February 10, 2011

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

Sports scenarios many times can be applied to life in general.

Many of us have been told by our elders as we've grown up that life is never as bad as it seems at times nor is it ever as good as it appears at times either. For most of our lives it falls in the middle.

You can apply those remarks to the present day situation of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball season. To add a more sports oriented phrase to the Cats situation is best described by that famous remark that Yogi Berra, the Yankee catcher, uttered one day in the Yankees clubhouse when his revered Yankees were in a bad losing streak and he told a New York sports reporter " It ain't over till it's over."

I think that can be applied directly to this UK basketball team.

While having lost four games in the first half of the 16 game conference schedule isn't a trait most UK teams have displayed this ship can still be righted for a solid finish.

To retrace back to the beginning of the season most realistic prognosticators thought this team would lose anywhere from 3 to 6 SEC games with most all of them coming on the road. The losses at Georgia and Florida weren't that alarming to me and the one at Alabama is beginning to look like no fluke either. The Ole Miss loss is the one that's a head scratcher. Everyone knew this three week seven-game stretch with five games on the road would be the toughest of the season and it has played out to be just that.

The calvary nor Enes Kanter is not on the horizon either, as many hoped would happen when conference play began. At this point of the season the Cats are what we thought they would be back in November.

In order to get back on track UK must run the table at home for the remainder of the conference schedule and even though it's glaringly apparent this team is limited in quantity it does have six quality players, yes I said Six. Three players (Miller, Liggins, and Harrellson) have been ask to perform at a more productive and consistent level than before. It says here the consistency from those three will be better in the second half of conference play because the majority of the games will be played in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena the next three weeks. The other three of the Super Six (Knight, Jones, and Lamb) are all big time division one players and they're no longer freshman at this point in the season.

What would help this season ending comeback scenario tremendously would be for the Cats to steal a win or two on the road this second half. The opportunities for that will come at Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and Tennessee. My guess is the best opportunities will be at Arkansas and Tennessee, but make no mistake the Cats must run the table at home in order to right the ship for a decent run in the NCAA's March Madness.

One thing many people don't understand is that UK is as battle tested as any team in college basketball when postseason play begins each year because they have taken every teams best hit on their schedule all season long. It toughens them up. Then add to that the fact that all postseason play is at a neutral site where UK always has a home court advantage thanks to the Big Blue Nation and you can vision a much better finish to the season.

I'll step out on the limb and project this team to finish off the second half in more impressive fashion. I'll say the finish line record going into the SEC Tournament will look something like 10-6 or 11-5 with a championship game appearance in the Georgia Dome and a Sweet 16 appearance in the Big Dance.

The only fly in the ointment is that any injury to any of those terrific three of Knight, Jones, and Lamb could change the whole picture. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
We just failed to factor in the impact of the youth in late game situations.

It Ain't Over Till It's Over
By Ira D. Combs Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

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