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Morning Newspaper: Groundhog Day Edition


"This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Well, it used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You're hypocrites, all of you!" -- Bill Murray as Phil Connors the Weatherman in Groundhog Day

I'm sure most of you have either seen or heard about the 1993 movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.  Right now it seems that the Wildcats are stuck in their own Groundhog Day-scenario, but instead of living the same day over and over again, the Wildcats are living the same game over and over again (with occasional forays into improvement) -- outshooting their opponent in every way, but turning the ball over so many times it doesn't matter.

But right now, it's time for news.

Kentucky Basketball News

  • Garnet and Black Attack reviews the UK-USC game.
  • Matt Jones has his morning post up, and there is little of interest except some remarks about an alleged exchange between Liggins and Gillispie that seems to follow a pattern of such exchanges.  I think I am forced to agree with Matt, the relationship between Liggins and Gillispie is not something you see every day between a college coach and his player.  In fact, for all the world, it resembles nothing so much as a father-son relationship when the young man starts challenging his father.

    I don't know what it means, and I am unable to dissect it.  Gillispie still plays Liggins just like any other member of the team, and as much as some want to deny it, the kid is gradually getting there.  His stretches of good play, particularly on defense, are longer and more intense, although he still has a troubling tendency to put up bad shots (and for Liggins right now, any shot is a bad shot if it is not a layup).  Perhaps that will diminish as well.  Hope springs eternal.
  • Mississippi State eyes extending Kentucky's losing streak.
  • John Clay notes that the last two possessions of the South Carolina game were amongh the most poorly-coached in a long time.  I think he's right. 

Now, it's time for an editorial:

There is very little in the news about UK today as the Big Blue Nation collectively holds its breath for the next game with a dangerous Mississippi State team.  We'll have more on that later, but I do want to note that some of the more emotional boards and blogs around the Blue and White blogosphere have undergone a staggering meltdown after this latest loss.  Criticism of Coach Gillispie has never been louder or more vitriolic since he took the job at Kentucky, and even though it is something we see a lot of after losses here in the Bluegrass, the volume and vociferousness of it, especially from some former supporters, is disturbing.

Before I go on, those of you tempted to take this opportunity to take issue with Tubby Smith, do it elsewhere.  I will instantly delete any and all comments of that nature.  This is about Gillispie.

Gillispie is still a work in progress here at Kentucky, as is the team he coaches.  I know that many in the BBN wanted a Pitinoesque return to glory at minimum, and preferably a faster one, since the circumstances around the most recent coaching change were infinitely less difficult than the previous.

I am disturbed by the criticism of Gillsipie not just because of the volume and nastiness of it, but because it bespeaks a fan base that cannot come to grips with the reality of a down period in Kentucky basketball.  It has happened before and will happen again, but a coaching change after only two years would set this program back to Eddie Sutton levels.  Some would argue that we are there right now, but honestly, I remember those days of despair.  We aren't even close, and I damn sure don't want to get any closer.

We all knew that this team had issues, but most of us (including me) were wrong about what they would be, as is so often the case.  I expected ball handling to improve, but it regressed dramatically.  I expected shooting to be poor, but it has been terrific.  The thing that is holding us back right now is a failure of the coach to successfully address the former.  Offensive rebounding is also a problem right now, but that is such an easy fix, I can't imagine it won't get better.  The turnovers seem intractable, and Gillispie has to find a way to cut them down to a manageable level.  So far, to the extent he has tried to do so, I would say he has failed utterly.

That's disturbing.  There are many ways to fix something like turnovers, but Gillsipie seems determined not to modify one thing about his approach to offense, but rather just accept the turnovers as an impediment to be overcome by experience and brute force.  That's extreme closed-mindedness in my view, and I don't think that is a desirable trait in a basketball coach.  I am troubled by his lack of adaptability and his rigid approach to the game, which disguises any attempts to adjust due to the limited scope of adjustments available to perform in such a philosophy.  "Play harder," seems to be his answer to everything.  Fine, then what do we need a multi-million dollar coach for?  A lot of less costly coaches could successfully encourage that.

It may seem that I am being hard on the coach, but for all the world, I see nothing approaching an effort at innovative thinking by him or his staff.  Perhaps he is of the opinion that simplicity is best, and refuses to add layers of complication.  I can respect that philosophy, even as I'm somewhat skeptical of it's ultimate effectiveness in modern college basketball.  Of course, there is much we don't see that goes on behind the scenes, and any criticism of Gillispie and his methods must be tempered by that reality.  In the end, it is all about results, and it is the results that has the Big Blue Nation in an uproar.  But with all this said, I think calling for Gillispie's head is completely, utterly, and in all other ways ridiculously over the top.

Given the fact of the instant outrage, however, I honestly don't know what will happen if UK goes on a long losing streak, winds up in the NIT or with an untenable seed in the NCAA tournament.  At this moment, given the reaction to a modest two-game skid, I fear the very worst.  I hope, nay, I pray my fears are groundless.

Kentucky Football/Other News

  • Even Georgia is noticing Kentucky's strong recruiting efforts.
  • Something I missed earlier.  Sports by Brooks has a long, detailed look at the new Rich Brooks Edition F-150.  Pretty funny.

NCAA Basketball News

  • Penn State beats Michigan State.  Penn State is actually a pretty good team.
  • The Vols get a big victory over Florida this weekend.
  • A police video of Andy Kennedy's arrest has been obtained.  What a mess.
  • The Coaching Carousel is spinning madly.

NCAA Football News

  • Track Em Tigers wonders if the Auburn faithful were wrong in being so harshly critical of Gene Chizik's hiring.

Other News of Interest

  • Not wind, nor rain, nor ice, nor snow, nor lack of power can keep a football fan from the Super Bowl.
  • Kenny Perry wins the FBR open.
  • The Super Bowl was terriffic.  It was as exciting a game as I have ever seen.