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Kentucky Basketball Primer for the 2014-15 Season

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This edition of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball season could very well be noted as the Season of Shock and Awe.

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Some are foolishly predicting an undefeated season and most of the experts say the Wildcats are the odds-on favorite to win championship number nine. For the low information fans and those who hate us, this is a primer for Kentucky over the years, including this year.

The Platoon System

The platoon system seems to be working well. What I find amusing is that when a player has to go out with an injury or foul trouble, the announcers immediately proclaim that Cal has broken up the platoons. Then, they shut up when the rest of the other platoon comes in at the next time out. With Hawkins starting in the place of Alex Poythress, the announcers made a point of making comments about Cal dropping his platoon system. They finally acknowledged that Poythress couldn't practice and wouldn't play in the games due to illness.

Against Montana State, Poythress was on the bench in civies, meaning that the Blue Platoon was broken again (eyes suitably rolling). Cal actually did break the platoons for this game in that he let players go in and out of the game if they were winded. So, you can expect to see headlines that Cal has abandoned the platoon system...again.

What they fail to realize is that Coach Cal never said that the membership of each platoon is cast in stone. He has, however, clearly stated that those who play the hardest will see more minutes. Hawkins earned his spot as a starter and he proved it during the game against Boston. They did seem more interested and focused against Montana State because they were really into stopping MSU from scoring.

The Kansas Beat Down

Here's what the national media are saying after the Kansas Jayhawks (pillage and burning) game. Some of our low-information fans have made comments that Buffalo was better than Kansas. Let's get real, people. Kentucky plays to the level of competition. They were up for the Kansas game and it showed. Against Buffalo and Boston, their attitude was "Meh" because the players knew that neither team could play with them for 40 minutes. Beating Kansas the way we did is pretty remarkable, as Roy Williams would say, "Daggummit."

Slogans, sayings and other stuff

Over the years, the Big Blue Nation has come up with some great sayings and clichés that usually wind up on t-shirts and other UK paraphernalia.  My favorites are:

Respect our Past, Fear our Future

This shirt came out when John Calipari was hired and it proved to be prophetic. Our haters don't respect our past, but they do fear our future, especially this year. Oh, and I forgot to mention another top recruiting class. Just for the record, here's our (graphics) past from John Scott's Big Blue History.

Are we that good, or are you that bad?

I believe this goes back to the 1978 champions, but could apply to the 1996 champs and the 2012 champions. This year's edition of the Wildcats could and should bring back those t-shirts. This is very appropriate for the sore losers.

Better Ingredients, Better Basketball

This t-shirt was created during the Pitino era. I finally had to throw mine away last year as it became very holely (holy?) and frayed. I probably should've had it matted and framed. Since Calipari came to Kentucky, this t-shirt should also be revived since it is especially true with the current edition of the Cats. This will work for those who have complained about our one and dones.

Today's t-shirts are not quite as clever, but you can find:

Start ‘em Young and Raise them Right - This is how the BBN became so large.

Kentucky Knows National Championships - This is a statement of fact over the years. Only UCLA can boast more.

He who scores the most points wins (with a UK logo) - Duh!

Wildcats don't need Luck - this one comes in Kelly Green. While the slogan isn't necessarily true, it will be sure to irritate our haters.

Louisville Doesn't Exist - This is particularly irritating to the birds with teeth.  On the same theme, you can wear this shirt in Louisville just to irritate Card fans. And here's another.

If you are a bona fide member of the Big Blue Nation, it is your responsibility to embrace the hate, laugh at it, and buy yourself a t-shirt that brings forth comments while shopping at Kroger, Walmart or other places where those who hate us shop. I've been stopped at various restaurants here in the Orlando area just by wearing my UK baseball cap. It is almost guaranteed to bring snarky comments from fans of other schools. Of course, I've heard a lot of "Go Cats" by wearing my shirts or hats. Down here in Florida (Lake Nona), I've found Publix to be an excellent place for verbal activity by opposing fans. I've heard comments from fans from all the SEC teams, Ohio State, Michigan, Louisville and many others. I just smile and say, "We (UK) will be pretty good this year and should win number nine." I then shrug my shoulders in a manner that indicates that there is nothing left to be said.

Kentucky Hate and Haters

Speaking of hate, KSR discovered this twitter site called Kentucky Stole my Fish. I find it very funny, especially this photo. The site makes the following claim:

Your one-stop shopping for all the UK hate the internet has to offer. All quotes are actual, unedited, Facebook/message board posts by rival fans.

It appears that this season will draw tons of haters on message forums, twitter, Facebook, etc. This is to be expected and we should embrace it.

Kentucky Stole my Fish will be posting his collection of UK hate every Friday over at KSR. I think that's great.

When you see or hear the hate, simply respond in this manner or say "Don't hate us because we're great." Or, you can always say, "Bless your little hearts. Ya'll tried real hard against us." For Louisville fans, you can add "pea-pickin'"  to the bless your heart phrase. Another way is to let them know that you "feel their pain" ala Bill Clinton. It works even better if you can imitate Clinton's voice.

Naming Teams

The Big Blue Nation also has a tendency to name our teams. It began with "The Fabulous Five" of 1948 or the name given to the 1958 "Fiddlin' Five" team by Adolph Rupp, the naming of teams has become a tradition over the years.

Teams whose nicknames have stuck:

Fabulous Five - Kentucky's first national championship team who went on to play as a part of the Phillips Oil team in the 1948 Olympics. They also won a national championship in 1949 after Kenny Rollins graduated. Here's a short piece about the fabulous five at Walter's World.

Fiddlin' Five - Rupp named this 1958 NCAA champion team himself because he felt they fiddled around before gaining control of games. Here's what he said about the team,

We've got fiddlers, that's all. They're pretty good fiddlers, be right entertaining at a barn dance. But I'll tell you, you need a violinist to play in Carnegie Hall. We don't have any violinists.

You can read about this team in this Lexington Herald Leader article.

Rupp's Runts - The 1966 NCAA runner-up team didn't lose a regular season game until the final one against Tennessee. They marched through the Big Dance until they faced Texas Western when the game was turned into a racial thing by the media: an all white team vs. an all black team. The reason they were called the "Runts" was due to the average height of the team. Look at the roster and you can understand the label. The tallest players on the team were backup centers Cliff Berger and Larry Lentz who were both 6'8". Starting center Thad Jaracz 6'5". Here's a short article about the team at Walter's World.

Silk and Steel, King and Kong - The names reference Jack Givens (Silk), James Lee (Steel), Rick Robey (King) and Mike Phillips (Kong). This could've been dubbed the "team with no joy" because the media and Digger Phelps noted that they concentrated on the tournament rather than all the extraneous things going on around the tournament. Joe B. Hall responded that the team will have their fun after the tournament is finished.

There was an attempt to name the team "Team Supreme" but that never stuck. The team dominated throughout the season and the tournament and beat Duke for the national championship. Silk and Steel, King and Kong was a tribute song written by a Cat fan and it played on the radio for a couple of months after we won the championship.

Pitino's Bombinos - This nickname was given to Rick Pitino's first couple of teams which relied heavily on three point shooting and a pressing defense. Kentucky was on probation and couldn't play in the post season for his first two years.  They did finish #9 in the AP poll in Pitino's second year (1990-91) after going 14-14 his first season.  During his 1st season, Kentucky lost to Kansas 150-59 in Lawrence. The 55 point margin ranks as the second worst all time behind the loss to Central University's 70 point beat down (17-87) of the Wildcats back in 1910. Pitino was charged with 2 technical fouls for throwing a towel and arguing a call in the Kansas debacle.

The 1990-91 team saw the emergence of freshman Jamal Mashburn which began Kentucky's turn around.

The Unforgetables - Forget the Bombinos because this team took unranked Kentucky to the classic game against #1 Duke in the Mideast Regional in Philadelphia. Here's a description of the team by Wikipedia. If you are old enough to remember, the ending is burned in your memory.

The Untouchables - Some have given the 1996 Champions this name, but has the name ever really caught on?  Rick Pitino's first championship team rivals the 1978 team in terms of Kentucky's best in the modern era. With 20 years separating the two teams, it is hard to measure which would be best.  This team brought Kentucky its sixth tournament championship.

Pitino took three teams to the Final Four: 1992-93 (lost to Michigan 81-78 OT), 1995-56 (beat Syracuse 76-67) National Champions, and 1996-97 (lost to Arizona 79-84 OT) NCAA Runner-up.

The Comeback Cats - Tubby Smith's first team(1997-98) has to be measured against The Fiddlin' Five. This bunch of Cats trailed at the half in 12 games and won 10 of them. In the South Regional Final in St. Petersburg, they trailed Duke  39-49 and trailed the #3 Blue Devils by 17 before coming back to win 86-84 to earn a Final Four berth in San Antonio.

In both Final Four games they were down by 10 at the half before beating Stanford 86-85 in overtime in the semi-final game and then beating Utah 78-69 in the championship. You can read about this team at Walter's World which also has a nice video of Kentucky's march to the championship. That 10 deficit against Utah is the all time high margin at the half in a NCAA Championship game where the team that was behind won the game.

The 2012 Champions - John Calipari's first championship team never picked up a nickname that was agreed upon by the BBN. The team was compared with the Untouchables and Anthony Davis became Kentucky's first player to win Player of the Year awards by all the those who rate such things.

As we all know, this year's team may be our best ever. Some think we could beat the Philadelphia 76ers on a neutral court best of seven. Here's a poll that's been taken. Calipari says no way. Eric Bledsoe says "definitely." I wonder.  The only way to settle that question is on the court and that's not going to happen unless Cal invites them to Lexington during the off-season.

More Hate

As a part of the Wildcat Faithful, you must endure all the claims of...

cheating, playing players, Cal can't coach, Kentucky just rolls the ball out on the court, UK fans are uneducated and dumb, Kentucky players don't play for Kentucky, but are playing for a future in the NBA, Kentucky players don't care about their fans...

kind of stuff. The last two comments show the ignorance of the haters. You only have to read about Terrance Jones to know that's simply not true. Other UK players who are in the NBA come back to Lexington for a visit and always stop by to see Calipari. Even Jodie Meeks, who left at the end of the Tubby Smith tenure comes back to Lexington and is welcomed by Calipari. Cal has let it be known that all former players are welcome to visit whenever they wish.

Always keep in mind that the media is just waiting to pounce when and if Kentucky suffers its first loss. Here's a list of those who are our biggest detractors: Sports Illustrated, Digger Phelps, and Kentucky's biggest detractor, Bob Knight who will no longer be a commentator for SEC games this year. In Kentucky, you can expect joyous celebration from the writers at the Courier Journal and Lexington's own Jerry Tipton over at the Lexington Herald-leader. You should click on each link as to the level of hate. We all know that Tipton is just waiting for something negative to write about.

Types of Kentucky Fans

Before I finish, I want to talk about the "hand-wringers" in our fan base. You  know, the ones who have a "bad" feeling about a certain game or certain team. Some have that feeling about almost every game. You tend to see this on the message boards.  It has already started. One guy out in California is worried about the UCLA game. They're one of the top teams (5th) in scoring. Big Whoop! Montana State scored 78 points on the Bruins. That should say something about the UCLA defense. UCLA's opponents average 71.5 per game which ranks 263rd. Ya gotta love the Kentucky worry warts, bless their hearts.

Then there are those who can always find fault. Some complain about our December cupcakes. There is a reason for scheduling cupcakes. First, it is hard to get big boys to commit to playing in Rupp Arena. They prefer neutral sites and Kentucky does too. The neutral sites prepare teams for the big dance. Second, The smaller schools use the big paydays that they get for coming to Rupp for renovations and new construction at their schools. It is equivalent to redistribution of wealth which schools such as Kentucky, Duke, UNC and others use to help out the smaller schools. Third, for the smaller schools, they can use the experience against the big boys to their advantage in their conference play. Four, the cupcakes are couched in between games against Kansas, Providence, Texas, North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville before conference play begins. November and December are used for learning and teaching.

Almost 100% of the BBN reserves the right to be a member of the constructive criticism crowd (CCC). It is our birthright. We all know as much about basketball as any coach we've ever had. I confess that I am also a member of the CCC. We discuss our strengths and weaknesses before the game during the game, half by half, and after each game. While we can do this, we bristle when fans from other schools also critique our Cats. For the Big Blue Nation, this habit is the process in the search for perfection every minute of every game. John Calipari calls this the 100 lb coat.

What these kids deal with to be here, to play here, to be a part of this program, they wear a 100 lbs. coat. What I mean by that is it starts with me. I am rough on them, I am tough on them, I am holding them to a high standard. I am like a hawk, I see everything. I'm coaching them the entire time. They're getting better, it is not an option. You will get better. That's me.

Then they've got this environment we live in here, which is like ridiculous. That's another 20 pounds of the coat. Wait, what about the media? ‘They're gonna win 45 straight, they can beat the 76ers, let's vote on it'-what?? Then they've got their own clutter that's around them individually that they have to deal with. That's 100 pounds. The people coming, in the players have windbreakers. They're loose as a goose, they're just gonna go play, if I make shots, if I don't, watch this. Every game we play-and I say this, if you're not willing to wear the 100 lbs. coat, you don't come here. You can't come here because it's not changing. I'm not changing, I don't think our fans are changing. I really don't think the media's changing and the clutter around these kids, it's all the same.

There is, without a doubt, a lot of pressure on the players here at Kentucky. These kids can't go anywhere in Lexington without fans bothering them for autographs, questions, praise and even criticism. In Lexington, these kids are rock stars and they are taught how to deal with it. This kind of pressure is a constant in their lives and it is not for everyone. While some can attribute Cal's remarks to coach speak the point he's making is true.

I'm ending this with a note to our haters. You may hate us and get away with outright lies and half-truths. Bearing false witness says more about you than it does about Kentucky. When you call us and our team names, it is only a minor irritation that we've come to accept and we just move on. We understand your hate for Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas. You hate us because we're successful and have been for years. We get it. While North Carolina is under investigation, as of right now, it doesn't detract from their accomplishments on the court. That may change when the dust settles and the penalties come. Even then, I'm not sure how I'll feel as a UK fan and a fan of college basketball. While we hold sports hate for some schools in addition to those mentioned, it is based on rivalries and we mean no harm once the games are over.  Hate all you want, but remember the words of Al McQuire, former Marquette coach and TV Commentator, when talking about Kentucky, "They had it before you, they had it during you, they'll have it when you're gone."