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"Good" is not good enough.

In what used to be an important match up, Tubby Smith’s University of Kentucky Wildcats defeated Rick Pitino’s University of Louisville Cardinals 61-49 in what was quite possibly the ugliest fucking basketball game since UK’s craptastic defeat of Indiana University 59-54 last week. As a die-hard UK basketball partisan, let me just say that after 1998, I had high hopes for Tubby Smith’s reign. We won a national title (with Rick Pitino’s players). We landed some great recruits.

Then, somehow or another, the train completely derailed. Players started to transfer. Good home-grown players went on to star at other universities (J.R. VanHoose, Chris Lofton). Instead of McDonald’s All Americans, UK started to field starting lineups filled with average (and I’m trying to be kind) junior college transfers and overrated, underperforming “NBA prospects.”

Tubby Smith is a great person. He’s raised millions of dollars for charity. He’s a family man. The University graduates its players and there hasn’t been even a hint of NCAA trouble from the basketball side of the program, and Tubby Smith deserves all the credit in the world for that, but this is the University of Kentucky, and it’s been 8 years since we’ve seen the Final Four.

The University of Kentucky has never gone 9 years without appearing in the Final Four of the national championship tournament in school history.

TubbyBall is a slow-it-down, grind-it-out, boring, defensive-minded style of basketball in which the first team to 60 points usually wins. No young superstar high-school athlete wants to play in this kind of boring, NBA-style system. Hell, NBA players don’t want to play the Larry Brown Slow It Down Detroit Offense either, which is why truly astounding recruits (Greg Oden, Tyler Hansbrough) are avoiding Lexington like the plague.

Maybe there is hope on the horizon. Perry Stephenson has the potential to be a shot-blocking machine, and Jodie Meeks is a grown-ass man in a college freshman’s body. I’m just not sure if Tubby’s uncreative offensive system and poor record as a developer of talent will benefit the two. Yes, they’ll learn to play shut-down defense, but defense isn’t worth a damn if you can’t score points on the other end of the floor, and great defenses can often be torched by spectacular offensive talents, no matter how good that D might be.

A record of 20-10 might be acceptable at another school. Making the NCAA tournament is enough at other schools. The University of Kentucky does not play to go to the tournament; the University of Kentucky wins national championships. Anything less than the Sweet Sixteen is a disappointing season to Big Blue backers.

Is that unreasonable? No, of course not. Given the school’s history of success and the fact that UK has never gone 9 years in a row without a Final Four appearance and that in the 8 years since 1998 Kentucky hasn’t sniffed the Final Four that something isn’t working. It doesn’t matter if it is the players or the system; the bottom line is the fault lies squarely with the coach.

This isn’t Tulsa or Georgia; Kentucky expects success. If we don’t get some headway this year, I don’t see any reason why Tubby should stick around Lexington once his contract expires.
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