Playing tough teams early on will benefit Cats in the long run

Most basketball teams take it easy the first couple weeks out of the gate. After all, it takes time to warm up to a new season that stretches over the cold winter months, especially with a new coach and a new system being introduced to a team.

That’s why all those no-name teams searching for an identity are on the top of the schedules of schools from powerhouse conferences. They’re supposed to be easy wins.

But when head coach Matthew Mitchell took over at UK after former head coach Mickie DeMoss headed south toward the border, he inherited a schedule that was anything but easy.

To start the season, UK hoops has tipped off against two top-25 teams, George Washington and Texas, and played another team, Minnesota, that has received a number of votes in both polls.

All three of those games were on the road — a true test for any team under new management.

UK only lost by 10 points when it traveled to D.C. to take on George Washington. In a tournament in Honolulu a couple weekends ago, they lost by 12 points to Minnesota.

And it’s no wonder why the Cats lost to Texas — most of the players suiting up for UK were recruited and taught by the lady on the Longhorns’ bench, DeMoss, who now serves as an assistant there. A nice scouting ace for Texas, but a thorn in the side of Mitchell and the Cats.

It’s common for teams to struggle in the early going. But the Cats’ losses could benefit them in the long run of the season. While other teams are getting off easy playing cupcake schedules, the Cats are getting an early lesson on digging deep.

Although the four defeats hurt the Cats in the loss column, the games all provided the Cats with an opportunity to play against stellar competition. As the old saying goes, not every loss is a bad one.

If the Cats find the good in these losses and learn from their mistakes, then they will be a more equipped team when the Southeastern Conference opponents start rolling in next month.

However, Mitchell doesn’t anticipate waiting for next month to start grabbing up wins; he wants them now. But his team is learning valuable lessons early.

As for the time between now and when the conference schedule starts, the Cats could use a few wins to keep their confidence up against good teams. Tonight is a chance to do just that. William & Mary has lost three its last four games and will want a win just as badly as the Cats.

And with UK coming off a tough overtime loss to intra-state rival Western Kentucky, there’s not a more perfect team to rebound against than a slumping William & Mary team.

Tonight will display just how much they want a game they can win.

J.D. Williams is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]