Post UK-Notre Dame Thoughts: And So It Begins

straitpinkieCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2009

UK Basketball no longer has to be distracted with actual games. With a 77-67 loss to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the NIT, Kentucky’s season has come to a close, and the offseason can now begin, and it’s sure to be the most tumultuous offseason in a long while at UK…except for two years ago of course.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but this is an offseason that will be chock full of questions. The immediate and most pressing regard the future of one Billy Gillispie, although there are certain to be more to quickly follow.

Will he stay? Will he be fired? Will he quit? If he goes, how will the split go down? Will it be amicable? Will either side disclose the reasons why?

These are difficult questions, but questions that I have to believe will be answered VERY quickly…as it 24 or 48 hours. The Pinkie has you covered on the latest Billy Gillispie news, so keep logging on.


Anyway, we’ll be hashing out those questions in full, but let’s talk a little bit about the action tonight.

UK struggled mightily after about four minutes left in the first half. At that point, they were down 28-24 despite Jodie Meeks being a non-factor, playing more passively that he has all year. 16 minutes later, with eight minutes to go, UK found itself down 62-45, with no signs of life.

UK had come out of the locker room hell bent on getting the ball to Patrick Patterson, who worked hard all game but was still frustrated by a defense that keyed on him. Patterson getting his baskets and getting the line could not overcome the potent offense of the Irish.

However, there was no quit in these Wildcats. Jodie Meeks finally found a way to shake himself free. He scored 10 points in the next five minutes, part of a 20-5 run that cut the Notre Dame lead to just five with 2:44 left after a Perry Stevenson dunk.

UK, though, was only able to muster five points the rest of way, struggling to get the ball into the hands of playmakers when Notre Dame’s defense stiffened.

In the end, the deficit UK had played itself into was just a little bit too large. Jodie Meeks wasn’t Jodie Meeks for the first 30 minutes. Notre Dame’s three point shooters repeatedly punished the ‘Cats. UK did not hit the glass hard enough against a very poor rebounding team.

For the majority of UK’s last 10 games or so, Jodie Meeks has looked like a shell of himself. Some people have said he has physically worn out. Some say he is not fully motivated to play for Coach Gillispie. I don’t think either is the case. I think Jodie Meeks is mentally fatigued.

Once teams discovered that keying on Meeks was the key to stopping UK, Meeks has had to not only work phenomenally hard to get his shots, but he has to focus just as hard to be ready when the shots came. Jodie’s physical effort never waned, he always went hard around screens and ran with reckless abandon on both sides of the court.

However, his activity just has not seemed as efficient or sharp down the stretch. He’s passed up shots he would have nailed earlier, he’s missed looks he would have nailed earlier.

Jodie went from freshman contributor to injured sophomore to star junior, and that’s just not a logical progression. He never had the chance to grow into his own shoes. If he sticks around next year, I imagine he will be much better equipped to finish the season strong.

The other two themes that have plagued UK the entire second half of this season popped up again, and frankly, I don’t know how it could surprise you. Notre Dame is one of the best three point shooting teams in the country, so Notre Dame nailing 12-25 from distance is far from a shock.

Notre Dame will hit enough threes when you contest their shots, so when they get loads of open looks, you can’t expect to survive that. Notre Dame is also a very poor rebounding team, but UK was only able to muster a +1 rebounding margin, which was not nearly enough.

UK has allowed much more than the nine offensive rebounds they did tonight, but that number is unacceptable nonetheless.

I think that’s enough about basketball for now…I’ll briefly turn my attention to the forthcoming decision on Coach Gillispie.

Regardless of coaching, this is a team that had a lot of flaws. We saw them exposed time after time after game number 20, and it has certainly been a frustrating exercise for all UK fans. Based on basketball alone, I don’t think that there is any way to justify getting rid of Gillispie at this point.

Gillispie has had two years to turn around a program that was headed in the wrong direction. He has a very solid recruiting class coming in, and even though this season was a struggle, it was pretty commonly agreed upon that Gillispie did an excellent job with last year’s team.

Now, as a fan, I have a certain amount of information about the supposed off the court issues that may eventually precipitate Gillispie’s departure. If these kind of issues and ones that I am unaware of are serious enough to justify dismissal on their own, I trust Mitch Barnhart judgment.

However, if on the court stuff is playing a major role in this decision, the only way I can get behind a move is if a slam dunk hire is already in place.

One more quick thing which was pointed out by Jimmy Dykes during the broadcast. If Barnhart makes a decision to axe Gillispie after two years, that raises MAJOR issues about the decision to hire a guy in the first place and the gathering of information to make that decision.

Barnhart must address these issues if he makes the move and he must answer for the mistakes he made. If Gillispie is a bad fit, it’s important to recognize that as quickly as possible, so a move needs to be made immediately.

The guy who tried to fit him in that spot in the first place has a share of the blame too if it doesn’t work.

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