JONES: Accepting the team's fate

Here is when the truth hit me. Two minutes to go, Kentucky down one point, with the ball and in a position to steal a win that it honestly probably did not deserve.

Here is when the truth hit me. Two minutes to go, Kentucky down one point, with the ball and in a position to steal a win that it honestly probably did not deserve. On the court is the regular assortment of players, except Patrick Sparks (who along with Ramel Bradley was obviously in Coach Smith's doghouse) and Randolph Morris is posting up, hoping to continue what may have been his best offensive game as a Wildcat.

The ball is worked to a corner of the court where Morris is posted up and not surprisingly, Rajon Rondo passes the ball into him. Now stop. If this were a good team, a team that played with intelligence, heart and a strong gameplan, what would happen? Well likely, either Ravi Moss or Joe Crawford would rotate to take over for Rondo, since they are better shooters, while the other would move to the top of the key. Rondo would move to the offside, since he is the weakest shooter on the team, thus allowing for the possibility of an off-side cut for an easy layup. This way, when Randolph Morris faces the inevitable double team, he can rotate the ball to Moss, who shoots if he is open or passes to an open Crawford if he gets covered.

So what does happen? All four players stand around motionless. Morris gets double-teamed, passes it to Rondo who is given an uncontested three by Tennessee (who were THRILLED to see him take the shot), which is immediately missed. The corresponding long rebound is kicked out, Rondo is late getting back due to his taking the shot and his man, the most popular non-Cat in Kentucky Chris Lofton, beats him off the dribble, making a floating jumper to give the Vols a lead they would never relinquish.

At that moment I realized a truth that maybe should have been obvious weeks ago....this team simply is not very good. Why this is the case is a bit perplexing. One may think it is a lack of talent, however the team has more McDonald's All Americans that at any time in recent years? It could be a lack of intelligence, but players such as Patrick Sparks, Ravi Moss and Bobby Perry are often praised by opposing coaches for their ability to play the game the right way.

It could be a lack of coaching, but Tubby Smith has proven in the past an ability to coach players of all talents and help them reach their potential. No, diagnosing exactly why this team is bad is difficult, but one thing is more than clear....they are certainly bad. After the game, Kentucky fans were certainly cursing the day that the Kentucky coaching staff decided to pass over Mr. Basketball Chris Lofton, assuming that more highly ranked players would give the program greater success. However, after watching the game I wonder if Lofton were in a Kentucky uniform on this team right now, whether it would make any difference.

This is a team without discipline....its best player plays selfishly, its big man cant rebound, its sharpshooter often cant shoot, its penetrating back-up point guard cant play and its power forwards don't exist. Is there any reason to believe that Chris Lofton would be able to right this ship?

No for whatever reason, this team is heading down a course unchartered in the Tubby Smith era. The difficult schedule likely means that it is headed for the worst record since probation. The inner-team squabbles seem to have returned after their brief hiatus. And the coach seems so frustrated and out of answers that there is no relief in sight. In past years, this is where the team would work its magic. The majesty of Kentucky basketball would rear its head....a winning streak would commence....and all would be right in the Bluegrass state. But watching Rondo brick the three on Tuesday night, I realized and accepted, that this is not happening this year.

This team may get better, but it won't get good. It is clear that Kentucky basketball will not be Kentucky basketball for the rest of the season. The question becomes, when will it be again?


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