Tough Stretch

Beginning December 2 with a surprising spanking of #6 North Carolina, Kentucky entered into its most arduous stretch of games this season - and what may well be the most arduous stretch of games in several seasons, NCAA tournament included.

Following its clash with the second-winningest program in college hoop history (UNC), UK faces always-challenging Georgia Tech on Dec. 9; defending national champ Michigan State on Dec. 16; interstate rival Indiana on Dec. 22; and intrastate rival Louisville, which has proven tough for Tubby to topple, on Jan. 2. (And also don't forget, UK faced St. John's and UCLA in November.)

UNC, GT, MSU, IU, and UL are tough enough stuff in their own rights. But slap an "at" in front of all those initials, and you've got a major pain in the bas(s)-ketball. That's right sports fans, Kentucky plays all these games away from Rupp.

Granted, the game against Indiana is at Freedom Hall, a "neutral" site.

But still.

The Cats travel to Chapel Hill, Atlanta, East Lansing, Louisville and Louisville - all onerous places all in one month.

Very good.

You may strongly disagree. Even whine.

But before you start blaming new athletic director Larry Ivy for setting such a strenuous slate in his first season, know that schedules are set far in advance. So fault C.M. Newton if you must. But please don't forget to also thank wise ole C.M. at year's end, because this stretch will be the best thing possible for Kentucky.

The Cats are so young they're kittens. The Wildcat mascot suit probably has sweat stains in it older than half the team. Heck, the 2000 roster has more Fs on it than Mao Tse-tung's report card from finishing school.

Freshmen: 7 (six trues and one red-shirt); Sophomores: 2; Juniors: 2; Senior(s): 1. You get the point.

Sure, the kids are nice players. You could conceivably start all frosh - Fitch/Hawkins in the back court and Parker/Daniels/Estill up front - and feel pretty good about yourself. But say, when's the last time a 5-pack of freshmen finished first in the Final Four? Let's see, NEVER maybe?

Way back in the 90s, Michigan came closest with Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jawan Howard and those other two other fellahs who don't play in the NBA now. The Fab Five, those guys.

Well, UK's freshmen are quite gifted too. But not Fab-ish. Yet.

And they are far from experienced (and same can consequently be said of UK's team as a whole, since it is mostly a mess o' freshmen).

Several coaches today will tell you that they'd rather have talent on their teams than experience. This is truth, not merely propaganda to boost the collective egos of their younger players. Because, in their elemental forms, neither talent nor experience can be taught by coaches; however, experience can be developed by exposing a player to different situations, opponents, and learning tools over time whereas talent cannot.

In other words, getting a player experience is the responsibility of the coach. Getting a player talent is the responsibility of the player's chromosomes.

Nevertheless, although talent wins games, experience wins championships. This is what several coaches from yesteryear will tell you. And they're right.

For a real-life example, you needn't turn farther than 2000's freshly buried football Wildcats. Last year, less talent (more experience), and a bowl game - a championship of sorts. This year, more talent (less experience), and an early start to off-season conditioning (Nov. 27).

And you know, a football team goes much of the way of its quarterback. That is, a quarterback is often a microcosm of his team and vice versa. Bonner, in 1999, was arguably experienced but could not toss a 70-yard pass (not his fault); he finished the year 6-6. Lorenzen, in 2000, arguably could toss a 70-yard pass but was inexperienced (also, not his fault); he finished 2-9 - beating only a single Division I team, and barely.

The moral, then, that UK basketball can indirectly take away from this football fable: To get a good team, get good players and play other good teams.

Rest assured. Tubby and friends have done the first part of this and are in the middle of doing the second part.

You will be glad. For these next few away games should be exciting and the results rewarding, win or lose.

Forget all those traditionalists who want the Cats to play teams like Northeast South Dakota State A&M every season in order to pad Kentucky's margin as the winningest program in history. Those days are done because those types of teams don't offer any ROI - return on investment. But don't worry for the Cats' sanity, because the boys will have two home games in this murderous stretch. They'll get to snack on Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 5 and High Point on Dec. 27 - two crumb cake opponents that shouldn't offer enough competition to make even cupcake status.

Of course, that's what people said about Penn State. Swallow, choke. Got milk?


Prediction #1: Though it defeated UNC away, Kentucky still loses to at Tech, State, and UL. The IU game's a wash.

#1a: Because of its schedule, the team grows up fast and wins the SEC.

Prediction #2: Kentucky, all told, wins "only" 16 games in the regular season.

#2a: Because of its schedule, the team is seasoned and makes the Sweet 16.

All (#1a, #2, #2a) very good.

Of course, you may disagree.

Even whine.


You go girl

GO Women, Inc. (Greater Opportunities for Women) is hosting a reception 5 pm, December 14 at Ashland, the Henry Clay estate. Guests will have an opportunity to meet "graduates" of the program and hear their success stories.

Websites offer key information

Been receiving those warm fuzzy letters from the IRS asking you politely to pay up? Well, the Courier Journal is offering a link on their website (www.courierjournal/business/irs-ky) that lists persons that the IRS is looking for that are owed a refund. That's right, they owe YOU! No one on staff was listed, but KY and Indiana residents should try their luck. Or, in a different direction, the state Department of Corrections has announced their new KOOL (KY Offender Online Lookup) link, a database that has information on current residents of our state prison system ( The website covers public and private prisons, halfway houses, and county jails. Although the department points out that crime victims already have access to criminal records at county courthouses, this website will be more convenient and easily updateable. People seeking records on past inmates will still have to research the old fashioned way.

Save it till the morning after

The American Medical Association approved a resolution Dec. 5, asking the government to consider making the "morning-after" contraceptive available without a prescription. Different from RU-486, the morning-after pill prevents ovulation (or if it has already occurred, blocks implantation of a fertilized egg) if taken within three days of sexual intercourse. Often used in cases of rape, the AMA's council suggested that women might not be able to get the pills in time to prevent a pregnancy unless they were available over the counter. Opposition from pro-life groups and the Vatican stem from a consideration that the pill could be a form of abortion, since an egg could have been fertilized (but NOT implanted in the uterus) by the time of use. (Retail giant Wal-Mart has previously announced that it will not sell the pill in any of its pharmacies.) The decision was hailed as a positive development by Planned Parenthood representative, Joan Coombs (senior vice-president), who estimates that widespread use of the pill could annually prevent 1.7 million unplanned pregnancies and 800,000 abortions. The AMA has sent its recommendation to the full House of Delegates, their policy-making arm.-PS