By LARRY VAUGHT
CatsIllustrated.com publisher Justin Rowland stirred up a bit of a Twitter brouhaha Friday with a fairly simple tweet about Kentucky coach John Calipari after Wednesday’s 69-66 loss to Utah in Las Vegas.
“Feels like a bit of a turning point in the Calipari era right now. I doubt his overall approval rating has ticked down much, but even his most ardent supporters are now saying he needs to consider making a major pivot in how he does certain things,” Rowland tweeted.
That brought a quick question from Sporting News columnist Mike DeCourcy wondering what “things” Rowland was referring to and Rowland responded on Twitter with this: “More and better shooters. A less antiquated offense or at least one that isn’t predicated on having elite bigs to run through. A willingness to adapt better to his team’s personnel, e.g. more ball pressure, this year, when that is the one thing they’re great at.”
That started a lot of chatter from UK fans, especially since earlier in the day Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com revealed his current NCAA Tournament bracket and not only did not have Kentucky as one of the top 16 seeds but did not even have the Cats in the tournament field.
“Kentucky has a bunch of tomato can wins, two bad losses and a win over Michigan State. Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect UK to be in the final bracket in March, but it is a good thing for them that March is three months off,” Palm wrote.
The CBSSports.com NCAA analyst noted that the NCAA Tournament selection committee would not be “enamored by the name on front of the jerseys” like Associated Press voters that have Kentucky still in the top 10 are.
“The next eight days could be huge for the Wildcats. They get Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday in Las Vegas, then host Louisville on Dec. 28,” Palm wrote.
Some Kentucky fans are not “enamored” with Calipari right now even though his NCAA track record at UK has been superb other than having “only” one national championship and I learned a few years ago not to doubt Calipari’s magic until NCAA play ends.
However, here are some of the comments that appeared on my Twitter timeline Friday:
— Players are less talented. Pretty simple. Don’t over thing it. Game hasn’t changed that drastically. UK’s talent has changed the last three years.
— Getting by on individual talent doesn’t mean the offensive system is great.
— Cal is stubborn as hell,
— It’s almost like UK pads their offensive efficiency rating against inferior competition and then when they play upper echelon/tournament teams it’s not good enough sometimes. Year long efficiency ratings are pointless when there’s anecdotal evidence.
— He is a much more instinctually conservative coach than people who don’t go beyond the slogans realize. Tourney time he shortens bench a lot, grinds it out even more.
— More ball pressure and a different offensive scheme is needed. They look lost out there.
DeCourcy countered that he wasn’t sure he had seen a coach better at “adapting to different personnel” than Calipari has been in his career. He pointed out that Calipari’s team had lost in the first weekend of NCAA Tournament play just once during his time at Kentucky and that UK’s scoring average is on par with what other successful teams have had.
Perhaps my favorite tweet during the Twitter discussion came from Carter Hall.
“It may just be me but it seems some of the liberal Dems are impeaching Cal a little bit. Impeachment of Cal is stupid,” Hall tweeted.
This may surprise some but Kentucky has a lot of fans here in Vegas. I talked to a lot of them the last two days at various spots and times. No surprise they all still were proudly wearing their Kentucky gear and none planned to bail out on today’s game, including many who were at the Utah loss. Many other fans got here Friday and didn’t waver in their plans to be here for a game Ohio State is now favored to win.
Does Kentucky have issues this year? Yes it does. Does Calipari have a lot of work to do? Yes he does. Can Calipari be stubborn and set in his beliefs? Yes he can.
But I still remember that 2014 tail-whipping Kentucky got in February at South Carolina — and then that team almost won the national title.
So that day I learned just to wait and see what Calipari might do developing talent as the year progresses no matter how unlikely it might seem that Calipari will be able to right the ship.