On-the-bubble Kentucky turns to Wiffle Ball
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
LEXINGTON, Ky. — They’re having a big Wiffle Ball game Friday at Kentucky after practice. How else do you expect the Wildcats to get ready to play Missouri?
Let’s review the dicey situation in Lexington.
Nerlens Noel and his damaged knee are gone. The other players have been feeling the heat of expectation, of defending a national championship, of all the extra pounds that go with the white and blue uniform. The losses have been both too painful and too plentiful, and the RPI worrisome — in the high 40s as of Thursday.
You know John Calipari as the collector of prized freshmen, but there is a psychologist side to him, too, and right now he is pushing every button he can find, from pep talk to Wiffle Ball. If this works out with an NCAA tournament bid, he should get the Sigmund Freud Award.
What do you do, for example, when you’ve lost by 17 points to Florida, 30 to Tennessee, Noel is headed for ACL rehab, and there is depression in the streets of Big Blue Nation? Or, as freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein put it, “Everything was discombobulating.”
First, you don’t shirk from the reality that much of the rest of this God-fearing, Kentucky-hating country is ready to have a party.
“Do you think there’s a lot of people unhappy we are struggling out there? They are ecstatic we are struggling,” Calipari said to his team. “So you want good things to happen? No one’s going to do it for you. Go make it happen … ”
Then, you redefine the dream. This team began ranked No. 3, but all the 2012 stars are gone, and the ranking was a hopelessly unrealistic product of hype. The Wildcats no longer talk dominance, but resurrection.
“I keep telling them,” Calipari said, “this could be the story of the college basketball season, if they want it to be.”
And then, you play dodgeball. Players vs. staff after Tuesday … [For more on After dodgeball, on-the-bubble Kentucky turns to Wiffle Ball, click here.]