Kentucky basketball is important to many fans. National championships, final fours, SEC titles, they are all benchmarks of a good season. But beating Louisville, for many, is the marker for whether a season qualifies as a failure. After Kentucky lost today to the Cardinals, many fans threw in the towel on the season. But not the players.
“Let’s look at the positives,” Jacob Toppin said after the game. “We’re moving in the right direction. Even though we lost, we saw improvement in the team and individually in everybody. We just gotta keep pushing. Yeah, our backs are on the wall. That just makes us hungrier.”
Hungry is a word that many would not use to describe this team. They have often look uninterested, even apathetic, on the court. However, there were several bodies on the floor throughout Saturdays’ contest that may be an indication of an improvement from what we have seen before. But is that enough to have confidence that this group can completely turn things around?
“The ball was in the basket and it came out,” Toppin said of Olivier Sarr’s final shot. “We can’t do nothing about that. That was a great shot. He shoots those everyday. He makes 100-plus shots from that spot on the court everyday. He knows to keep shooting and we just gotta live with that.”
There is very little confidence coming from the fan base right now. And looking at the numbers, making the NCAA Tournament is a long short at this point. Even though John Calipari said after the game that he doesn’t “believe it’s over, we haven’t even played a league game yet. Our true fans, keep cheering them on.”
This quote is unfortunate on a few levels. First of all, Tennessee and Missouri are really good and this Kentucky team would be lucky to go .500 in league play. Also, even a strong conference performance will not make up for the embarrassing losses we have seen in non-conference play.
It is great that the players are confident, and I love the fact that John Calipari still sees potential for a tournament run. However, until I see a different type of effort an execution on the court, I will continue to explore other options for entertainment in March and April.