I’ve never been one to subscribe to conventional wisdom. Maybe it’s because I’m not all that conventional, or for that matter, not particularly wise. Or perhaps it’s simply that conventional wisdom is often proven incorrect.
Conventional wisdom would have told us that, after a very tumultuous spring with players transferring, coaching staff members leaving, and recruits decommitting, Kentucky Women’s Basketball would be in for a disappointing season. It also would have said that, even if the lady Cats had a respectable season, 2017-18 would be when things finally fall apart for Coach Matthew Mitchell.
However, Mitchell has appeared to right the ship at warp speed. Adding Kyra Elzy, Niya Butts, and most notably the legendary Lin Dunn to his coaching staff got the ball rolling. That coupled with 6 very strong players who, according to Mitchell “really, really want to be here,” set a strong foundation for the upcoming season. Toss into the mix some hidden gems that are walking on, and one recruit who remained steadfast with her commitment, and you get some Cats are much more solid than many believed would be the case. Oh, and next year isn’t looking too shabby, either. Coach Mitchell announced all five players that had verbally committed to UK have all signed their letters of intent.
Perhaps conventional wisdom is better applied to Kentucky Football, right? It would have told us that, after a dismal 0-2 start and the loss of starting quarterback Drew Barker, any hopes of a bowl game this season would be slim-to-nonexistent.
But a funny thing happened: Coach Mark Stoops and his staff rallied the troops and have managed to bounce back in a big way. With the Cats currently sitting on a 5-4 record and win-less Austin Peay still on the schedule, getting the necessary 6 wins to qualify for a post-season bowl seems a certainty now. The team heads to Knoxville this weekend to play the Tennessee Volunteers, and against all odds, Kentucky has a very realistic chance of winning this game, too.
Conventional wisdom doesn’t take into account the heart of a team. It doesn’t understand when players come together with an “us against the world” mentality, that great things can happen. It never saw the emergence of Benny Snell, Jr., nor did it foresee what a steadying force Stephen Johnson would be. And it never imagined how dominant our offensive line could be, allowing Snell and Boom Williams to shine as perhaps the best running back tandem in the NCAA this year.
Finally, conventional wisdom would have said the men’s basketball team had nothing to learn from playing NAIA Division II Asbury University in the final exhibition game of 2016. On first glance, the Cats 93-point margin of victory would suggest that, at least in this one case, conventional wisdom was correct. But let’s look a little deeper.
We learned that Derek Willis is a much more confident and assertive player than he was just a season ago. Besides some authoritative dunks, Willis was also agreeable with giving up playing time to Wenyen Gabriel so Coach Cal could get a better insight on what Gabriel can bring to this team. We also witnessed a greatly improved Isaiah Briscoe, and his obvious improvement at the free throw line should pay huge dividends this season.
We saw Mychal Mulder was ready to be a regular contributor on this team, and showed a willingness to do whatever was necessary to help his team win. Securing 11 rebounds (2nd only to Isaac Humphries’ 12), Mulder also poured in 20 points. The most memorable 2 points of the night came as the game neared its end when Mulder unleashed a thunderous slam dunk. In a game that, at times, resembled an NBA dunk contest, that Mulder’s slam was deemed the best of the night by his teammates is that much more impressive.
The Cats also showed us that, even in a “meaningless” game, defense is their top priority. One defensive series in the 1st half illustrated this commitment when 3 players in succession (Briscoe, Gabriel and Fox) all dove to the floor to secure a loose ball. Conventional wisdom would tell you that you don’t see that type of defense in exhibition games, especially when the opponent is so over-matched.
The list could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point. What’s on paper and what seems to be logical doesn’t always hold true. You cannot measure heart, commitment or the power of unity among teammates.
Now, as we prepare to enjoy a weekend filled not only with football, but also the beginning of basketball season, we will be faced with one more bit of conventional wisdom. It will tell us that the Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball team is primed for another stellar season. It will say the Big Blue Nation will be filled with hope and expectation of another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, ideally culminating in the Cats’ 9th National Championship. Conventional wisdom will say the BBN is one crazy, dedicated fan base.
That’s one time conventional wisdom will be correct.
Enjoy the ride, BBN.
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