Even John Calipari is getting fed up with the size of the microscope perpetually focused on his Kentucky basketball program. Following Tuesday’s pummeling of Ole Miss, the coach lamented that his ‘Cats have become “the most overanalyzed team …in the history of the game,” via Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News.
Whether or not the hyperbole is warranted—after all, fellow powerhouse programs at Kansas and North Carolina have gotten plenty of scrutiny of their own lately—Calipari’s frustration has some substance behind it. The Wildcats fell seven spots in the latest AP poll on the strength of a single loss on the road at LSU.
However, even as UK’s national ranking takes a hit, the ‘Cats are also in a position to benefit from all of the attention, negative and otherwise.
Firstly, as Calipari acknowledges, his roster is loaded with future NBA players who will be criticized constantly for their entire professional lives. They’ll be more effective in the long term for having learned to shrug off that kind of storm early on.
Even for this season, though, the Wildcats have some lessons they can learn here. After all, focus (especially on the defensive end of the floor) has rarely been a strong suit for Kentucky in 2013-14.
Which Wildcats starter is getting the most unfair criticism?
One obvious way to tune out the constant barrage of negative press (or positive press, for that matter) is to concentrate on the task at hand. If that gets the ‘Cats to zone in on their free-throw shooting or man-to-man D just a little better, it will have done Calipari and his players a great service.
Just as important as that focus, though, is playing with energy for 40 minutes, something else the Wildcats have struggled to do. This area is where being disrespected by the AP pollsters, or by any other writers, can serve them best.
Kentucky has not played with a chip on its shoulder this season. The 'Cats' fall in the rankings and the constant discussion of whether they’re as good as their hype (which no team could be) gives them a reason to get angry.
If that happens, the rest of the country had better watch out. Playing with passion to match its talent would make UK a frightening opponent indeed.
It's not the analysts and poll voters who would then get the worst of it—it's the Gators and Volunteers.