For how many has the pursuit of it driven them all the way to a title? For how many has it produced seemingly greater-than-maximum results? And, lastly, why not these guys?
For all their warts -- and there are some, a couple downright troublesome -- they have a certain something, don't they? The best teams, UK or not, tend to possess a swagger, a confidence. This team has struggled with it. But unlike last year's team, and to even some extent, outside of Chuck Hayes, the year before as well, this team has shown it at times. Especially the burgeoning All-American Randolph Morris.
Tonight, Auburn arrives at Rupp Arena feeling good about itself. After all, the Tigers are 1-0 in the SEC, something better regarded teams cannot claim. They have a fiesty group of kids, many of them playing for -- there's that word again -- Respect. They have a good big man prospect in former UK target Korvotney Barber, one of those man-child brawlers like Donnell Harvey, late of Florida.
But this UK team is performing of late. Eight stright wins and a road victory at Ole Miss have the Cats feeling better about themselves. But lest you think they're overconfident, there's head coach Tubby Smith telling anyone who'll listen that his team isn't really good yet, that it shouldn't be in the top 25 polls. Chip, meet shoulder.
These Cats say the right things. They have improved a great deal since their last loss, at North Carolina. But they have not shown focus, consistency, the mark of a winner. Perhaps tonight is the night. Perhaps not?
Truz goes all out once more with his outstanding game analysis. I recommed a reading before the game starts.
One thing is for sure: there is a lack of respect nationally. The team knows it, and Tubby -- whatever his projections to the media -- knows it. And that is just the way he wants it. Motivation, you see, is maybe the trickiest thing for a coach to get right. Each team requires a different one, even year-to-year.
Maybe this team's motivation is ... Respect.
What to look for:
* Race ya!: It was just yesterday that Tubby Smith was again talking about the offense needing some get up 'n go. Who doesn't agree? While the last few games have seen improvements, scoring baskets can get dicey with these guys. Most notably, every basket seems to be a new exercise, with far too few easy scores. Auburn likes to get out and run. Maybe that will be good for our boys.
* Bobby 'early'?: The pressures on senior starter Bobby Perry aren't going to go away. What worries fans is that his slump doesn't seem to be going anywhere either. Coach Smith is finally having to address questions of whether he has considered bringing his favorite guy off the bench. Thus far, he's been positive but tellingly honest about Bobby's production, even going so far as to note Perry's lack of minutes. Will Auburn offer Perry a comeback of sorts?
* The Barber of 'So Long': Sophomore Korvotney Barber might have been starting at power forward for Kentucky had things gone differently. He was as a senior in high school quite high on the Kentucky program for some time. But he decided to cast his lot with Auburn instead, reportedly because of some whispers in his ear. Regardless, he's slowly becoming a force in the middle. Maybe he'll have something to prove. Or, maybe the Cats will instead.
Probable starting lineupsKentucky
PG: Derrick Jasper (6'6"/213 Fr.) 5.1 ppg, 3.6 apg
SG: Ramel Bradley (6'3"/175 Jr.) 13.3 ppg, 3.5 apg
3G: Joe Crawford (6'5"/211 Jr.) 12.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg
C: Randolph Morris (6'11"/259 Jr.) 16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg
SF: Bobby Perry (6'9"/215 Sr.) 6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg
F Perry Stevenson, F Sheray Thomas, F Ramon Harris, C Lukasz Obrzut, G Jodie Meeks, G Michael Porter
PG: Quantez Robertson (6'3"/190 So.) 7.9 ppg, 5.3 apg (leads SEC)
SG: Rasheem Barrett (6'5"/220 So.) 12.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg
C: Frank Tolbert (6'4"/210 Jr.) 11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F: Josh Dollard (6'7"/235 So.) 11.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg
F: Korvotney Barber (6'7"/220 So.) 13.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Dewayne Reed (G), Archie Miaway(G), Lucas Hargrove (F), Quan Prowell (F)