Last night's game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Memphis Tigers is a great lesson for the Jayhawks that they get to learn without much cost, much like Kentucky's game versus the Miami RedHawks the other night. It isn't exactly free -- both teams took a hit to their pre-season hype and credibility -- but its value is far beyond that ephemeral penalty.
Take a look at what Yahoo's Jason King said about Kansas last night:
Kansas’ players seemed arrogant and, as a team, the Jayhawks lacked cohesion. Memphis, meanwhile, used pesky defense and hustle plays to stay in the game. The Tigers forced 21 turnovers while fighting back from a 10-point deficit midway through the second half.
Remember the article about swagger the other day? This is the danger of having swagger -- the possibility that it can run over into arrogance. Arrogance in a college basketball team, particularly early in the season, leads to defeat. The Jayhawks dodged a bullet, the 'Cats dodged a bullet, the Tar Heels dodged a bullet, and the Spartans dodged a bullet. There is a lesson to be learned here, I think.
The lesson is that unless you adopt a professional attitude about the work before you, swagger just looks arrogant and classless. It inspires other teams not to fear you, but to want to kick your butt all over the arena, and sometimes, a little inspiration is all you need -- right, Nick Winbush?
The early season is for learning lessons, and right now, the lesson is don't crown yourself king until you have won a few battles. That lesson should be burning into the brain of every player on UK, KU, Michigan State and UNC. That crown doesn't fit any of these teams yet -- it's much too small to fit on swelled heads. Those heads will shrink as the season goes on and young players learn, but the learning needs to start right now.
Lesson #1 -- respect your opponent, and don't take him for granted. Otherwise, he might rise up and smite you.
More after the jump.
There is another interesting thing about this game that is more relevant to the Wildcats -- it brought out the Kentucky detractor (or more correctly, the Calipari detractor) in ESPN's Dana O'Neal. I generally like Dana's work, but tonight, she really laid the wood to the new UK coach:
Kansas is not the dominant, etch-the-name-on-the-trophy No. 1 team everyone thought it was and John Calipari's Shermanesque, scorched-Earth policy on Memphis has not rendered the Tigers obsolete.
And later in the same article ...
And then Calipari bolted to Kentucky, taking players, secretaries, potted plants and the hopes for the 2009-10 season with him. In his wake stood Pastner, a 32-year-old caffeine-eschewing, sleep-avoiding, curse-averse, first-time coach who ended Tuesday night's press conference remarking how cool it was to be holding a press conference.
Josh Skywalker. Darth Cal. Get it?
But I digress. The point of this piece is to note that several of the top teams have proven themselves not quite ready for prime time, and so far, it has not cost any of them much more than a raised eyebrow and significantly increased practice intensity.
But if the lesson goes unlearned, that bill will come due in the form of embarassing losses. And Bill Self, friend of Billy Gillispie, can get all the insight he wants about embarassing losses with a phone call to the former UK coach.