The mood in Big Blue nation on Monday must have matched the weather outside… dreary.
The Wildcats have tumbled from the heights of a national championship in 2012 to the depths of playing in Moon Township, Penn., in the first round of the NIT this year.
As a ‘rational’ Cat fan, I knew their fate was sealed after their flameout against Vandy on Friday night. It was not the performance they needed to get off the bubble.
In fact, what I saw was a team that had improved immensely from the beginning of the year and will be a force in the SEC once again next year and it isn’t the Cats I’m talking about.
I saw Vandy lose to Marist early in the year when they scored a paltry 33 points against the mighty Red Foxes who finished the season 10-21 and lost in the first round of the MAAC tournament to 8-24 Siena. I think it’s safe to say that if Vandy played Marist today, they would destroy them.
Coach Kevin Stallings did a good job bringing along a team of freshmen and sophomores and will have a veteran team for the next two or three years.
The Cats meanwhile, as the number one overall seed in the NIT, get to play in a tiny gym in Pennsylvania for their reward.
I have stated before that I don’t think that one-and-done recruiting can lead to consistently good teams. I hope that some of this year’s crop stays and gets a chance to develop into better ‘team’ players.
I’m not sure Coach Calipari is all that excited to have them come back though. He has stated that some of them are not coachable. It will be interesting to see what happens during the off-season.
I know that it must be difficult to pass up signing a bunch of blue chip recruits and signing a couple of second-tier players who may or may not pan out but, at the same time, blue chippers don’t always have the attitude or fortitude to get the team to the Final Four which seems to be a minimum requirement for most rabid Cat fans. And they may not stick around to develop the right attitude.
I’m not one to keep up with the recruiting buzz, but I have heard great things about the ‘Twins from Texas,’ who are supposed to be great guards with great character. I sure hope that description is right. The Cats could use an infusion of great guards and character next year. Ryan Harrow will never get the Cats back to the heights and that is just the harsh truth.
Cards Roll through Big East tourney
The Louisville Cardinals were impressive over the weekend. So much so that they vaulted themselves to the overall number one seed in the Big Dance.
Unfortunately that didn’t mean getting the easiest road to the Final Four. Their bracket is littered with tough teams including Duke and Michigan State. St. Louis is a team considered to be a sleeper by most experts.
The Cards could face a Missouri team that they handled easily early in the season but is very talented. Oklahoma State is also a dangerous team. I’m sure Rick Pitino was scratching his head Sunday evening as he looked at the brackets.
But the Cards went through the tough Big East tournament with double-digit wins in all three games. That has happened only six times in the history of the tournament and Louisville has done it twice now.
This Cardinal team is rounding into form just at the right time. With Luke Hancock, Montrezl Herrell and Kevin Ware giving the team excellent play off the bench, nobody is deeper than the Cards. That means the Cards can afford to apply their pressure defense without big worries about foul trouble. Only Gorgui Dieng is irreplaceable. Stephen Van Treese can give him a rest for short stretches but the Cards cannot afford to have Dieng out of the game for long stretches.
The only nagging problem I see for the Cards is the subpar play of Chane Behanan. If he continues to pull the disappearing act that he has in the last few games, Herrell will continue to see his minutes go up.
If Louisville can navigate their way to the championship game, they could face Indiana in the final. That would be a great game for Kentuckiana fans. After all, who loves the game more than the people of Kentucky and Indiana?
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