I used to be sports editor at a daily newspaper, but it has been a while since I followed sports as closely as I did then. That said, I remain card-carrying member of the Big Blue Nation. I am a true fan of Wildcat sports.
But I'm not stupid.
I've known for years that, except for a few seasons dotted here and there, Wildcat football is a losing endeavor. We are never going to be a gridiron powerhouse, no matter how many coaches we hire and fire.
But we expect more from basketball. Everyone knows of UK's winning tradition. Everyone also knows that UK fans don't take losses very well. We are a special breed, and we think UK should go undefeated every season.
I have a lot of respect for Coach Cal, but he's just too good at recruiting. Every year he brings in the nation's top freshmen, and the world expects great things from these high school heroes.
Therein lies the problem: These guys are barely out of high school. You cannot put these young pups on the floor in front of 23,000 rabid fans and up against other schools' seniors and juniors and expect them to perform like those seasoned college players. This year's squad of 13th-graders keep proving that.
Why in the world does the NCAA and/or the NBA allow players to have one-and-done seasons? In my opinion, those hot shots should have to stay in college all four years. They are not ready for the NBA after just one year. They aren't ready to handle million-dollar salaries. They aren't ready to handle the world.
That one-and-done mentality is destroying UK basketball. Look at us. In the preseason polls, UK was ranked No. 1 with talk of an undefeated season. Going into Saturday's 82-77 loss to North Carolina, we were ranked No. 11. That loss will sink us further down, where we deserve to be. Don't misunderstand, these guys are very good players, but they're not ready for prime time. They shouldn't be starters. They haven't earned it; they start because last year's team of hot shots jumped ship to the NBA, as did the team before, and the team before that. Look at last year. We weren't invited to the NCAA tournament and fared poorly in the consolation NIT. I fear this year we'll again be shaking our heads in March as we watch the Big Show sans UK.
When all those excited fans talked trash before the season started and predicted a perfect season, I thought to myself, "What? With high schoolers? Who are you trying to kid?" Hopes of a perfect season were quickly quashed by Michigan State. At this writing, our record is 8-3.
I wish you well, my Wildcats, but I'm not as optimistic as most. I really hope I can eat some crow in March.
Writer James Mulcahy
spent 35 years as a newspaper journalist at small and large papers. He is currently a freelance photographer/writer/graphics designer, and he drives a school bus.