every possession. To quote Coach Cal, "he gets it". And that is why we saw the exchange we saw yesterday from the Kentucky bench. Cal has to reign him in, but he doesnt want him to lose that edge. There isn't a hateful bone in DeMarcus' body. He is just too big a kid and too fun-loving to be that way. He is Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, and Shaquille O'Neal all rolled up into one.(except HE can hit free throws) But he also is a competitor. He has a fire buring inside him that pushes him to be the very best at what he does, and he is going to make a few mistakes along the way. I am 44 years old, and if someone shoves me, I shove back. If I get an uppercut, I give one back. DeMarcus is 18. He will learn to control his temper, but it is going to take time, and he will have a hard way to go on probably more than one occasion because of it. That is the risk we take with a player like him, and one I am more than willing to take on, because he does 5,000 good things in a game for every one bad one.
Now this brings us to the last person on the list, Cole Aldrich. I have recently had the curiosity to watch a few Kansas games, more because I really love to watch another Wildcat team,not necessarily Kansas, namelythe Kansas State Wildcats. They are a fun team to watch play, namely because not only are they Wildcats, they play a lot like us. Last night, Cole Aldrich played a pretty good game. Nothing spectacular, but solid. But somehow he managed to get himself only 4 fouls called on him even when he committed about 15. I know that I am not a referee, but I watched the game intently for 40 minutes. He was not only over the back, he was stepping out and blocking guards, hand-checking, and generally playing like he was a step behind those he was guarding. He is not very fast, and he does not play as intense as DeMarcus does, but he does play smart. He is a junior, and knows what he can and cannot do and get away with it on the floor. The only reason I bring Mr. Aldrich into this conversation is this. I feel like in my gut that Kentucky and Kansas are going to tangle this year. I know it looks as though it could only be in a semi-final or final of the tournament, but I really believe it is going to happen. And when it does, the irresistible force is going to meet the immovable object. And I am really looking forward to it, because as smart as he is, Cole Aldrich is no DeMarcus Cousins. And no matter how hard he works, he never will be.
In summary, we are who we are, and we will only get better. In 21 games, we have been bested one time, and only by 6 points. That is not going to happen a lot this year. Not while DeMarcus is patrolling the paint, and doing a lot more.