VAUGHT: Conley anticipated Cats' playing time

In the preseason Larry Conley made some predictions about the current Kentucky squad that have proven to be very accurate. Conley then said, "I think you will see a better conditioned basketball team. I think this will be a club that will be able to play 35 to 36 minutes with its starters if need be."

Back in November, I asked college basketball analyst Larry Conley what he thought would be the biggest change under Billy Gillispie this year versus how Kentucky played under Tubby Smith?

Conley didn't hesitate giving this answer.

"I think you will see a better conditioned basketball team. I think this will be a club that will be able to play 35 to 36 minutes with its starters if need be. I wasn't sure they could ever do that with the guys they had before, but they will be able to do that this year," Conley said.

Guess what? He was right.

"A lot of it had to do with my thinking about the number of quality players he had at Kentucky this year. I just felt like his top guys would have to play a lot of minutes and be in great shape," Conley, who will be at Rupp Arena Feb. 27 for the UK-Mississippi game, said. "I also knew the history of Gillispie and he really had driven his players. That combination made me think that, then I probably look a little smarter because he got a couple of players hurt. If not for two key players being injured, there would not have been as many minutes played by those other guys. They were kind of forced to do it."

So with four weeks to go in the season, could those minutes now take a toll on Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford and Patrick Patterson? Could those guys wear down?

"I would love to say they will not wear down, but you just don't know. Certainly Crawford's foot inury could flare up. I think Bradley will be fine unless something unexpected happens," Conley said. "They wouldn't have won 10 games without Patterson. He has held up well and is just a quality player. He is everything was billed to be, and more. He has played very, very well and shows me no signs of tiring."

Conley also doesn't think UK's 41-point loss at Vanderbilt will ruin the Cats' season.

"I don't think anybody will beat them at home this year. They are playing well enough to take care of everybody they have left at home," Conley said. "The big question is can they pick up another road win at South Carolina, and I think they can.

"The thing that disappointed me most about Kentucky this year were those early season losses. I thought they had enough talent to get through that, but missing two guys who should be starting hurt them more than I expected. When you have key guys like that not there early when you are establishing the horizon of where you are going in a season, it's tough. But they are back playing well now and overall doing a pretty good job."

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