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Kentucky Basketball: Hype over Heart?

If you watched the Texas A&M –Kentucky game, you couldn’t help but notice the Aggies t-shirts emblazoned with “Heart over Hype” across the front. There was a lot of truth in that statement as the Aggies took the Cats into double overtime before losing by six.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In a week that saw Kentucky's favorite son, Damien Harris, choose Alabama over Kentucky and two ugly wins by the basketball team to begin conference play, some Kentucky fans feel shell-shocked. There's not much anyone can do about the Harrison decision. And, there's not much the Big Blue Nation can do about the Cats playing to the level of competition.

TAMU showed the possibility of heart over hype. They managed to have a shot at winning without their best player. The same can be said about Ole Miss. The Cats came out against Ole Miss and scored twelve straight points. That was just too easy. Instead of pouring it on, Kentucky relaxed and let Ole Miss back into the game. Conversely, Kentucky came out against Texas A&M with a lack of focus from the beginning, showing, to me at least, that they didn't take the Aggies seriously. The TAMU students were ready to rush the court as described in this article over at Good Bull Hunting.

The common denominator in both games, however, is that Kentucky's talent won both games in the end. It is perplexing, though, that this talented bunch of Cats seemingly want close games. Or, maybe they simply believe the hype.

While we can complain about our team's lack of focus, you have to remember that we won both games, even if they feel like losses.  Three of the top five teams in the A/P poll lost while we were winning. Number 5 Louisville, bless their little pea-pickin' hearts, lost to North Carolina 71-72 in the Dean Dome after leading for most of the game. Number 4 Wisconsin lost on the road to a bad Rutgers team 62-67 without their POY candidate Frank Kaminsky. And, Duke traveled across town in greater Raleigh and lost to unranked North Carolina State 75-87.

The # 7 Arizona version of the Wildcats also lost on the road 56-58 to Oregon State and #10 Texas lost another to Oklahoma State 58-69 after losing to Oklahoma 49-70 at home last Monday. So, five of the A/P's  top ten wound up losing in the last seven days.

And then, there were two:  Kentucky and Virginia. Both are 15-0 on the season and while Kentucky struggled, the Cavaliers won by 10 and 6 against NC State and Notre Dame. On January 3rd, however, Miami took Virginia into two overtimes in Miami before losing to the Cavs 89-80.

What all this proves is winning conference games isn't all that easy no matter what conference you play in. That is especially true with conference road games.

This year's edition is actually doing a little better than our last national championship team. Remember the loss at Indiana and the loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament? If this team can finish the season in the same manner, all the close games will be forgotten.  Even the losses, if this is to be any, will also be forgotten.

Heart over Hype? While we have to acknowledge that the hype has Kentucky as the best, this team has proven it has the heart as well when you consider we won two games that lesser teams would have lost. We may not win another championship, but we still have to be the favorite. In the end, there just isn't any substitute for talent. We'll just have to sit back with a bottle of bourbon and try to enjoy the ride. We might make it through the season if we don't have a heart attack before it is over.