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The Big Cat eyes the Big Game

There are, each week, any number of puff pieces on the Kentucky basketball team. With a built-in readership and rabid fanbase, news outlets need only mention in passing Tubby Smith or his charges to get a flurry of internet hits, buzz and/or response.

So it was nice to see Jerry Tipton's rather languid and revealing story in Friday's Herald-Leader. The story mixed nicely the sort of national punditry UK fans so love to obsess over -- denouncing it when it's negative to their vision of the world and trumpeting it when it fits -- and Morris' own quiet responses.

Much of the story here is the big guy's own contrition, his realization that, as he's stated before, people "tell you what you want to hear." In his case, Morris was told what he already thought was true, that he was a first-round shoe-in for the NBA draft.

As we all know now, a mixture of Morris' bad habits and spotty play combined to submarine the center's chances in the draft, though I'm still not sure how he wasn't even a second-round pick.

Regardless, the NBA's loss was Kentucky's considerable gain. Morris is the best offensive center for the Cats since Nazr Mohammed, and has the potential to be among the best in school history if he continues his development at its current pace.

Of more pressing concern, of course, is North Carolina's front line of Tyler Hansbrough, Brandan Wright and Rashawn Terry. Keeping Randy on the floor and out of foul trouble is the first concern, and getting him to do that while still playing effective defense is a close second. Too many times, in order to avoid a needless foul, Morris has just let a man have the easy bucket. I don't blame him, given the way the refs watch his slaps.

A stronger Jared Carter could be huge for Morris on Saturday, perhaps playing the brute role while Morris sticks to scoring and rebounding. There is no doubt the team needed an "all hands on deck" outing to win this one.

Morris' improvement gives the Cats a shot. Whether he and his teammates can find the will in a tough environment could well determine their immediate fates.