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COLUMN: Kentucky was ‘Dean Doomed’ at the Dean Dome

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By Bob Watkins

Kentucky’s season began with a number one ranking and a coach letting words 40-and-0 pass from his lips.
Two months in, a late game chant from North Carolina students at Dean Dome in Chapel Hill last week: “Overrated! Overrated.”
Suddenly, a happy Christmas season for Kentucky fans is looking more like a lump of coal.
Big Blue Nation grows restless as the stat watchers are moved to dredge up these less-than-pleasant numbers.
• Since the Anthony Davis-led Wildcats won the NCAA crown two seasons ago, Kentucky is 0-10 against ranked teams on the road.
• Since the championship season, Calipari’s one-and-done style has produced won-lost numbers that would have gotten Tubby Smith booed at Rupp Arena, 29 wins and 15 losses.
At Chapel Hill last week, Calipari’s post-game body language was in glaring contrast to his “we are basketball,” pep rally palaver in October. Legend has it, a generous serving of crow goes down easier with a side dish of humble pie.
After Carolina, the smirk, snarky one-liners and swagger were gone. His young players had been schooled again. Dean Domed and he had no answers.
It must be said, as one national columnist pointed out, “... quite frankly, (the game) was too tightly officiated by Roger Ayers, Mike Eades, and Joe Lindsey. The continuous whistle-blowing by the trio disrupted the game to the point where transition points from two transition teams were a missing entity.”
Still, Calipari affirmed what we could see, his team is not one. Elephant in the room? A two-word question, why not?
Two months since practice began and the Wildcats are still soloists who, in the heat of battle ignore their coach and revert to: “get out of my way, let me do this like I did in high school!”
So, a week before Santa Claus makes his southern run, a buncha kids in blue who started ranked number one, then sixth, then 11th and now 21st, is, well, college hoops underachieved?
These observations:
•Nine games in and coaches screaming from the sidelines are already getting those blank-faced look the other way reactions seen in late February.
•Willie Cauley-Stein’s hair style is amusing (advertisement for a shoe company), and begs for blond jokes, but it reflects an emphasis on “I’m cool. Look at me!”
•Coach’s reaction to Cauley-Stein’s ‘do? Shrug and “I’m not the tattoo or hair style police.”
Neat quip, but abdication to coach responsibility to insist on teamness and appearance, grooming and behavior are reflections of the university and Commonwealth.
•Sign of the Apocalypse for Kentucky fans? A Wildcat player compared to Dennis Rodman.
•Major problem last year was lack of depth, Calipari complained. Through exhibitions and nine games this season, playing time to gain experience for later for freshmen Derek Willis and Marcus Lee. None. And, Jarrod Polson’s role seems to be reduced to (team) Grade Point Average.

MEDIA HYPE ‘RETREAT’
Just how savvy are college basketball fans in the Bluegrass State?
Six weeks ago the media herd of self-anointed experts, led by Dick Vitale became a Mormon Tabernacle Choir roaring tribute to freshmen Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Jabari Parker (Duke) and Julius Randle (Kentucky).
This week all are in hasty retreat and claiming “Too much hype, baby, too much hype.”
Then there was the blizzard of accolades heaped on the Kentucky Wildcats. Number one ... best recruiting class in history ... Final Four for sure ... another NCAA title in the bag. The media herd hung on every John Calipari chirp as gospel all the way to reporting a remark about 40-and-0.
A week before Christmas, a marvelous grasp-of-the-obvious newspaper opinion: Kentucky won’t be a good team until me becomes we.
Clever. Did it take fans around Kentucky two months to figure that out? I wonder.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS
The Cardinals (9-1) climbed to No. 2 in the power ratings this week. But Cardinal fans know the real season opener is still a week away. A road game at Kentucky.
The Cardinals No. 2 perch is more about defending national champions, and testimony on Rick Pitino sway with voters than where U of L fits into the national picture at Christmas time.
So-called experts have failed to notice the Cards have played an array of unranked mostly lightweights all at home. One road game against one ranked team? A loss to North Carolina.

EASTERN A MAC FIT
Eastern Kentucky University athletics may be headed out of the Ohio Valley Conference. New neighborhood: Sun Belt or MAC?
Hope here is administrators for Colonels sports lobby for and accept an invitation to the MAC. Much respected for its football quality and tradition and anchored by an I-75 corridor, the MAC is more a natural for Eastern fans than the scattered Sun Belt.