Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 20, 2013

Mark Maynard: Leaving basketball behind: 03/21/13

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — March Madness has barely begun and many of us are left without “appointment television” for the remainder of the month.

The Unwatchables finished off a campaign that will be the pimple on John Calipari’s coaching career at Kentucky with a stunning 59-57 loss to Robert Morris on Tuesday. The loss came after Kyle Wiltjer’s long 3-point attempt glanced off the rim — not even close — as the buzzer sounded.

As Calipari so correctly said after the game, it would have been a shame if that would have won it for the Cats considering how the game was played.

Robert Morris was the better team, wanted it more, deserved it more and its fans had reason to celebrate a marquee victory that they will talk about for ages.

A day before the real March Madness begins and the thing Cat fans were most looking forward to is where top recruit Julius Randle would wind up (By the way, he selected Kentucky over Kansas on Wednesday, making this day-after-the-NIT-mourning much better in Big Blue Nation).

Maybe it’s a blessing and we can enjoy watching the NCAA Tournament games at our leisure, without white-knuckle grips, on our own time schedule, or, better yet, find something on Netflix that makes us laugh or cry to fill that emotional void now that this Kentucky team has mercifully pulled the plug.

It just seems so early for basketball to be essentially over what with yesterday being the first day of spring (and my daughter’s birthday! Happy birthday, Sally!).

Back in the days when UK was on probation and not eligible for the NCAA Tournament, you knew it well in advance and prepared mind and soul for it. Wildcat fans endured those dark days, but this seemed a little worse for some reason. This team tortured us with its undisciplined, inconsistent play throughout the season. The promise of greater days kept everyone on the edge of their Big Blue seat. Early on, we all at least once said: “Wait until March.”

Maybe (definitely) we overexpected after last year’s national championship. The chemistry that went along with the 2012 champs was the perfect mix. That doesn’t happen very often.

I don’t think this means the one-and-done experiment is all over. I do think it shows you better have some experience and leadership to go along with your one-and-done athletes though. That means players like Darius Miller, who last year provided that Big Brother example in the huddles and on the floor. Maybe Jarrod Polson could be one of those next year. He definitely has the heart.

There were no Big Brothers on this team, only Little Brats who had a “me” mentality that won’t take you very far.

Thankfully, it’s all over and we can turn the page, putting this nightmare of a season in the rear-view mirror.

Eleven days until Opening Day for the Reds. Bring. It. On.

I may even have to watch an exhibition game (which is usually against my personal rules) because, it appears, my television appointment schedule has suddenly cleared.

Anybody up for an “Andy Griffith Show” marathon?

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.