Thursday, November 08, 2007

Billy Gillespie Job Watch: Day 1

To be honest, I’m not following college basketball a ton right now, being more absorbed in producing the 2007 Big West Women’s Soccer Tournament for the Big West’s video streaming initiative, BigWest.TV. However, with the first shocker of the college basketball season coming last night, I have to chip in my two cents.

No. 22 Kentucky lost to Gardner-Webb last night, 68-84, the first time that Kentucky has lost to a mid-major program since 2001 (Western Kentucky). It’s also the first time since December 3, 2005 that the Wildcats lost a non-conference home game to an unranked team (North Carolina). The loss was in the regional “finals” of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, which was set up to pit Memphis, UConn, and Oklahoma against each other in New York next week. So just like Butler did last year, Gardner-Webb crashed the party.

So this would make today Day 1 of the Billie Gillespie Job Watch. Gillespie took over the UK program this year from former coach Tubby Smith, who “decided” to move on to Minnesota. Kentucky fans are notoriously fervent, so losing to Gardner-Webb is a major step on the way to having the fans want your head (and I’m sure that some of them are already questioning Gillespie’s hire). See, I’m a big fan of mid-major basketball, but even I have to admit losing to a team that was 9-21 last year and seventh (SEVENTH!) in the Atlantic-Sun Conference (Belmont, Campbell, East Tennessee State, Florida-Gulf Coast, Jacksonville U., Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, Mercer, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina-Upstate, and Stetson) is like trying to commit suicide with a dull spoon. Even if Gardner-Webb improves to finish in the top three of their conference (you generally don’t go from seventh to first), it still looks bad.

Now, I’m also a supporter of coaches in general, who aren’t out there to lose, so I have to say that it’s early in Gillespie’s tenure as the Wildcats’ head coach. Also, mid-majors are getting better with good athletes who stick around for four years and learn to play the game while top programs have athletes that defect after two or three and can rely on their athleticism to get things done (brains vs. brawn, in a sense). So I wouldn’t go throwing rocks at Gillespie’s house or key his car just yet. He turned around a Texas A&M program the last few years, and before that, made a splash with UTEP. I’m sure Kentucky will continue to challenge for the SEC title (except for Tennessee is pretty good) and have to deal with “only” getting to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight in March, I just thought I’d jump on the media bandwagon and put some pressure on Gillespie right away. Heh.

Oh, and that picture at the top? That’s the new Billy Gillespie wallpaper from the UK website.

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