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And the Nattering Nabobs Commence

Happy Independence Day to the Big Blue Nation!  

If you are reading this, I hope you have either already enjoyed your barbecue, or it doesn't happen until later.  Me, I gotta write something, so ...

Yesterday, I commented upon the recent media feeding frenzy surrounding Coach Gillispie's recent spate of recruiting success.  Predictably, there are those who, well, aren't all that enamored with Gillispie's success, and can't wait to warn Kentucky fans that it is all just an illusion, and we are going nowhere.

For example, we have the Loathsome Troll Jeff Goodman.  Jeff earned his nickname with some really nasty things he had to say to me about Tubby Smith, and he definitely doesn't care for the UK program.  On his blog, he had this to say in response to Gillispie's recent commitments:

Back when Gillispie was at College Station, taking commitments from freshman and sophomores may have been necessary before Texas got involved. However, Kentucky has the cache to go up against just about anyone not named Duke or Carolina.

Vilarino isn't good enough to play at Kentucky. Trust me on this one. The word is that Ross-Miller isn't, either.

First, Goodman insults Kentucky by basically saying we are not able to compete with Carolina and Duke for recruits.  Then, he assures us (!) that he knows better than coach Gillispie who is going to be talented enough to play at UK and who isn't.

Well.  Where to begin?  He must have forgotten that Patterson, whom he lauds Gillispie for landing, was highly coveted by the Mighty K and his merry minions.  He congratulates us on Liggins, but fails to note the matriculation of equally talented Alex Legion.  Must have slipped his mind, overburdened as he is with the weighty business of sportswriting.  

Then, TLTJG advises us to "trust" him on Villarino, rather than a coach who evaluates talent for a living and gets paid about $2M/year to do so.  Great idea, Jeff -- just don't start giving out investment advice, mmmkay?

We might also wonder where TLTJG is getting "word" about Ross-Miller, who I have seen ranked as high as #5 in the nation for 2010, and who recruiting guru Van Coleman currently ranks #24.  We trust you, Jeff -- to write banal sports articles, not give us advice on recruiting.

Leaving Goodman to wallow in his own clueless self-importance, we move on to our friends at Orange and Blue Hue, a University of Florida blog, who also has a recent post containing dire warnings for Kentucky fans about early signing, but also full of assurances that we are no longer the Big Cats we once were:

So UK fans finally have something to cheer about, kids who will arrive on campus within the next three years.  In the meantime though Kentucky will be looking at a much different SEC from their heyday in the Pitino era.  Tennessee is a top 10 team and favorite to win it all.  Arkansas brings a very good coach to lead it's talented but underachieving program.  Ole Miss looks as if Andy Kennedy might finally bring the Rebels back to the thick of the SEC fight while Felton is positioned to sink or swim in the next two years.  And lest we forget the reigning SEC and back to back National Championship are still the toast of the SEC having wrested away Kentucky's throne in brutal fashion.

Oh, woe is us!  With so many sharks circling and smelling Big Blue Blood, however will we cope, whatever will we do -- hope Clark Gable really gave a damn after all?

What is the old adage again -- you know, the one about ignoring history?  Some Gator fans seem determined to forget about the previous 80+ years and point to the last two as the important part.  Well, you can't really blame them -- they have had a nice run and aren't quite ready to return to the Blue World Order.

Finally, the venerable Larry Vaught weighs in with a similar message:

Gillispie is putting the pieces in place to have the type of talent that Pitino did on an annual basis. However, it's still not going to be as easy for Gillispie to dominate the Southeastern Conference as it was for Pitino during his UK years.

Why? Try Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl.

Yes, yes, I know -- Pearl and Donovan, Donovan and Pearl.  I get it.  What I refuse to get is the idea that anything has really changed.  Was not Nolan Richardson and Arkansas at the top of their game during the Pitino years?  Didn't Mississipi State University join UK in the Final Four in 1996?  What, Larry, is exactly new about a tough, competitive SEC?

Well, who knows?  Maybe all the naysayers are right, and I am just living in a fantasy world where UK again regains the dominance it held a mere 3 years ago, under that other UK coach ... what was his name again?  Oh, yeah, Tubby Smith.  Remember when he reeled off that incredible winning streak that included sending the then #1 Florida Gators crawling back to Gainsville as eunuchs?

I remember.  Florida, perhaps understandably, wants to forget about the fact that they had an 8-game losing streak to UK just prior to it's current 6-game winning streak against us.  They would probably also like to forget that prior to their current winning streak, Donovan had won only 4 of 18 games (22%) against UK before capturing the last 6, and also ignore Florida's overall 28% winning percentage against UK. But we won't.  Tennessee would probably like to forget its 31% all-time winning percentage against UK, including 6 wins in its last 20 tries.  But we won't.

No hyperbole here, folks, just facts.  John Adams famously said "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."  The fact is that Kentucky has historically dominated the SEC, with occasional incursions from other SEC teams to the top.  I see no compelling evidence that this state of affairs has actually changed.

So congratulations to Florida and UT for their recent strength and deserved hype.  But history shows it is unlikely to last, and Coach Gillispie is placing the nouveau riche of the SEC on notice -- Just like in the past 80+ years, the road to the SEC championship will go through the Bluegrass.

Update [2007-7-5 17:52:50 by Truzenzuzex]:  John Clay also takes note of Orange and Blue Hue's article on his blog.