I know why John Calipari is asking the Big Blue Nation not to hype the 2013 class, and not to raise expectations for Kentucky for next year. No coach, not even Coach Cal, likes to have expectations raised to the point that anything short of an NCAA Tournament title is a disappointment. Too many things can happen along the way, and many teams that were the prohibitive favorite coming into the season have failed to live up to expectations. But there are other reasons.
Big Blue Nation, I want you to think about what I’m about to say. I’m hearing all the accolades of an incoming recruiting class being the "best ever in the history of the game." Come on, folks! Why would we do that to this new group of kids?
The "have mercy on these young guys" argument is a fair point although a bit of a bait-and-switch, but not completely. These are young men, and hyping them to the point of "Win it all or be considered a failure" is pretty unfair, if you think about it. Also unfair is the fact that some people are hyping this team to the point that a single loss, regardless of the season outcome, will be seen as a disappointment. Some in the Big Blue Nation want ... nay, insist upon an undefeated season to prove how great the Wildcats are.
But here's the big reason Calipari wants to quell the hype a bit:
This year’s team hasn’t figured that out yet. It just goes to show you that having talented kids and preseason accolades means nothing. It guarantees you nothing. We were ranked No. 3 in the country this year, which I thought was ridiculous. I thought everyone that ranked us that high needed to be drug tested. My hope was and still is that we would be one of those teams at the end of the year, but not at the beginning.
I've seen it already, and I'll bet you have, too, if you're honest with yourself. Too many people in the Big Blue Nation have given up on this year's team already. They've resigned themselves to the idea that this year will be a "rebuilding" year for Kentucky, as if that is actually possible in the rotating door that has become the Kentucky Wildcats.
Far too many in the Big Blue Nation have lowered their expectations to the point of relative (note the modifer) apathy about this year's team, and that's what's really baking Calipari's noodle. He doesn't like to see his current crop of wunderkind relegated to the ash heap of history before the first conference game, and quite honestly, the national media has done a fair job of convincing all and sundry that this team is not a contender for the NCAA Tournament title. In fact, more than a few have made veiled and even overt suggestions that this year's team is a bubble team, and could miss the tournament altogether.
Calipari goes on to talk about fairness to the incoming class, but he's much more concerned about what the 2013 buzz will do to this season's group, and I think that is justified. I have been concerned about a little too much negativity toward this season's players as well, and some people are looking more toward 2013 than the rest of this season.
Both his points are definitely reasonable, but knowing Kentucky fans as I do, his words are largely wasted pixels. Nothing is really ever good enough for Kentucky fans except winning it all, and that high standard is laudable as long as it's kept in the context of reality and not fantasy. I would hope to see Wildcats fans worry a little bit less about next year and a whole lot more about this year. It isn't as if I need to agitate for support, I know it's there, but the lack of actual excitement can have a self-fulfilling effect if it spills over to the team itself -- something I know Calipari is working hard to avoid.
I'm as excited about next year as anyone else, but right now, we have work to do. The idea that there are 25 better teams in America than this year's Kentucky team may seem appealing to those who want to put UK fans in their place, or those among us with a propensity to view the current résumé as be-all and end all. But there is much more to be written about this year's team, and they will need the fans to live in the "precious present" more than ever.
I think that's Coach Cal's main point.