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By David Schuh | Men’s basketball columnist
John Calipari has lost control of this team.
He has run out of ways to energize his players, and UK’s eighth loss of the season on Saturday was a glaring example of the team’s abrupt collapse just when it should be surging into the postseason.
For a team as talented as any you’ll see at the college level, UK’s development has abruptly stopped — and Calipari strangely stands at the center of its unraveling.
For the first three and a half months of the season, the Cats had one of the most efficient offenses in the country. They moved the ball, made open shots and capitalized on an elite rebounding advantage.
But in the last three weeks, the whole team has reverted.
On Saturday it was ugly to watch, UK made just one field goal over a 15:38, and it was goal-tended. The Cats made five field goals over the first 25 and a half minutes of the game.
They look like a group of talented kids who have never played together. Every possession is random. The Cats played like they did in November.
Now with three losses in five games, the players are handling it better than their coach. Freshmen are saying the right things, commenting after a loss that they still believe they can turn it around, sounding hopeful for a tournament run.
Calipari, on the other hand, is saying the same thing he said after Big Blue Madness. And maybe the problems are the same, but if they are, it’s not a player problem.
The coach’s job is to develop players. Calipari’s best coaching asset over the years has been to mold superstars into a team concept. And with a group that seems so genuinely interested in doing that, the coach is at fault when it doesn’t happen.
But Calipari doesn’t take the fault. He says the players quit. He says they haven’t bought into his system. If he is committed to that system, his job is to figure this team out. They are just too good to play this badly.
He must take responsibility for his team’s downfall.
Calipari has said over and over that the Cats are too “coach driven,” that he has to reiterate direction too much throughout games.
That implies that the team needs him too much. Maybe he’s doing too much.
After Saturday’s game where he got ejected following his second technical foul, Calipari said on his radio show that it may have been better that he wasn’t out there in the waning moments.
That sounds like a team that needs a little less of its coach.
The Cats were on track. They were ready to take off. But Calipari has stunted their growth.
UK is too good to see its season play out like this. Before it’s too late, John Calipari needs to find the answer.
The Big Blue Nation can forget a national championship quicker than you think.