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Kill the Fatted Calf, Kentucky is Ranked Again!

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The UK men's basketball team is finally ranked again in the AP poll for the first time in the regular season since October 29th, 2007.  It has been a long dry spell for the Wildcats, something that Kentucky fans are not really (and don't want to get) used to.  So now most of the hand-wringing has stopped, although some are still put out a bit by reason of the fact that the Wildcats remain unranked in the coach's poll.

Many people will tell you that being ranked isn't important, but that is not true.  The reason is, rankings are the way that teams get press attention, and press attention helps recruiting.  Why do you think the rich get richer?  Is it because Roy Williams is a warm, fuzzy father figure, or Mike Krzyzewski is an American Express salesman and leadership guru, or that maybe John Calipari cooks a mean mostaccioli when the team visits his home?  Nah.  The teams they coach get on TV and play big, important games, and players on TV in big, important games get lots of love from the NBA scouts.  Reporters write about these teams, and the players on them.  NBA scouts listen.  It isn't that hard to figure.

So despite the constant assertion by coaches that rankings don't mean anything, do not be deceived.  No coach wants a ranking to become a distraction to a team that is playing well, which is why so many of them publicly decry the rankings and say weird things like "we don't deserve to be ranked [so high]" and so forth.  But when they are at home with their thoughts, they know that being ranked helps recruiting by raising the profile of the program, and an already high-profile program like Kentucky being out of the rankings for a long time creates the perception of a problem.  Recruits want to play for national championships, not solve the problems of an underachieving program.

So while I am personally ambivalent about what our position in the rankings actually means, the fact that Kentucky finds itself there again is a very good thing.  Far more important, however, is that they stay there, and there are twelve eleven teams in the SEC who would like to arrange for UK to find their way back into the purgatory of the NR's. Gillispie knows that, and he can't let the team lose focus. 

You can bet, though, that when he is alone with his thoughts, the little man inside Billy G.'s head is doing a few cartwheels now that the 'Cats are back in the polls.