John Clay's notes: Patience pays for Virginia; it might for Kentucky, too

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 5, 2014 

Random notes:

■ Virginia's Tony Bennett is a great lesson to the current state of impatient fan bases. After coming to Charlottesville from Washington State, Bennett went 15-16 and 16-15 in his first two seasons. His 2011-12 team went 22-10 and made the NCAA Tournament, but his team last year took a step back when it finished 23-12 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

This year, Bennett's fifth year, Virginia is 25-5 overall and 16-1 in the ACC after Saturday's 75-56 thumping of Syracuse, which clinched the conference regular season title for the Cavaliers.

■ As for the Dan Patrick radio show speculation that "this is it" for John Calipari at Kentucky, I don't think Cal is going anywhere but to son Bradley's games at Lexington Christian next season.

After all, next year will be a big year for the Caliparis. Brad will be coming off ACL surgery and John will most likely be coming off hip surgery.

■ Patrick was right about one thing: AAU basketball is killing college basketball.

■ Remember when the bench was going to be much more of a factor for the 2013-14 UK basketball team? Actually, this year's team has more players averaging 30 or more minutes per game than last year's team.

Last year: Julius Mays averaged 33 minutes per game. Nerlens Noel averaged 31.9. Archie Goodwin averaged 31.8.

This year: James Young is averaging 32.4 minutes per game. Aaron Harrison is averaging 31.4 Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle are both averaging 30.6.

■ If you don't count the 1944 World War II season when only six SEC teams played basketball, there have been 20 conference teams that ended regular season league play unbeaten. Kentucky has had 14 of those teams, including the last three — Rick Pitino's 1996 team, Tubby Smith's 2003 team and John Calipari's 2012 team.

By beating UK on Saturday, Florida would be the first SEC team to go 18-0 in conference play and the first non-UK team to go unbeaten in the league since Alabama in 1956.

■ If Calipari could get his team to play with the same sort of intensity that actor and Lexington resident Steve Zahn brought to doing the traditional "Y" on Tuesday night, the Cats might be the SEC's lone unbeaten team right now.

■ The only thing that worries me about Florida is free-throw shooting. The Gators were 11-for-19 from the line in their 72-46 win at South Carolina on Tuesday. They are shooting 67.3 percent for the year, which ranks 260th nationally. That could be a problem.

■ Here's my rule of thumb: I don't believe anything Rick Pitino says about John Calipari and I don't believe anything John Calipari says about Rick Pitino. It's just better that way.

■ Does the fact that the NCAA has nixed the controversial 10-second football rule proposal mean that Nick Saban has now lost three in a row?

■ Admit it, after this season you're going to take those recruiting rankings with a grain of salt, aren't you? Or at least you say you are.

■ I was on ESPN's Outside the Lines on Wednesday, along with former UK associate athletic director and now Arizona AD Greg Byrne, among others, to talk about storming the court.

The host, Andy Katz, asked me why Kentucky never storms the court.

My answer: It's Kentucky. You only storm the court when it's an upset or a monumental achievement. When Kentucky wins, it's not an upset. And UK's monumental achievement is winning national titles. UK fans will gladly trade storming courts for hanging banners.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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