Madness off to early start


By Charles Smith - Contributing Columnist



Photo by Jeff Drummond Kentucky coach John Calipari talked to Charles Matthews during a game earlier this season. The Wildcats, now 20-7, lost in overtime Saturday at Texas A & M and return to action Tuesday at home against Alabama.


This being a leap year, the calendar says that February has an extra day, which would make you think we all have to wait a little longer for March Madness to begin, but the madness this year does not seem to be able to be contained by the calendar and has already spilled back into this month.

It seems there is now such a thing as February Madness. What a crazy month it has been thus far for the Wildcats. On Feb. 2nd the Cats built up a 21 point lead in the first half against Tennessee only to end up losing; a real low point for Kentucky.

In the next four games, UK defeated its opponents (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee) by an average of 22.5 points per game; a real high point.

These games were followed by last Saturday night’s loss at College Station against Texas A & M in a hotly contested game that saw the Cats fall 79-77 in OT; another low point.

Including the Texas A & M game, the Cats have made 54 of 110 3-point attempts in the last five games, shooting them at a 49 percent clip. This is the first Kentucky team to ever make 10 or more 3-point shots in five straight games; a high point even by even high Kentucky standards.

Last week’s games saw three of the top five teams lose. So, in what looks to be a wide-open year in college hoops, these last four games for the Cats are very important in the fight for good seeding when the Big Dance gets underway. The last four are tough indeed: at home against a resurgent Alabama team, then on the road to Nashville and Gainesville (always tough places for the Cats), and concluding the season on Senior Day at Rupp Arena against LSU (an 85-67 victor over UK in January at Baton Rouge).

If not February Madness, how can Calipari’s early exit from the South Carolina Game be explained? Or Isaac Humphries’ technical at the end of Saturday’s Texas A & M game?

It was reported that Coach Cal, after returning from the long trip to Texas, came out of his house on Monday morning to get his Lexington Herald-Leader. The sun had finally made an appearance back in Lexington causing Coach Cal to see his shadow before reentering his palatial Richmond Road home. In Kentucky basketball folklore, this is said to signify six more weeks of basketball. Coincidence the NCAA Final Four championship game is exactly six weeks away?

For those who don’t believe in weather signs and folklore; there is the fact that ever since Derek Willis was inserted into the starting lineup the Cats have ramped up their level of play.

This was never more evident than against the Volunteers last Thursday night. In Kentucky’s 80-70 win over the Vols, Willis scored a career high 25 points including seven for 11 from the 3-point line. With Willis drawing opposing defensive big men away from the basket, the middle of the court is much more open to allow Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe to penetrate and score or kick the ball out to open 3-point shooters.

Regretfully, Willis suffered what appeared to be a severe ankle sprain Saturday night and may not be able to play or to be at full strength for a while.

Conventional wisdom says no team can win the tourney relying so much on shooting threes and without a solid interior. So far none of UK’s big men are making a consistent impact; will one of them step up to make the Cats less reliant on their guards for offense?

For now, we know the Wildcat offense is really purring along. Do they really have six more weeks?

http://harlandaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_Smith-Charles-1.jpg

Photo by Jeff Drummond Kentucky coach John Calipari talked to Charles Matthews during a game earlier this season. The Wildcats, now 20-7, lost in overtime Saturday at Texas A & M and return to action Tuesday at home against Alabama.
http://harlandaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_JD-Cal-and-Charles-Matthews-vs-NJIT.jpgPhoto by Jeff Drummond Kentucky coach John Calipari talked to Charles Matthews during a game earlier this season. The Wildcats, now 20-7, lost in overtime Saturday at Texas A & M and return to action Tuesday at home against Alabama.

By Charles Smith

Contributing Columnist

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