Is it just for the moment we live? . . .are we meant to take more than we give?"
Or is our present point time just an instant in a continuum that extends from somewhere in the past and leads somewhere else in the future? I know, it's kind of a deep subject for an engineering major, but past the jump are my thoughts on where we've been and the direction we're going, player by player (plus the coach), and as a unit.
I will probably get little disagreement when I state that this season is an abrupt departure from a depressing four-year trend, and, while most of us expected a change, the suddenness of the change of direction has some of us suffering from whiplash and all of us giddy with the prospects. How did it happen? And, as we take a deep breath before the most important parts of the season, where do we go from here? Here are the actors and what I see as their prospects:
The Coach-I think all of us expected to see DDMO to the exclusion of all else, but, to Coach Cal's eternal credit, he let this team play a style that took advantage of their talents, even when his "system" had to be put on hold. He was right when he said we'd see few picks (heightening my frustration!!!), but this group has the ability to work without that particular basic skill. He is the most at-ease-in-his-own-skin Kentucky coach I've ever seen, particularly with the media. Coach Smith was a very close second, with nobody else even close, but Cal presents an apparently honest, open front to the cameras and seems to appreciate his part in the long thread of Kentucky basketball. I say he stays a few more years.
Patrick Patterson-One of the most versatile, hard-working players I've had the pleasure of seeing. Does what the coach asks him to do (regardless of who is the coach) and what he has to do. A great young man, a great Wildcat, and, oh, yeah, a great basketball player. If we get in a crunch in the NCAA tournament, give him the ball.
Demarcus Cousins-A huge surprise (pun intended). All of us expected him to be good, but, my goodness, THIS GOOD? Soft hands, exceptional quickness for one his size, and an aggressiveness that strikes fear in opponents. When he comes out of his little two-game mini-slump, don't be the guy guarding him. If he stays next year, wonderful. If he goes to the NBA, it has been great having him. Thanks, D. You're a good guy.
John Wall-Most explosive speed I've ever seen, and the willingness to take the team on his shoulders. Still a little eager to take the ball into congestion, but gets by with it most of the time because of his incredible athleticism. If we get into a running game in the Dance, I say JW gets the win for us.
Eric Bledsoe-Great skills, but tries a little too hard to run the DDMO when there's no opening. Still, a great asset for the team and will grow in skills and maturity next year. We'll welcome him back.
Darius Miller-Maybe one of the nicest kids ever to wear the uniform. Just now learning to be nice off the court/aggressive on the court. Great skills. Gaining confidence every game. I say he has a great shooting game sometime in the next 9 games, and we win because of it.
Daniel Orton-Also a nice kid who's discovering his grrrrr. With work, has the potential to be as good as Cousins, but is just now making up for missing his last year in high school. Needs to do some work between seasons, but I, for one am darned glad he's coming back next year. He and Miller will be the foundations around which next year's success will be built. And I'm not giving up on this year, either. He can be the defensive stopper for an opponent's big man if DCuz gets in trouble. A very bright future for this kid. I'm glad he'll be wearing blue.
Darnell Dodson-Nice shooter (when he doesn't drift sideways), and just now learning to play defense in order to stay on the floor. More work on his shot and a bigger dose of hustle next year and he'll be out there more. Could be the shot in the arm we need on a cold shooting night this next month.
DeAndre Liggins-Coach Cal's biggest success story, by far. I don't know why his minutes went down against Florida, but he provides a spark of hustle greater than anyone else on this team. We need him on the floor when the opponent gets to shooting well.
Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson-Limited quality minutes by both these guys, but there's little letdown on defense when they're in there, and sometimes we need that. They both are just somewhat below their teammates on offense, and the flow shows that when they're in.
The "H" guys-Harrellson and Hood-Both good shooters, but can't yet carry the load on defense like Harris and Stevenson. Might get some PT in the tournament, but it'll be very limited.
Mark Krebs-I love walk-ons, even after they go over to the dark side and get a scholarship!!!!
The TEAM. I'm still a little apprehensive about their unwillingness to stomp when they have their foot on the opponent's neck. On the other hand, they work pretty well when the game is close, and that could be a real big point now that we're in tournament time. When this team is on a spurt, nobody else in the country can stay with them, even Kansas/Syracuse/Duke/etc. It's the periods between the spurts that worries me a little. They seem to assume that they're better players than anyone else. So far, with two exceptions, they have been, but the gap will narrow after Round One and will continue to narrow right up to the final game, so Coach Cal has some motivational work to do.
Thanks to Jon Scott's site, I know that we have six of our regular nine players that are shooting 33%+ from three-point land. That's pretty tough to handle when an opposing coach starts tailoring a defense against us. Our offensive rebounding ability adds to the problem. Alas, we have only two guys who have an A:TO ratio greater than 1:1. That's another area of concern.
Still, regardless of how this season ends up, with two, three, or four losses, it's been as good of a ride as I can remember in the regular season. Let's hope it continues and becomes one of the really high points in the long history we all love. GO CATS!