IRA COMBS: Kentucky Faces North Carolina in Saturday Showdown at Rupp Arena; Will the Cats Avoid the
By Ira D. Combs
Tri-State Sports Media Service Inc.
The latest Wildcat winning streak put together by Coach Cal and his uniquely talented hoopsters should be holding at 10 once the Cats paste Columbia at midweek and then march into the second weekend of play in December with another Top 25 battle awaiting this Saturday in Rupp Arena against the North Carolina Tar Heels at 12 noon on CBS.
Already on the Cats' NCAA resume are wins over No. 5 Kansas, No. 6 Texas and No. 25 Providence. So the most novice mind of the NCAA selection process will tell you that UK is setting in pretty good shape to get one of those coveted No. 1 seeds and in the lead for the overall No. 1, which should put them in a first weekend setting at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky., where I’m sure tickets will be at an all-time premium.
The trick now for Coach Cal is to keep this team engaged daily with an eye on the prize at the end of the season in April in Indianapolis.
Actually, that shouldn’t be very hard for the remainder of this month anyway with upcoming nationally-televised Saturday games against North Carolina, UCLA, and the annual Battle of the Bluegrass with the Cards. If the winning streak continues on through December and the Cats are setting at 13-0 on New Year's Day and with the SEC being as putrid as it is, then Cal may have a challenge on his hand in keeping these young minds from wavering into mindless thoughts, instead of the task at hand or heaven forbid having to deal with the old annual nemesis of years past -- the January Shooting Slump of the Joe B. Hall and Eddie Sutton eras. Don’t laugh, you old school Wildcat fans, it could happen and maybe already has to a degree. The last three games UK has gone inside the last five minutes of each game 0 for every how many attempts they took behind the arc but was bailed out each game before the final horn.
But then again we or I may not be giving this team its just due in being more mature mentally and emotionally than what we think they are. I simply just still have a hard time labeling this a veteran team when it has no seniors who play actual minutes. I guess I just can’t get out of the old school mind-set.
On the other hand, at the end of the day or in this case the season, what better way is there to keep today’s young and mega-talented players like Cal has engaged and energized at tipoff every game when they have a prize lying in front of them of an undefeated season but let’s wait at least until mid-January before we start talking about what everybody wants to talk about but won’t and you know exactly what I’m talking about.
One thing I do like about this team is the fact that it has already proven it can win a big game against a solid ranked opponent without shooting the ball well from the perimeter both in front of and behind the arc. Proved that against both Providence and Texas but both those games were in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena when Big Blue Nation had the back.
Now the next question: Can they survive a poor shooting night and win on the road? Remember all NCAA tournament games are on a neutral court.
Press Row Notes and Tidbits
No. 1 – Did you know that UPike has scored more points on UK to date than any other team when they posted 68 on the scoreboard back on Nov. 1.
No. 2 – First, it was Alex Poythress who missed back to back games with sickness. Then Tyler Ulis got the bug against EKU and now Coach Cal has left Rupp Arena early two games in a row.
No. 3 – UK has now hit at least one 3-point shot 909 games in a row which puts them in second place among NCAA Division I schools behind only UNLV .
No. 4 – After Saturday's game against North Carolina, there will be a 24-day stretch until Jan. 6 that UK will not play a game in Rupp Arena, the longest in recent memory.
No. 5 -- CBS will televise both the North Carolina & UCLA games but ESPN2 will televise the Battle of the Bluegrass on Dec. 27.
You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA football and basketball.