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Kentucky Basketball: Wrapping Up 2009-2010

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Congratulations to the Duke Blue Devils for winning their fifth fourth NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament championship.  The game was well played by both teams and was in doubt up until the very last shot by Gordon Hayward of the Butler Bulldogs nearly went in from half court.

That puts the period to the 2009-2010 season, and it was a good one for the Kentucky Wildcats.  Obviously, no Kentucky fan can be happy that the team fell short of glory this year, losing to a gritty West Virginia Mountaineers team in the East regional final, but there is still a lot to be proud of.  Here are just a few superlatives:

  • Best winning percentage in Division I college basketball this year (35-3/0.921)
  • SEC regular season championship, SEC Tournament championship
  • 7-2 record against the Top 25
  • 22-3 against the RPI top 100
  • 2 first-team AP All-Americans (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, most of any team) and one honorable mention (Patrick Patterson, most overall)
  • 3 first-team all SEC (Wall, Cousins, Patterson)
  • Rupp POY award for John Wall and COY award for John Calipari
  • SEC POY and Freshman POY (John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins)
  • First team in history to 2000 wins

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Kentucky achieved most of their goals for this year with the glaring exception of a national title, and even though that's really the only one most of the Big Blue Nation really remember, I think this team will go down in history as the one that brought Kentucky back from the dark place where they had wandered for years to the light of national prominence.

So now that the last near-miss has clanged off the rim, our reward, dear Kentucky fan, is to wander in the wilderness of doubt and angst for the next few weeks waiting for the game of "Will I stay or will I go?" to be fully played out.  Mixed in with that will be the joy (and perhaps also some disappointment) of the recruiting trail.  Kentucky will almost certainly sign some of the uncommitted recruits that have been holding out to see who stays and who goes for the Wildcats, so naturally, most of our attention will turn to what shape next year will take.

Here are some of the things we will be watching here at A Sea of Blue besides the player shuffle and recruiting:

  • The coaching carousel -- It looks like the SEC will have only one coaching change, Tony Barbee replaces Jeff Lebo for the Auburn Tigers.  But there has already been one other significant non-SEC change as of last night -- Oliver Purnell of the Clemson Tigers has accepted the job for the DePaul Blue Demons.
  • The SEC tournament -- Will that be changed to open seeding rather than East/West?
  • The NCAA tournament expansion -- Why mess with a good thing?  So you can screw it up, of course.
  • Other major comings and goings at the player level, especially in the SEC.
  • NCAA rule changes.
  • The NBA situation (lockout vs. no lockout)
  • Calipari's reflections and ruminations on this season and next.
  • Of course, we will be talking about other UK sports such as football, baseball, etc.

A couple of these deserve comment right now.  Unlike many national pundits, I am not shocked that Oliver Purnell left Clemson.  Purnell was coming under some fire in Clemson after his team's loss to the Missouri Tigers made his record in the NCAA tournament 0-6, and like Tubby Smith before him, decided to "git while the gittin' was good."  It will be very interesting to see who Clemson goes after to replace him, but I think Butler coach Brad Stevens has to be on their list of candidates.

The second thing is the SEC Tournament seeding.  After due consideration, I think this East/West thing makes no sense.  Just seed the whole thing based on their conference season results.  The East/West setup punishes teams who wind up in the stronger division that have better records, and that just isn't really fair.  The divisions were set up primarily for football, anyway, and even though it is a factor in the conference season (the SEC does not play a true round-robin), I think overall that just seeding according to overall conference standing is more fair, and would make for a better tournament.

The third thing is the NBA lockout.  Aaron's UK Basketball Blog argues today that the players considering moving on to the NBA should not consider the potential lockout when making their decision.  Overall, I find that argument pretty persuasive, based on what I've read about the matter.  The rookie pay scale does not seem to be a bone of contention, although to be fair, the overall split of the revenue between the NBA and the players is a major issue.  It is possible that could trickle all the way down to the rookies, but I tend to doubt it.

The last thing I want to comment on is the NCAA Tournament expansion.  Just don't do it.  We are rendering the regular season meaningless, and sacrificing a perfectly good setup on the altar of protecting coach's jobs.