Coach Cal and The Wildcats: A New ERA?

Nate MCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 19:  Head Coach John Calipari of the Memphis Tigers yells from the sideline during their  first round game against the CSUN Matadors in the first half of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 19, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Matadors 81-70.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

                Well, BR, I am back and it is College Basketball season again!
I was humbled at the end of last season, as my beloved Wildcats did a complete melt down after a promising first half of basketball. I mean, How could that particular group of guys Not improve? I tell ya why. BCG, known from here on out as the coach who never should have happened, or old what’s his name (WHN).

                I sung his praises like every other ‘Cats fan did, then I realized something was amiss. DeAndre Liggins was able to force his way into the starting lineup. Then midway through the season certain players were not being used as they should have been or at all. So the outcome of the end of last season and subsequent drama did not surprise me much.  Except one thing did surprise me: The hiring of John Calipari, and the recruiting class he brought with him.

                I cannot say if Coach Cal will be the “savior” of Kentucky Basketball. (And Coach Cal, I know you are busy, but if you read this, I am going to apologize in advance for this very next part.) Not since Rick Pitino, has Kentucky had a coach that has enough panache to bring back the “glamour” to UK. I know there is a professional rivalry, especially now that Rick is a traitor at UofL, and Cal is at UK.  Both are strong coaches, both have the “glitter”, both know how to excite a basketball program, And last but not least, both have a gimmick. That’s right, Gimmick!

                All Cat’s fans go to bed dreaming of the teams of the 90’s, the sweatbox like press, Raining 3’s, and just flat running opponents in the dirt, like thoroughbreds. That was Pitino’s gimmick, press and 3. Now we have Coach Cal, and the dribble-drive. I have to admit, I haven’t seen too much of how it was run in Memphis, but what I was able to see, it looks exciting. That’s Coach Cal’s gimmick.

                Now, I am going to address the negativity I have read about on here, and about every other site. Coach Cal is the only coach to have 2 final 4’s canceled, seasons canceled, etc.  There have already been self reported “minor violations”. All of which have been taken care of in a timely fashion. Rules are rules, however, some rules are just plain silly, and should not be there at all. I mean, an equipment manager can’t shag layup balls even though the gym is open to players? What advantage does that bring to a team? None. When coaches are held responsible for things that are out of their control, even when the NCAA itself has allowed a player to play, then there is something wrong with the system. Oh wait, in both cases Coach Cal cooperated with the NCAA and was found not to have anything to do with each situation. So, please, find something else to sound off about.

                Now that Calipari has finally been given the chance to run his “dream program”, he should have the motivation to run the squeakiest of clean programs ever ran. He should be able to get many great recruiting classes. He should be able to bring the crown prince of college hoops, back to its rightful throne.

                I got the chance to watch Big Blue Madness the other night, and was even more impressed with what I finally saw, than the original hype. Even though the scrimmage was more of an offensive exhibition, I saw athleticism on this team for the first time in a long time. John Wall can outrun a cheetah and jump higher than a gazelle, DeMarcus Cousins might actually be able to hit a 3 from the top of the key (ok maybe not yet), Eric Bledsoe showed his athletic prowess and speed along with some great natural passing ability. Then there is the just “the Man” Patrick Patterson, enough said. Along with everyone else on the team, who are all capable of holding their own against anyone in the NCAA, this is going to be an exciting year. Fast paced, all out excitement. When they did break down and run offensive sets, you could tell their timing with each other was a little off but that they are still meshing as a unit, and that is going to be key. I am not in Calipari’s head, but if he uses everyone he has, where the minutes are about even throughout the roster, the Cat’s will be unstoppable.

                Looking ahead at their schedule, it is not impossible to see the Wildcats going undefeated into SEC play. They have UNC at home and play UConn at UConn. To beat UNC, they have to beat Roy Williams. The talent is on the team, but the lack of experience could be their downfall in that game, even if it is at Rupp. Then UConn, another chance where inexperience could be their downfall rather than talent. Thirteen out of the first fifteen games are at Rupp, including UNC and Louisville. Realistically, I predict, going into the Georgia game, expect the Cats to be 13-1 or 12-2. Looking at the SEC portion of the schedule, I predict them going about 14-2 the rest of the way. Can UK win the whole thing? The talent is there. The leadership is there. Will they? That remains to be seen, but I can tell you, for the first time in a long time, it’s going to be fun watching these Cats run the floor.  Showtime!