DEMAREE: Give Tubby Smith his accolades

On occasion, the intense fan scrutiny and the national media criticism that Tubby Smith finds himself under must be laborious to the UK basketball coach. Other than those that view Smith as inhuman or a pawn to manipulate on a chessboard just because he makes two million dollars plus a year, it becomes unreasonable.

Some would say the scrutiny he receives is deserved and much of it is of his own making. Most of that criticism comes by way of his inability to find the kind of studs that would allow him to make an occasional trip to the final four. Any such progression often requires some luck.

He missed out on an opportunity in 2003 when Keith Bogans sprained an ankle against Wisconsin in a regional semifinal game and had to go against the Dwayne Wade-led Marquette University team in the regional final and was defeated. Who knew at the time about Wade?

Smith missed out on another opportunity in 2005 in an Elite Eight game against Michigan State, by what proved one key rebound. In one offensive sequence, Michigan State corralled three offensive rebounds with Chuck Hayes on the bench in foul trouble.

Along with the intense scrutiny and criticism accolades should be given when deserved. Kentucky recently gave a game away in Rupp Arena against Vanderbilt University that it was expected to win at home. Conversely, he coached his Wildcats to a win in Arkansas that the experts felt he would lose.

The coaching job that Smith did in Arkansas was a touch of genius. Falling behind in the second half by 14 points had the same feel of a game played at Alabama in 2005. In that game Smith put a lineup on the floor that to the average viewer, had no rhyme or reason. That lineup got them back in the game by halftime and the Cats went on to win the game in the second half.

In the Arkansas game, Randolph Morris appeared unable to handle Hill, the big center, or perhaps was playing too cautious trying to avoid fouls. This prompted the coach to go small giving him more quickness and tenacity on defense. He simply befuddled the Razorbacks with his changing defenses. Smith played a zone with man-to-man principles or a match up zone – he played a 2-3 zone – and he went to full court pressure sometime trapping out of it. The final touch to Coach Smith's moves was putting a key lineup on the floor that included up and coming star Jodie Meeks. Meeks plays with no fear. "Coach Smith has given me the confidence that I play with," Meeks said. "When he puts me in a game, he expects me to make something happen offensively and defensively."

"Jodie was very active and very aggressive out there," coach Smith said. "Ramel Bradley plays on emotion and that's what fires him up. It doesn't always fire me up but that's Ramel."

In addition to Meeks delivering, Ramel Bradley delivered in his free-wheeling way. Sometimes Bradley's way is not the more conservative Tubby Smith's way but Bradley has to be aggressive to fire himself up.

All of this calls for the coach to receive much credit for the way he teaches smothering defense and pushes the right bottons at the right time. So when he recruits that one big stud to go with the current freshman class, he will be in position to challenge for the final four and all will rest easier.


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