By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Sometimes we expect the impossible from UK men’s basketball and then are surprised when it doesn’t happen. Here’s a story that kind of explains what I mean.
Take a look at the Grimm Brother’s Fairytale “Rumplestiltskin” that has been a popular children’s tale since the early 1800s. In the tale a miller tells the King of the land that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The King believes the story and takes the daughter, locks her in a room with a spinning wheel and a pile of straw expecting her to spin it into gold.
Of course, she can’t and except for the magical intervention of an elf named Rumplestiltskin the miller’s daughter would have lost her head because of her father’s exaggerated claims. In the end the elf spins the straw into gold and ultimately everyone — the miller, daughter and the King — end up happy and the elf loses a bet and winds up with nothing.
Now how does this relate to UK basketball. Well it may be a stretch but here goes. Back in August in the Bahamas we saw a UK team dominate four highly regarded foreign professional teams including Serbian powerhouse Mega Bemax 100-64. Those games became the straw.
Starting in September we heard the miller, played by the college basketball analysts, bragging that the daughter, played by the UK team, could spin this pile of straw into gold. Immediately UK was vaulted to the No. 1 spot in the polls.
Then we saw the King, played by the Big Blue Nation, expect to have that straw spun into gold based on the claims of the experts that watched those games. Expecting the impossible.
Now after four games into the SEC slate the Wildcats have lackadaisically beaten two inferior foes — the SEC’s last place Vanderbilt team and No. 11 Texas A&M — lost to a No. 8 Alabama team, beat Georgia Tuesday night and the King is expecting to see some gold.
But so far it has been hard to come by. In the twelve game non-conference schedule we saw a little gold in the win over North Carolina — the same North Carolina team that was embarrassed by Louisville at Chapel Hill — and a little gold in a win over UofL at the Yum Center. Other than that we have seen a lot of straw.
We saw a season opening blowout to the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils. We saw a loss to the No. 39 ranked Seton Hall Pirates. We saw some wins against teams that fall outside the NET ranking Top 100 with the best being a win over No. 109 ranked Utah. That looks like a lot of straw.
Now with a very difficult stretch of games coming up — No. 14 Auburn, No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 7 Kansas — it looks like the daughter better start spinning. If she doesn’t it won’t be looking like a happy ending for the daughter or the King.
And just to complete the analogy it appears that everyone watching this story unfold — the miller, the daughter and the King — expects to see the magical elf Rumplestiltskin show up. That would be John Calipari wearing the Rumplestiltskin suit.
Unfortunately for most of us, watching this story about spinning straw into gold it is just that, a story. In fact it is a fairytale. One that has played out for several seasons in a row actually. And some of the years Rumplestiltskin has shown up. The straw turns into gold and the basketball team miraculously makes a trip to the Elite 8 or Final Four. But it has been a long time since the King has seen this much straw spun into gold.
So maybe this year as everyone watches this team perform on the court with another lackadaisical game effort that magical elf will eventually show up. But a good backup plan might be figuring out how to beneficially use a big pile of straw because so far that looks like what the King has been stuck with.