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Not for Funsies

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The Kentucky Wildcats are fun to watch, but they are playing to win.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Years ago, when the John Calipari Era began at the University of Kentucky, Coach Cal made his way across the state and embraced his role as the head coach of the nation’s premier college basketball program.

At one of the stops, Cal was asked by a fan during a question and answer opportunity, if he remembered the Wildcat’s comeback victory against LSU?

Cal responded, “The one down at LSU? Everybody knows about that one. You’d have to be on the moon not to know about that one.”

The coach had assumed the fan was talking about the Mardi Gras Miracle, when the 1994 team rallied from 31 points down to beat LSU.

Coach Cal was incorrect. The question was about some long-lost UK – LSU game from an obscure season, tucked away in a dusty corner in a gymnasium of memories. It was at that moment and other moments like it in those early Cal days that he realized and embraced that for Kentucky basketball is something more than special.

John Calipari summarized it this way in admitting that there is nothing ordinary about Kentucky basketball games when he said, they are “not for funsies.”

Fast-forward to right now. The Revenge Tour began as Cal revamped, remodeled, and reworked the Kentucky basketball team and refused to allow it to languish in the ordinary. The coaching staff changed, the transfer portal opened up a pipeline of players, the freshman phenoms arrived, the veterans were embraced, the offense was tweaked, the speed of the game ramped up, and the new-look Cats were off and running.

The usual obstacles were there as they are for every team. It takes some time. No matter how elite the talent, it takes repetition for the individuals to mesh together, trust each other, and learn to sacrifice for the sake of the team.

Now with just a few weeks left in this college basketball season, there have been ups and downs, yet this team… the Kentucky Wildcats, have proven themselves to have the swagger necessary to make a deep, deep run into March.

Fans know and understand that a lot of things have to happen to get to the One Shining Moment, but knowledge and understanding don’t diminish the expectations. Revenge as defined by Merriam-Webster means to avenge oneself by retaliating in kind or degree. The previous season is one where the Wildcats were viewed as irrelevant by their opponents, they were not seen as a threat, and there was a certain glee and satisfaction that rivals took in seeing the once invincible become mere mortals.

This team IS NOT that team.

Each week, win or lose, they have stepped on the court and played at a higher level that convinced their opponents that the heart and hub of college basketball begins in Lexington. They have played like avengers.

Kentucky holds their own destiny. The pieces are there and the time is now. The last stretch of the season will be exciting and Wildcat fans can’t wait to see what will happen next and how far this Kentucky Wildcat team can go.

It is fun, but they are not playing for funsies...they are playing to win.