Is Billy Gillispie in a Do-or-Die Situation Tonight Against Florida?

K.C MynkCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2009

It's amazing how much things can change in a matter of two weeks.

Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie has found himself going from the penthouse to the outhouse with his fanbase in less than a month.

Tonight's game with Billy Donovan's Florida Gators is almost a must-win game for a coach who very suddenly finds himself on the coaching hot seat.

Starting the season with a loss to VMI and suffering blowout losses to North Carolina and Miami, as well as a loss to the hated Louisville Cardinals, made some fans question the second year coach.

However, a solid string of wins early in SEC play, including Jodie Meeks' legendary performance at Tennessee, put Gillispie back in the good graces and the Wildcats squarely in the NCAA Tournament picture.

Yet the past two weeks have been almost a worst-case scenario for a coach who was already feeling some heat from the Wildcat faithful.

Sitting at an undefeated 5-0 in conference play, Kentucky went to Oxford to take on a 10-9 Ole Miss team with an embattled coach and eight scholarship players available. The result was an embarrassing five-point loss where the final score was not indicative of how badly the Wildcats were dominated in the second half.

Four days later the Cats were sunk by the South Carolina Gamecocks on a game-winning shot from Devon Downey. To make matters worse, Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn is a Lexington native who has his team playing some of the best basketball in the SEC right now.

Finally, last week the Wildcats put up their biggest clunker of the stretch with an embarrassing eight-point loss to a Mississippi State team that was ranked 102nd in the RPI at the time.

Three straight losses in SEC play, two straight losses to Rupp Arena, a struggling offense, and a defense that isn't playing to their potential.

It's clear that something isn't right in Lexington right now

During the three-game skid, Kentucky has given up 56 percent shooting to their opponents from the outside and has dished out 21 assists to 35 turnovers. The Wildcats' starting five had zero assists in the Mississippi State game.

Even star Jodie Meeks, who was on everybody's shortlist for a spot on the All-American team, has fallen back to earth. While his scoring average is still impressive (18.6 ppg), his shooting has fallen off (37 percent from the field and 31 percent from the outside), as well as averaging just over one rebound a game and having three assists to six turnovers.

At the center of the recent poor play has been Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie.

When things are going well in the Bluegrass state, the coach can do no wrong; however, when things get rough, the exact opposite is true.

In the eyes of many fans, Gillispie has gone from a genius who developed an unstoppable two-man scoring attack to a coach whose offense is struggling, as fellow SEC coaches seem to have figured out the secret of containing Jodie Meeks (Bruce Pearl might be interested in knowing part of that strategy should include guarding him).

At halftime of the Ole Miss game, ESPN reporter Janine Edwards asked Gillispie about Meeks' slow start, which earned the reporter a sarcastic answer in return.

Two weeks after Meeks' legendary performance at Tennessee, Gillispie sarcastically told the media, "Do you think we still need a third scorer?"

The answer is clearly yes, Coach, you do need a third scorer.

Meeks simply can't carry the scoring load by himself, and Patrick Patterson, while being a very solid big man, is not ready to carry a team at the highest level.

Gillispie's offensive philosophy, his public actions and demeanor, his stubbornness with the media and his players, and his results have caused even the most hardcore of Big Blue fans to start to wonder if Gillispie has what it takes to get the job done at college basketball's winningest program.

Cat fans who have struggled to figure out what went wrong over the past three games have their own theories.

Why does coach not allow freshman Darius Miller to be his much-needed third scorer?

Why do we rarely set a high screen for Meeks?

Why does coach continue to play Michael Porter over DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway?

How can some players screw up continuously (Porter and Harris) and get more playing time, while others can make one mistake (Miller and Galloway) and earn the coach's ire and a seat on the bench?

Gillispie has been given a great deal of latitude from fans who have found fault with Wildcats' past performance falling on former coach Tubby Smith.

However, four straight conference losses and three straight at hallowed Rupp Arena might be too much for many Wildcat fans to excuse.

Tonight is do-or-die for Billy Gillispie, and if he doesn't get a much-needed win tonight, his seat may get a bit too hot for his liking.