Decadent and Depraved In Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky have long way to go after early-season expectations

It's been tough times in Lexington for Billy Gillispie so far this season.

It's been tough times in Lexington for Billy Gillispie so far this season.

Dec. 13, 2007

By Josh Herwitt


Josh is's men's basketball editor and writes a weekly national column.
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If Southwest Airlines is hiring a new spokesperson for its "Wanna Get Away?" commercials, it might want to consider Billy Gillispie or Rick Pitino.


After all, is there anyone in college basketball right now who wants to get away more than Gillispie and Pitino?


Well, at least not in the state of Kentucky, where the groans and moans just seem to get louder and louder week after week.


And though Kentucky and Louisville both have improved their football programs tremendously over the last couple of years, when the calendar turns to November, the flip quickly switches to basketball for the next five months.


That's the way it's always been in the Bluegrass State, where fans live, breathe and talk college basketball year in and year out, even when there aren't games to be played.


But who would have thought that things could get this bad this quick in just a month of time?


There's no one that could have thought that either team would struggle this much this early.


So much so, that if Adolph Rupp were here to see this, he might not believe his eyes. Who knows, Denny Crum probably can't either.


Because when it comes down to it, there's not much that's gone right for Kentucky or Louisville so far this season.


The Wildcats fully embarrassed themselves in their second game of the season, losing by 16 points to a Gardner-Webb team that was picked to finish last in the conference this year and registered a whopping nine wins last season.


From there, the struggles have only continued for a team that has lost two straight after falling to top-ranked North Carolina at home and No. 13 Indiana in Bloomington last weekend.


"They whooped us in every aspect and did it with a shorthanded team, and I don't take very well to that," Gillispie said after seeing his team suffer a 70-51 loss to the Hoosiers last Saturday. "We have a long ways to go in every aspect, but I think we are going to get there."


But sometimes things come up, things you can't predict, and that's certainly been the case for Pitino and his struggling Louisville team, which is down to seven scholarship players at the moment.


The Cardinals, after all, have been plagued by a host of injuries between David Padgett's broken kneecap, Juan Palacios' torn cartilage, Clarence Holloway's season-ending open heart surgery and George Goode's ineligibility.


Now the latest for Pitino is the indefinite suspension of sophomore forward Derrick Caracter, who's had plenty of, let's just say, character issues during his first two seasons at Louisville.


"There are too many things that we deal with on a daily basis other than basketball that is affecting our team," Pitino offered following a 70-65 loss to Dayton last Saturday at Freedom Hall. "That's not something we can have. It's something that we have to concentrate on, the fundamentals of the game. It's hurting us."


And when it comes to growing up, it's Pitino's sophomores who haven't shown the maturity that their coach expects from them.


"The sophomore class is not paying attention to the game of basketball, too many of them caring what people think," Pitino said bluntly. "They're not worrying about what's important and what's significant. And in practice evaluation, the guys are getting way too low. This is not a military camp here. Our basketball practices are all basketball for two hours. It's up and down, you've got to focus in on it and we're not doing that right now."


Getting that focus back might be Pitino's biggest challenge this season, but if former Kentucky coach can do so, it could rank as one of his greatest coaching efforts ever.


For Pitino, though, it all starts in practice.


"Our practices have been terrible, just awful," the eighth-year coach admitted. "They have been that way all year."


And for Gillispie, it starts with better ball handling and ultimately better decision-making.


"We just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball, being strong with it and understanding how to play against pressure," the first-year coach maintained. "That's a starting point for us."


But if neither Kentucky nor Louisville can turn things around by the time March approaches, Pitino and Gillispie just might be hopping on a plane to star in Southwest's next TV commercial.


Quick Shots


·          Though his team suffered a 68-61 loss to Michigan State last Saturday, BYU's Trent Plaisted had quite a week after averaging a double-double in games against the Spartans and Weber State. And coming off a sophomore campaign that left more to be desired by both third-year coach Dave Rose and Cougar fans alike, the 6-foot-11 forward-center is quickly proving to be the Mountain West's most dominant post man this year after recording 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks against the Wildcats and a game-high 19 points, eight rebounds and two assists against MSU.


·          After starting the season at 7-0 and entering the national polls for the first time in roughly 19 years, Saint Mary's probably won't be in next week's Top 25 after falling to Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill., Tuesday night. The Gaels, who came into the week with the top-rated RPI in the country, rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half but couldn't complete the comeback with the Salukis holding a 39-24 rebounding edge and shooting an impressive 46.2 percent from behind the three-point line. And it certainly couldn't have come at a better time for SIU, which snapped a three-game losing streak with the 71-56 victory.


·          What is going on in College Park, Md.? If you didn't happen to see it Wednesday night, Maryland suffered its second straight loss at the Comcast Center and just its fourth non-conference home defeat in 19 years after falling to Ohio, 61-55. The Terrapins came into the contest 10-0 against teams from the MAC, but Gary Williams' ball club never found an answer for the Bobcats, who led the entire way despite shooting 27.3 percent from three-point range.


"We just didn't come out ready to play, plain and simple," Maryland senior James Gist said afterward. "We didn't come out with the intensity we needed to win. This is a huge step back to have two losses on your home court [this] early in the season."

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