Cats jumped a lot of hurdles to reach tourney

During the first cold, bleak days of January nothing in the Commonwealth looked bleaker than the SEC regular season prospects of the Kentucky Wildcats. At that time an invitation to play in the NCAA Tourney seemed to be a pipe dream. On Thursday Billy Gillispie's Wildcats will take on Marquette in the opening rounding of the NCAA tourney. The Wildcats overcame a lot to get to this point.

Looking back on the season an otherwise down season has been a successful one for Kentucky.

It's hard to ignore what this team overcame and accomplished. The Wildcats were overcomers, in a season which could have been worse, much worse than its final final result. The determination of its coach and players were the difference in what may have been, and what was.

The Wildcats recovered from a disastrous start to finish with a 12-4 record in the Southeastern Conference, which placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament.

First-year Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie deserves a pat on the back for the coaching job he did during the team's successful turnaround.

In addition, seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford deserve as much credit for steering the Cats toward what will be a 17th consecutive appearance in the Big Dance.

Both players have improved dramatically in Gillispie's system. Just imagine four years worth of progress.

Although a No. 11 seed, making the 65-team field is a major accomplishment for this particular unit.

Consider numerous circumstances this team overcame:

• The team successfully adjusted to a coaching change, which was rampant on the college landscape this season. It wasn't easy at first, but granted this "family" has become a close-knit bunch since the season began.
• An absolute pounding at Vanderbilt, followed up by a run the earned the Cats the No. 2 seed in the SEC East.
• The loss of Patrick Patterson three games before the regular season ended. Losing your center isn't something to cheer about, but this team turned a negative into a positive by winning two of their last three regular-season contests.
• The defection of Alex Legion that was well-documented.
• Losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego at Rupp Arena.
• A near upset at Tennessee followed up by wins over South Carolina and Florida.

Let the new season begin.

AllWildcats Top Stories