By Ira D. Combs Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
Kentucky basketball, unlike many other Division 1-A programs, has proven many times in years past to have the ability to overcome certain intangible type obstacles and win on the road in hostile environments. Last Saturday down on tobacco road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina was one that got away from them that could have been another one of those type wins.
But at the end of the day, in all reality there was just too much for this particular UK team to overcome, and here are those intangible related reasons why they didn't:
#1 - To take on a challenge like playing Carolina on the road everyone involved must be focused both in practice and gameday. Coach Cal losing his mother to cancer last Sunday understandibly forced an abnormal practice routine all week. Donna Calipari's Memorial service wasn't scheduled to be held until (Sun.) Dec. 5th which I'm sure lead to Coach Cal having to deal with a heavy heart and many other distractions all week.
#2 - The Tar Heels having already lost 3 games had their backs pinned squarely against the wall and were in serious need of a win to start building their NCAA resume.
#3 - UK's uniquely short roster and athletically challenged post players were exploited by Carolina more than at any time during the previous six games.
#4 - Foul trouble, there had been a couple games were one particular player got a couple quick fouls but at Carolina both Harrellson and Vargas had three each at halftime and both along with Jones and Knight exited the game before the last tick on the clock.
The biggest intangible of them all is how the game is officiated. We're now seven games into this season and I haven't changed my stance on that item either. College basketball is still the most inconsistently officiated sport going and any game decided by less than eight points in my mind was impacted by the officials as much or more as the players and coaches. Every time a whistle is blown it has an impact on both teams. For the most part college basketball officials have turned the game into a meat market where only the strong survive. Yet, Saturday they had what is called in the profession a quick whistle especially down the stretch putting Carolina on the line eight of their last nine possessions.
Go figure!!!! Don't call me a homer either because it's just as atrocious at Rupp Arena when the Cats are wearing the white uniforms.
Now, the Cats can start getting serious about building their NCAA resume this week with games against Notre Dame on Wednesday at 9:30 on ESPN at Louisville"s Freedom Hall and Saturday at 5:15 in Rupp Arena against Indiana which will be televised nationally on ESPN as well.
The Fighting Irish enter the game having opened the season on an 8-0 roll with a six point win against Georgia and a seven point win against Wisconsin being the most impressive . The UK-Notre Dame game will be the second game on the card Wednesday night with John Pelphrey and his Arkansas RazorBacks taking on Seton Hall in the 7:00 o'clock opener.
In Saturday's annual rivalry game with the Hoosiers, Indiana will enter the game on a similar run sitting at 7-1 with the lone loss coming to Boston College 88-76.
However, even with a combined record of 15-1 only Notre Dame had just broken into the poll rankings last week at #25 while Indiana has yet to be ranked this year.
Gridiron Cats Get Bid To BBVA Compass Bowl
The Kentucky Wildcats football team coming off a disappointing 6-6 regular season will get one more chance to right the ship and put a positive spin on UK football going into the offseason and look toward spring football and the 2011 season. That opportunity will take place in Birmingham on January 8th at Noon on ESPN in the BBVA Compass Bowl against the University of Pittsburgh from the Big East Conference.
I can hear the snickers across the Commonwealth but you won't hear any negative comments from me.
Please spare me the quirky, obnoxious, and sarcastic comments about taking this team to a bowl game. If the storied and nationally renown UK basketball team can accept an invitation to the NIT for an 18-14 team then a 6-6 SEC football team from any member school should accept this bowl bid in a gracious and grateful manner and make the best of it then move on to spring practice.
There was good news and bad news coming out of the weekend practices over on Cooper Drive at the Nutter Indoor Center. On the positive side it looks as if redshirt freshman Mister Cobble has finally squeezed a few hours of his day in for the library and Cats Center because coach Joker Phillips informed the media Sunday that if all goes well during finals week coming up he could be cleared to play in the bowl game on January 8th. Cobble has yet to step on the game field due to academic struggles since he enrolled in August of 2009. On the negative side, Phillips also announced that Donald Russell has left the team due to lack of playing time and redshirt freshman Elliott Porter missed practice Sunday and is reportedly homesick and contemplating transfering at the semester break.
Russell played sparingly in several games this fall with a plus 100 yard effort in the Charleston Southern game, but true freshman Raymond Sanders worked his way up the depth chart quickly once the season started and became the #2 back by midseason behind Derrick Locke. This scenario along with another talented freshman running back in Brandon Gainer, who is setting out as ared shirt but will be ready to go come spring practice, will more than likely put Russell third string at best going into his junior year and that put Russell into transfer mode.
Also, Louisville Eastern product Jon Davis an incoming freshmen recruit (if Oregon don't steal him) is supposedly so talented the UK coaching staff is reportedly creating an h-back position in the offense just for his services.
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