By – Ira D. Combs / Tri State Sports Service Media Inc. / www.combsbrothersonkysports.com
For those BBN faithful that don’t have the luxury of attending many games in Rupp Arena I’ll set the scene for you going into this coming friday nights season opener against mighty Grand Canyon (8:00 o’clock SEC TV Network) . When the UK starting lineups are announced at the beginning of each game the lights go out in Rupp Arena and the players are announced to a lot of fan fair along with indoor fireworks , etc . This year when that pre-game segment began for the Blue – White scrimmage and both exhibition games recently a video tape of Andrew Harrison popped up on the large video jumbo-tron in Rupp Arena and the lead guard for the Cats this year simply said with a very serious and stern look on his face , “ the story isn’t over “ . Now if you’ve been in a cave for the last six to seven months you don’t understand that quote but if you’re a loyal card carrying member of BBN you know exactly what he meant . After a sluggish and somewhat disappointing regular season last year Cal’s boys circled the wagons and charged thru March Madness like a Gator does thru the southern swamps gobbling up everything in it’s path until they run into it’s new nemesis of recent years the U Conn “Huskies” and finished one game short of NCAA title # 9 for the historic program . So the stage is set for those Wildcats who decided to return to Rupp Arena for another season instead of testing the NBA waters . The new story to inter-twine into this season is John Calipari’s new platoon system . With so many talented players returning to the roster Cal has come up with a (2) team platoon system of (5) players each playing in (4) to (6) minute intervals throughout the 1st half and most of the 2nd half . Cal says only the players buying into the concept will make it work and so far they have . How long it will last into the season nobody knows . For the blue-white scrimmage and (2) exhibition games the platoon system has been made up mostly of (Towns – Poythress – Harrison Twins – Cauley-Stein) on the starting unit and (Ulis – Booker – Lyles – Lee – Johnson) on the 2nd unit . Nine of the ten players just mentioned were McDonald’s AA coming out of high school and many well respected college basketball gurus ( Dick Vitale & Jay Bilas ) have said the 2nd unit could pull enough votes to be a top 20 team if not higher . In state players Dominique Hawkins / Madison Central and Derek Willis / Bullitt East are set to be the 6th man at their respective positions when the first player in one of the (2) platoon systems gets into foul trouble or injured during a game . So there you have it sports fans , a 12 member mega talented roster of basketball players for John Calipari to keep happy along with BBN over the next (4) months until March Madness kicks in , then the run for NCAA Title # 9 hopefully will begin with one of those (4) coveted # 1 seeds in the 1st weekend of play at the Yum Center in Louisville and will culminate right up 1 – 65 in Indianapolis , Indiana for the Final Four weekend . I’ve searched and as astutely as possible for my trained eye evaluated this team from the baseline of Rupp Arena thru the Blue – White scrimmage and (2) exhibitions games and I can’t see any true weaknesses so I suggest you hang on thru any bumps in the road and whatever you do don’t anybody jumping off the wagon this year , hop on now it’s gonna be a sweet and exciting ride .
Stoops and Asst. Coaches Have Lots Of Mental Work To Do
Four weeks ago the UK football team set at 5 – 1 and Mark Stoops was riding as high in the saddle as Roy Rogers ever did , if memory serves me right Stoops remarked , “we’ve only just begun” . Note to coach Stoops , be careful what you say it could come back to haunt you . Four weeks and four consecutive losses later the saddle has slipped and Stoops is clinging to stay on the horse . I’ll be the first to admit even though I picked the Cats to go 6 – 6 that there was some serious doubt at times even after the 2 – 0 start when I also suggested UK would be 5 – 1 at the mid season break although I could still see some serious bumps in the road . The Florida and South Carolina games got everybody excited but it was a another classic case of some ”Fools Gold” , little did we know at the time how average those two teams were . Then our eyes got opened at LSU but we came back to the friendly confines of CWS and pumped a little juice back in our legs with a very competitive performance against # 1 Miss. State . Then last saturday against a good Georgia team the wheels fell off and everything Mark Stoops had accomplished was put in the rear view mirror if not buried and you could sense the mindset of the players was wondering back to the past . Now Stoops and his staff who have been so successful on the recruiting trails need to pull another rabbit out of their hat and do some serious coaching of the mental aspect with this young team to bring them back to the point where they were at mid season . This is not an easy challenge , many coaches will tell you on any level , when you lose the players competitiveness it’s one thing but when you lose there heart , desire , and solid mental approach it’s very difficult to get them back especially late in the season with (2) games left and both on the road . This is exactly where Stoops and his gridiron Cats are at , how they respond beginning this week in Knoxville ( 4:00 o’clock SEC TV Network ) will come a long way in telling if they have enough in the tank left to get that 6th win for bowl eligibility . Both games at UT and U of L are winnable but the mindset must change first then play on the field must make a turnaround back to the first half of the season . UT opened as a 6 ½ point favorite monday morning in Vegas , I don’t know if that’s a slap at UT and there paltry season or UK and how they’ve fallen apart . You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK football & basketball as well as KHSAA football and basketball and you can now follow me on my new twitter account at @combsbrothers5 .