Thoughts From a Full Day of Conference Tournaments
John Calipari makes fewer PR mistakes than anybody else in the country, but he may have made two in the same week. The first is telling anybody who would listen that the SEC Tournament didn’t matter. It’s a bad message for fans who pay their way down to watch the games. It’s a bad message for the league and it has to be a bad message for your players.
Anthony Davis said after today’s lackluster Wildcats performance that that message didn’t matter and that even if Cal had told them to lose that Davis doesn’t think the team would be able to do it. But teams are taught to follow their leader and if that leader is saying that a game doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with Cal on this. Conference Tournaments are useless for teams like UK. They dominated the conference in near historical fashion. There isn’t a team in the league that seems a consistent, close second. There isn’t even a matchup anybody cares to see again. The only issue for UK is will they be the overall number 1 or 2 seed, and that’s not enough of a difference to motivate anybody. The other issue we saw with Verdell Jones yesterday at Indiana, and years ago with Kenyon Martin when Cincinnati was a lock for a 1 seed and a long NCAA run — there is nothing about a conference tournament for a team in Kentucky’s position that is worth the risk of the extra games and injuring a player that is key to an NCAA Tournament run. Just, you know, don’t say it out loud if you’re the coach.
I think the second came when he had NBA Players Association head Billy Hunter address the team. According to news reports, at least part of that message to the players was not to worry about their professional futures and to concentrate on the run they’re on now. It’s certainly possible that Cal has seen something in this team in regard to that being an issue that nobody else has, but this has never seemed like a team that was looking ahead to anything. It seems like Hunter’s comments could only bring in an problem that hadn’t existed before. I understand and agree with the message. Just seems like bringing in somebody from the outside — and from the realm you want the players to ignore — is a bit of a distraction.
All that said, if you’re going to play the worst game you’ve played all year, it’s better to get it out of the way today and still advance than to have it come out in two weeks. A win is a win and games continue tomorrow.
Another SEC Note
Say what you want about Bruce Pearl, but after two days of the SEC Tournament, you can tell the league misses him. Not taking anything away from the incredible job Cuonzo Martin has done in Knoxville, but other than Kentucky and Calipari, there is absolutely zero buzz around the SEC Tournament. Some of that is because Kentucky has run roughshod over the conference, but some of that is because there isn’t a lot of personality in the league right now.
It’s time to do away with the “I was standing there first” charge. Terrence Jones got called for one again today. He’s locked up working on one defender and then all of a sudden he bumps into a guy who isn’t defending – isn’t doing anything other than standing there – and who Jones likely never saw.
It’s not basketball. It’s not defense. It’s cheap and it’s cowardly. There’s no way you should force an offensive player who has beaten his on-ball defender to guess whether or not there is another defender waiting for a bus around the corner.
Another benefit of doing away with this stupidity everywhere on the court is that you are no longer asking officials who are clearly ill-equipped for the job to discern between a block and a charge underneath the basket. If a secondary defender is standing still, it’s a block. Period.
You’d still call offensive fouls on the push off and post players lowering their shoulders into on-ball defenders, but that’s it.
I know there is no way to do this, but the ACC should dock every official who wore Karl Hess’ initials on their shoes during an ACC Tournament game one game check. Either that or deny them future games.
Officials at the tournament were “supporting” Hess as he allegedly voluntarily stepped away from working the tournament after he threw North Carolina State legends Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani out of an NC State game near the end of the regular season.
Hess isn’t in any way being oppressed or mistreated by the ACC. In fact, he is working this weekend at the Big East Tournament (games 88 & 89 of the season, by the way).
Maybe Hess stepped away voluntarily and maybe he didn’t, but a show of official support is stupid. First off, nobody – NOBODY – watching the game cares one bit about the officials or whatever those officials may perceive as mistreatment. They care about the players, the schools and the games and that’s it. In fact, if the ACC had announced that Hess was suspended for the ACC Tournament, fans would have all but universally supported that decision. The vast majority of fans are tired of what have become celebrity officials who seem to feel that interest in the game somehow includes them.
College basketball is in a similar situation to what Major League Baseball found themselves in several years ago, with umpires who had begun to take an adversarial role with the players and managers. MLB stepped in, restructured the way it assigned umpires and began holding umpires more accountable for their actions on the field. College basketball officials aren’t employees in the same way that baseball umpires are, but maybe it’s time for college basketball to set up some kind of structure that gets officials under control. If they can get them to call games uniformly, that would be nice too.
Who’s Playing This Game?
I have been clear in my disdain for all alternate uniforms, and I hated the Nike Elite Platinum getups, but not because they looked bad. Having seen the comparable uniforms Adidas rolled out to teams for conference tournaments, I thank God that Kentucky is a Nike school. The Adidas uniforms may be light and comfortable, but all of them are awful. Most awful uniform goes to Baylor (Just imagine the shorts, uglier, on their upper bodies). Second place also to Baylor.
Can we just wear lighter fabric uniforms in actual school colors? Is that too much to ask? Really?
I’ll be joining Leland Conway on the Kennedy Bookstore Wildcat Den pre-game show tomorrow from 10:30-11:30. Should the Cats win on Saturday, First State Financial Sunday Morning Sports Talk will run from 9-10:30 am Sunday, then the Kennedy Bookstore Wildcat Den pre-game show takes over. Tune us all in for a great weekend of basketball.
All that said … GO CATS!!