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Under the Radar or Under the Gun?

There are many reasons why Kentucky's men's hoops team lost two games in the Maui Invitational last week. Hell, you can probably name the excuses.

* The team is still young
* Defense is the last skill to arrive
* The better backup center was injured
* The teams that beat UK were both top 10
* A dog ate Tubby's gameplan

On this page, I thought that this team had more in it. I thought that more Perry Stevenson and more Joe Crawford and less Sheray Thomas would mean not only a win over UCLA, but a Maui title.

I was wrong. In what is becoming a depressing routine, I again overestimated the Cats. That not only makes me look bad, it pisses me off.

I won't spend a great deal of time and energy pissing and moaning about what didn't work in Maui. Visit any UK message board or listen to talk radio in the Bluegrass and you'll get more than enough of that.

But I will say that after 10 years, it's baffling that Smith is still having "rebuilding years." Where is the continuity? Ignoring the big issues of talent and recruiting (yeah, it's not easy, trust me), why is every team a series of excuses away from being actually good?

This is not about competing with the best -- which, one could argue, the team hasn't been able to do over the past two years -- it's about being the best. And since the Cats fell to UAB, that has rarely been the case.

Lest the last few Big Blue Faithful jump ship, at least one of ESPN's talking heads hasn't given up hope yet on the Cats. Jay Bilas, who had a ringside seat for all of Kentucky's games, tabbed Morris the second best big man (Premium link) at the event in his tourney post-mortem. I tend to agree with his assessment that we expect more out of Morris than we get, but tend to forget how good he already is.

Bilas also threw hyperventilating Kentucky fans a bone with this nugget:

Kentucky got off to a slow start against UCLA, but battled back to take the lead late, but could not make plays down the stretch. Against Memphis, the Wildcats played one good half, then ran out of gas. I expect Kentucky to be among the SEC's top teams by midseason.

Small consolation to those fans who expect Kentucky to win the SEC or die trying. And with good reason. It's what Kentuckians have. It's a birthright. And they won't let go of that right without a fight.