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The House that Rupp built

Lost amidst the hyperventilating, finger-pointing and future coach interviewing this week is the fact that the Kentucky basketball program willl continue regardless.

Lest anyone think that because their preferred coach is or is not manning the sideline next season the games will not go on, UK is hosting one of its top targets remaining, Jai Lucas, for Wednesday's Senior Night festivities.

While Tubby Smith's presence as UK coach certainly plays heavily into the college choices of both Patrick Patterson and Lucas, as do presumably the arrivals of Mike Williams and AJ Stewart, the games still have to be played, the preseason scrutinized, the team photos taken.

I'll admit to being hard on the UK fanbase as a whole. I expect much, and too often I am reminded that for all the passion they employ, there are still enough dumbasses to besmirch an overwhelmingly good bunch. But moments like this week's Tubby roast really get me down, and not because I'm wedded to Smith on the UK bench.

There is a simplistic view on both sides of the Great Tubby Debate that each other is steadfast and rooted in his or her opinion. While certainly some have clearly made their feelings abundantly clear, the vast majority of Big Blue Nation -- like the nation at large -- suffers from the unrelenting whoosh of opinion on either end.

Let's face it, Tubby has not done a great job by Kentucky standards, especially and most importantly over these past two years.

But let's also face the fact that, however much some folks want to crow about Final Four droughts and 10-loss season and the like, Tubby Smith is among the coaching heavyweights in the game.

I would not trust anyone who claims that either of these -- empirically or otherwise -- is not the case.

Tubby Smith has become a lightning rod for critics and fans alike.(AP)

So the issue at hand is whether Tubby Smith and the U of K are still the right pairing. All this other stuff, all the vitriol leveled at Smith, all the accusations about who "true fans" are, all the spreadsheets and head-to-head stats crunching, is just part of the din.

It doesn't mean it's not technically valuable, even interesting, but the table and the chair and the window do not make the painting. The chair in and of itself is a chair. The table a table. Likewise, the coach is a coach and his players players. What is unclear is whether the mural that is Kentucky basketball is up to museum quality, or whether the combination of table, chair and window have left something to be desired.

What I hate seeing most is otherwise smart and well-intentioned folks unable to parse fact and opinion. It drives me bloody mental.

Both have their places, but they can never substitute for each other. Ever. Not ever. And this tendency towards the "I state it, therefore it is so" philosophy provides nothing but dug-in heels, hurt feelings and a bruised program.

Our national profile as a program and fanbase is as low as I can remember since the Eddie Sutton debacle. But don't for a second tell me this is all Tubby's fault.

Sure, the team is underperforming, and his lack of media savvy has not helped his cause much. But the folks who think that by screaming the loudest will make things better (not different, but better) by itself are sorely mistaken. There will be recriminations, accusations, rumors, more finger-pointing and a whole lot of negative media coverage. If the school does replace Smith, the wolves that love -- no, check that, live for -- taking big bites out of the UK program's image when things are bad are super-duper psyched about this situation. Barring a team coming together, this is all likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.

And at the end of it, the games will tip off, the coach will be the coach (new or old), the players will still be the players.

But will the once mighty Big Blue Nation, in trying to root on its own beloved hoops team the best it knows how, be the one to wear the lasting scars?