Misconception

When Kentucky plays teams, they try to humiliate them. They love to run up the score.


The Facts

Kentucky has some of the largest scoring margins in the country. They have an up-tempo offense to go along with a tenacious defense. The result is that often opponents get blown out. Even good teams can look bad against Kentucky on a good night (for the Wildcats).


Rebuttal

Kentucky plays a style which demands 100% intensity from his players at all times. (see UK's Offensive Schemes) Any players not going 100% on the floor will be on the bench. This strategy serves to never give the team the impression that they can relax, that they have done enough. Ultimately, this leads to constant improvement in players under Rick Pitino (compared to players at other high profile schools). The result is that even when UK has a large lead, they still play the same style and with great intensity. Pitino will put in his bench and take off the press but his bench is talented and desperate for game time and the opportunity to show their talents. Sometimes the opposing team will have a physical or emotional breakdown sometime during the game and this often results in a two to five minute period where the margin can be inflated by ten or even twenty points. I should note that Pitino's teams do not have or condone trash talkers. Kentucky players, for the most part, go about their business and don't try to humiliate their opponents as is seen often in basketball of all levels.

This desire to work 100% of the time is often misunderstood by fans, coaches and sportscasters. In the early days after probation when UK was extremely low on talent, Pitino continued to play the running, pressing, intense style. Often it worked but other times it didn't when the Cats ran into very talented teams (such as Kansas in 1989 when UK got beat 150-95 or against North Carolina in Louisville where they were beaten 121-110.) This led some, including UK fans, to question the coach. But at no point did Pitino pull back the reins and change his style, just to make a losing margin look more respectable. Pitino stayed with the message and learned from his losses, and I for one commend him for it. Now, as Kentucky has a ton of talent, the basic coaching philosophy still has not wavered. UK can now do more things on the court and their plays are tailored to make use of the players talents, but the major themes of 100% intensity on the floor at all times has not changed. Now, instead of UK fans questioning the coach, opponents fans question the coach because he doesn't "let up" on their team when they're getting beat by twenty or thirty points. Despite having seen Kentucky play just about every week of the season for many years, many "fans" still don't seem to realize that UK's system is intentionally designed to run at one speed only. The way I think of it, Kentucky is competing against an opponent only part of the time. Against lesser competition or when the game becomes a blowout, they are competing against themselves to play perfectly on the court. That is why, I believe, it is so hard for UK to be upset by lesser talented teams because Kentucky never puts their guard down for anyone.

I think it is refreshing to see a team so intense and focused even during garbage time. I like to see a team striving for perfection at all times. The alternatives are the sloppy play and unfufilled potential found far too often in college basketball today.


Return to Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Page.

Jon Scott