For better or worse.
Performances as indicators of future performance. (With some much needed subliminals)
Perhaps you might remember a little ways back, 17 years ago in fact. When a coach couldn't figure out a team well enough to match his players against their lineup. He lost to three such teams that year en route to a runner up finish. (Willis)
The next year a new coach stepped in, taking over a team with a few less stars than the year before. He started out like his gang was busted, losing to the same type of team to whom the university had lost in the finals -- with a big difference. By the time that game was over, he had tinkered with the lineup so much that he knew how to beat that scheme that had beaten the previous team and then some. The rest of the season he tinkered and toyed with the talent already at his disposal, using the offensive and defensive schemes of the previous regime when needed and working his own schemes as well. Few watching that team could predict a national championship banner would be raised in their honor.
What does this have to do with this season? Admittedly, not much. (Willis)
The players, coaches, and schemes are completely different. The game is different. The refs don't even know what year it is anymore, nor do they know what their directives are. To top it all off the conferences are virtually unrecognizable and you'd think you were in a parallel dimension, aka a Twilight Zone episode, if you stepped from 1998 into 2014.
All that aside, just a few weeks ago, we were all clamoring for the UK coach to use and develop his bench more, rather than waste it, even as the coach said he must after the disaster that was last year.
So… now he's doing that, using his bench (sans Willis), massaging the lineups (warts and all), and getting some of the bench some minutes. And fans are complaining about ugly wins. (In the process validating his statement that this team is over-analyzed, though that too is as much his responsibility as anyone's.)
Forget that Calipari cannot remember the name WILLIS, he seems to be trying new things. The team IS getting better with more than just his typical stunted number of starting players. The bench (except Willis) is developing game experience that may help come tourney time.
We all need to remember that March is about playing your best basketball possible, but also, when it just isn't there one night, being able to eek out a win when you're playing your WORST basketball. The difference between getting to the Final Four and winning a title and going home in the 2nd or 3rd round just may be how well you play through your worst night. (Willis) Truth is, you only have to be one point better when the clock hits zero, no matter how ugly the minutes leading up to it. Truth is, your worst game, where you can't hit the broadside of a barn and the officials can't find a moral compass if it's shoved where it can't help but be felt, just has to be one point better than the other team's game that night.
Sit back and relax, as if, and enjoy the development of this team (perhaps even Willis) for March. There's a good chance it could be a really enjoyable tournament for UK Wildcats fans (hopefully Willis, too).
That's all for now… oh yeah, wait. Consider a chant during the next home game before the game starts, at an opportune TV timeout, or even at halftime of, "DON'T FORGET DEREK WILLIS." Cal will surely appreciate the reminder.
(Rex Chapman had no part in the production of this post.)