No, I am not going to try and convince you that the UKHOOPS squad has completed the same feat of magnificence that the men did, but in their own way, the women took an even bigger step for their program, their coach, and their new place in the Women's Basketball hiarchy.
Both schools used the 3pt shot judiciously, with the women making 211 while the Men made 225. The men had a scoring average of +16.8, while the women came in at a very nice +14.5. The Men averaged 17.0 FT's per game, while the Ladies put up 15.1. All of these are major contributing figures to the season's success when put together. The program coaches have had to rebuild, but as where Cal just cranks up the music and strikes up a new band yearly, Matthew Mitchell benefits from having really good players, but not elite players who would be around more than just a year. Nothing wrong with either approach, but both approaches were born out of the circumstances of each program. And that is where the similarities end.
The UK Men have a long and storied tradition that we are all more than aware of. Their exploits have been the stuff of legend. From men like Wah Wah Jones and Ralph Beard, to the newest incantation of the Cats with Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague burning up the highlight reels. The UK Women? A Brief flirtation with serious success back in the early 1980's brings us to the sum total of the Hoops squad's accomplishments before the arrival of former and current UT Women's Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss. DeMoss started the women out on the journey that Matthew Mitchell is now 5 years deep into continuing.
The women started showing flashes of brilliance under DeMoss, including taking out the much vaunted Tennessee Lady Vols that she was so much a part of for so many years. When she left suddenly and the program was in a state of confusion, in came Matthew Mitchell, and brought with him some much needed fresh ideas on how to get the women to the next level. Interestingly enough, about this time, UK's Men's program was in some turmoil of it's own. UK was reeling from the mistake of hiring one Billy Clyde Gillispie, and made the decision to bring in the controversial John Calipari. While not an unproven hire like Mitchell, Calipari was indeed intent on shaking up the world by bringing his own inimitable style of recruiting and coaching, and combining it with the history and mystique of Kentucky Basketball. Calipari had himself a dynasty to begin, and Mitchell was more than willing to become somewhat of a disciple and learn from Calipari's successes and failures on how to create a history changing program. Mitchell and Calipari became friends. No big surprise. With the exception of some ignorance laced sportswriters, and John Chaney. Most people like John Calipari, and the saem can be said for Mitchell. Results driven coaches, who keep themselves in the back seat of their program's busses, both men value the success of their players far above their own success. Mitchell has learned from Calipari that the players-first approach is not only prudent, it is vital to bringing in big-name talent in this day and age.
But it is more than that, a lot more. Mitchell wants to win in the SEC. Winning in the SEC means beating the likes of Pat Summitt and Tennessee. It means beating LSU, Georgia, and Vanderbilt on a regular basis. And the only way to do that, is talent. Big time talent. Victoria Dunlap and A'Dia Mathies talent. Bria Goss and Samarie Walker talent. The kind of talent that Mitchell now has coming to Kentucky. But talent is not everything. A team must also have a direction. An approach that allows them to compete until their talent can overwhelm their opponents as the Men now do. Enter the Full Court, Full On, Forty Minutes Of Dread.
Anyone watching the Baylor women take out Notre Dame on their way to their 40-0 season, knows what superior talent is on the women's side of the game. You now need size AND speed if you want to reach the top. UCONN has done it for years on both the women's and men's sides. And now schools like Baylor and UK want to play along.If the new "Calipari Model" is possible, Mitchell will figure it out, but it is unlikely in Women's Basketball. Physical development is key. As of this moment in time, women need the extra years of physical development to play in the WNBA. Can this change? Sure. If more and more younger players start appearing in the WNBA, they can most assuredly do it. After all, the youngsters entering the NBA were what started the ball rollind and have led to what is now being referred to as that same "Calipari Effect" (Cal calls it the Kentucky Effect, I hope that name catches on). But make no mistake about it, what you have seen happen to the men, may very well point the way for the women as well, especially if Cal's Super-Conferences idea gains momentum.
I will finish the season with a complete stats breakdown next week, but for now I wanted everyone to see that there is progress being made for the women as well. I hope you all tune in next year to witness more and more great basketball from the Hoops squad. Someone pointed out this year after watching that the women play an amazing style of basketball, harkening back to the Pitino's Bombinos years. It is exciting to watch and even more exciting to win. So enjoy the offseason, and get some rest, because next year, You may very well see two UK teams in the Final Four. And just maybe we can pull off the Double Double.