Just Win Baby; Cats Don’t Need a Loss
I’m not exactly sure when it became fashionable to opine that a team on a roll needed to lose a game somewhere before the NCAA Tournament or some other postseason competition started, but I wish it would stop. Is it based on karma; some theory that there are only so many wins out there, so you don’t want to use them up before March? I have no idea, but neither makes much sense to me.
The only halfway reasonable explanation I’ve heard is that you don’t want a team to get overconfident on a long winning streak. With a team as young as Kentucky has been the last three seasons, I can almost see that point. Winning breeds confidence. Winning breeds what has become the most overused word in sports – swagger (shudder). I guess when the “swagger” outpaces the confidence things have the possibility of getting ugly. Maybe that concern is bigger with a young squad.
On the other side, while winning breeds confidence, losing can breed doubt. And if youth and inexperience magnify the confidence, they can definitely magnify the doubt.
Yes, you can learn a lot from a loss in the right context – recognize your team’s weaknesses and flaws, but you can learn just as much from a tough win over a team you should beat – for example how to overcome those flaws in the flow of play. That’s why I’ll take wins like this year’s at Tennessee and at Auburn over any loss, anywhere, any day.
The bizarre yearning for a pre-Tournament loss has led some to predict that loss comes today against LSU in Baton Rouge, and while The Maravich Assembly Center has been a tough place for UK to play in the past, unless Pete Maravich somehow walks through the door with eligibility remaining (which would be shocking to say the least), I can’t see it happening.
I honestly believe that this Kentucky team is different from the last two. It has more routes to a W than either of the last two incarnations had. This team can win on the outside, it can beat you in the paint and it can just defend you out of the game. That versatility is another reason why I don’t think this team needs or learns from a loss the way some others might.
LSU just doesn’t have the manpower to deal with Kentucky no matter where the game is played. The Tigers are just over .500 since Trent Johnson came to Baton Rouge, and they have been dreadful after the calendar has turned and the cupcake portion of the schedule has ended. Their only two wins since Jan. 1 this year are an overtime win over a (charitably) mediocre Auburn team and a big win over a bad Ole Miss squad. So if you’re looking to get that pressure-relieving loss for the Cats, you’re going to have to wait until at least next week (my money is on Feb. 11 at Vanderbilt).