Well, we have been talking football for a good long while here at ASoB, and why not? 4-0 with a bullet, 14th ranked team in the nation, some well-deserved and bitterly earned schadenfreude at that red-and-black team up the road who was highly touted but is now having a few struggles of their own. Life is sweet here in Wildcat country. It may not last another week, but as our famous former basketball coach, Traitor Rick Pitino once said, we must "live in the precious present." It sure is fun to be a Kentucky Wildcat fan at this moment in history.
But there is another game that Kentucky is rather more famous for. Many of us may have forgotten about it in the glee of all the unimagined football glory, but Big Blue Madness is merely 18 days and an odd number of hours away. Yes, pretty soon, we are going to get real basketball news to chew on, as well as football. Most years around the Bluegrass, that's no big deal -- we pretty much talk about football only on game day or just after, then resume our regularly scheduled basketball discussions. This year, that won't be happening, but it is high time to think about the basketball team.
There is no real news to report about basketball right now, but there sure is a lot of anticipation. I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say things will be a lot different this year on the hardwood. We have a new coach, a fresh new attitude and a bunch of new players. But we also have a lot of questions that need to be answered, such as:
- How well will Carter, Jasper and Crawford recover from off-season surgery?
- What sort of basketball coach is Billy Gillispie? We know he can recruit, but how will he coach?
- How good will Patrick Patterson be?
- Will our front line be too small for us to be a force this year?
- Will our back court, and particularly point guard, judgment be improved this year?
- How tough will the coaching transition be for long-time Tubby Smith players?
- How will our conditioning be with all the off-season surgery and coaching changes?
- Who will step up and captain this team?
- Will the turnover problems that plagued the last two Kentucky teams be improved?
I'm sure there are many more questions that need to be answered, but these are the ones burning in my brain. I'm sure that we won't know any of these, really, until after the exhibition season. Still, I'm going to be looking hard at these areas when we do begin actual games. If we can't improve our leadership or turnovers from last year, it is quite possible we will suffer another year of below-expectation results, but I am pretty optimistic we will see a return to sanity in those areas.
I take it as a very good sign that none of the Wildcats reportedly considered leaving when Tubby left. There was some speculation about Jasper, but that has obviously been misplaced. No senior in their right mind would ever consider leaving, but many of our solid freshman class from last year could have. Apparently, they are satisfied with the change up until now.
One other thing that we can expect to see is some recruiting commitments shortly after we begin playing. Some recruits are anxious to see Gillispie's style, and if it meets with their approval, I can see some movement on some of the uncommitted players we are recruiting, such as Singleton and Jennings, assuming they are still uncommitted at that point. One thing we don't have to wonder about when it comes to Gillispie is recruiting ability, which is a place we haven't found ourselves in 10 years. It seemed Smith was always late signing recruits or picking up late defections, leading to a lot of predictable angst around the Big Blue Nation. That doesn't seem to be in the offing anymore.
It's time to get psyched about our basketball program, even as our football team is taking the nation by storm.
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a water-color in the rain.
Don't bother asking for explainations
She'll just tell you that she came
From the Year of the Cat ...
This, my BBN brothers and sisters, could be like 1977/78 -- The Year of the Cat. At the very least, it will be an exciting time to be a Wildcat fan.