By LARRY VAUGHT
What concerns John Calipari the most about North Carolina?
Maybe everything based on what he said Thursday about playing the Tar Heels in Las Vegas on Saturday.
“They’re an unbelievable rebounding team. They’re fast. If you don’t run with them, then you’re giving up layups. They have skilled guys, both inside and outside. They can either play fast or slow and still beat you. They’ve been in close games, which tells you they’re not afraid,” Calipari said.
“Tennessee had a chance to beat them and they come back and win the game. They’re not going to get rattled. They’re a veteran team. Roy (Williams) is a hall of famer. It’ll be a hard game for us.”
Calipari almost sounded like he was trying to prepare UK fans for a Big Blue loss Saturday.
“I keep telling myself, folks, that this is a process and I have to keep staying in the moment. We can’t go life or death from game to game when you’re starting four freshmen. You just can’t do it. I get into the same mode as our fans like, ‘Oh my gosh. We lost.’ You’re not getting eaten. It’s a process,” Calipari said.
“We’ve had teams here lose nine and 10 games and get to the NCAA championship game – the NCAA final game. But, I didn’t remember the grind of that. I can just tell you that it’s tough because every game that we play is a big game for somebody. It needs to be a big game for us, and it’s hard because these kids aren’t machines. They’re not computers. It’s hard.”
One doesn’t have to have a computer to know that rebounding has been an issue for UK and will be crucial Saturday against a “big, physical” North Carolina team that pounds the glass.
” don’t believe a team can be good at everything. You’re not. As a coach, you decide what your strengths are and let’s become really good at those things and hide the things that we don’t do well. Their strength is that they can really get out and fly. Their other strength is that they’re really good in the post. They’re big and they fight for position. They try to have two feet in the lane or they seal you over the top,” Calipari said.
“The third thing is that when they shoot it – are you ready for this – half of their misses they rebound for the season. What would you do if you were them, all you Basketball Bennies out here? Are you worried about turning it over or shooting it? Basketball Bennies? You shoot it because half of those you’re going to get back when you miss. You’re either making them or you miss and half of those you get. That’s why they shoot it quickly is because they rebound it.”