It seems no one expected the Cats to lose to Baylor last week, except me, so I refrained from posting to let the results settle in with people. Don't get me wrong, I love this team and these players. Cal, too. I just have no illusions about where they are and where they will remain as long as things continue as they have.
All the talk at the end of last season was that UK wouldn't get caught without a deep bench from here forward. The problem is that a deep bench is negated by a lack of short or long term memory. How in the world is Kentucky going to avoid last year's problems when the bench is entirely forgotten?
The answer is and has been that they won't.
By the time any square pegs finally fit into round holes, all the shine will have worn off the depth of this team. The bench isn't just a tool or a punishment. It should be that only as a last resort. The development of the bench for big time, in game minutes is as important as developing the starters, or else it is of NO value.
If you have no viable alternates in the crucial moments of a game, you have nothing.
The Cats have the bench and the players on it to make a big difference in a game, but if they are only going to be an afterthought or only get mop-up duty, they will lose their edge. It's as impossible to keep an edge on an unused or over-used razor. as it is to keep your starters fresh and your backups invested and primed to contribute. You either put the time in to keep the razor sharp or it dulls or rusts.
There needs to be someone on the sideline that can bring to Cal's attention that he HAS other players besides the ones in the current recruiting class that need valuable game time to develop, if he doesn't want this year to turn out like last year.
Sometimes sitting on the bench and watching others do things wrong or right is the best thing for a player. Add a coach explaining it to them as it happens and you have a winning formula. Sometimes it's not about doing every single movement on the court to perfection, and instead it's about knowing that the team isn't depending solely on one person's ability to get the job done. That's a lot of weight to carry for 5 people just out of high school.
Earlier in the season, I mentioned my reservations about this team, and they were strongly confirmed Friday. Those reservations are not about the talent, the quality of character of the players, nor their drive and determination. It's about their management in game.
Forming a viable bench rotation to get experience 2 and 3 deep into the roster will go farther than trying to beat it into 5 All-Americans, as well as provide for the future when injuries happen, and they will. Putting guys in to dribble out the clock has always been frustrating to watch, and I bet it's even more frustrating to be relegated to doing only that.
Until Coach Cal can do that, all the talk about and work towards putting together a deep bench is negated completely.
The ball is firmly in his court, whether he thinks it is or not. It certainly isn't the fault of the starters who are learning as fast and playing as hard as they can. He's setting himself and his team up for a lot more frustration than what he showed in the post-game press conference in Dallas, if he doesn't let go of the current mentality.