John Clay: Dark clouds, silver linings for Calipari's Cats

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 8, 2013 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari was unhappy with a missed free throw as Baylor defeated #3 Kentucky 67-62 on Friday December 6, 2013 in Dallas, TX. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

  • Next game: Kentucky vs. Notre Dame

    When: 8:49 p.m. Saturday

    Location: Cleveland

    TV: TBS

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630 and WBUL-FM 98.1

    Records: No. 1 seed Kentucky 37-0; No. 3 seed Notre Dame 32-5

    Series: UK leads 42-19

Dark clouds and silver linings for Kentucky basketball after the trouble in Texas.

Dark cloud: It is Dec. 9 and the team that was not supposed to lose a game has already lost two games.

Silver lining: It is Dec. 9.

Dark cloud: Kentucky is 7-2.

Silver lining: Kansas, North Carolina and Duke each have two losses.

Dark cloud: Kentucky lost to a team picked to finish third in the Big 12 this season.

Silver lining: Kansas lost to a team (Colorado) picked to finish third in the Pac-12.

Dark cloud: Through nine games, the Kentucky basketball team has managed just 36 steals. Steal totals for John Calipari's previous four UK teams after nine games: 70, 56, 76 and 66.

Silver lining: Better on-ball pressure and overall intensity produces more steals. Those are fixable, if the players are willing to put forth the effort to fix it.

Dark cloud: Body language continues to be an issue with the Harrison twins. Both are prone to frowns and moping and head-holding when called for a foul or when things go wrong.

Silver lining: Freshmen are often emotional. The Harrison twins are freshmen.

Dark cloud: There doesn't seem to be an Anthony Davis or a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on this Kentucky team.

Silver lining: Kentucky reached the 2011 Final Four, where it lost by a single point to eventual champion Connecticut, without Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Dark cloud: Kentucky made just 12 of 23 free throws Friday night inside the cavern that is AT&T Stadium, which is the same site as this year's Final Four.

Silver lining: There is a long time between now and the Final Four for the Kentucky players to walk those 12 steps — Calipari's approximation — from the Wildcat Coal Lodge to the Joe Craft Center and practice free throws.

Dark cloud: UK was battered on the boards by Baylor, a team that could match the Cats in height and length.

Silver lining: There are few teams remaining on the Kentucky schedule that can match the Cats in height and length.

Dark cloud: Teams seem to have figured out how to defend Julius Randle.

Silver lining: If Randle is as good as advertised, he will adjust.

Dark cloud: This is not a quick Kentucky basketball team.

Silver lining: All along, Calipari has said he believes this team has the makings to be a good zone defense team. We may see more of that.

Dark cloud: After Calipari said his team was more "cohesive" against zone defenses, Kentucky seemed to have no clue how to attack Baylor's zone on Friday night.

Silver lining: It's Dec. 9.

Dark cloud: Kentucky fans I traveled with on the way back from Dallas on Friday talked as though there is a crisis.

Silver lining: One of Calipari's favorite sayings is, "From crisis comes change."

Dark cloud: December doesn't get any easier with unbeaten Boise State, host North Carolina, Belmont (which beat North Carolina) and Louisville left to play.

Silver lining: You can't get better playing Popcorn State.

Dark cloud: The feeling is beginning to set in that this Kentucky basketball team was oversold, that it's not the greatest collection of talent in the history of the sport — or something like that — as we were led to believe.

Silver lining: Before Friday night's game, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said he doesn't think there is a great team this year, that the top teams will beat up on each other. As for the favorite to win the title, it's still wide open.


Boise Stateat Kentucky

When: 9 p.m.

John Clay: 859-231-3226.E-mail: Blog: @johnclayiv.

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