|UK coach John Calipari talks about Louisville|
By LARRY VAUGHT
The more Kentucky coach John Calipari watches Louisville, the more impressed he is. How impressed? Well, enough to say today that the Cards should be the odds-on favorite to win the national championship.
“I’ve watched tape and they are really good with really good players. That’s most of the tape, I’ve watched some with (Gorgui) Dieng, but I’ve watched a bunch without. The reason is, their guard play, I’ve been saying for years how much I love (Peyton) Siva. I saw him and Eric Bledsoe at the same time in the Louisville Classic and I said, ‘that kid is ridiculous.’ Russ Smith scores with anybody, (Wayne) Blackshear is a big guard who can shoot 3s but a big guard. (Chane) Behanan is a beast, best offensive rebounder we’ll play all year,” Calipari said.
Wait. There’s more.
“You’ve got (Luke) Hancock, you’ve got (Stephan) Van Treese and the other guy that all do their thing, what they’re supposed to do and then you’ve got this kid, (Montrezl) Harrell, who is playing 13 minutes a game because the team is that good. If he were playing 20-25 minutes a game he’d be a top-15 pick,” Calipari said. “He’s on a team that he can get 13 minutes so this is a great challenge for us.
“If you ask me, I would say what I’m seeing right now, you’re talking about a team that should be or is odds on favorite to win the whole thing. That’s how good I think they are.”
Calipari wouldn’t downplay that his team will be a big underdog against the No. 4 Cardinals Saturday in the KFC Yum Center.
“Look, here’s what it is for us going into the game. We all know we have to see some improvement. This is a game that if you physically can’t withstand this game then it’s going to show because they are physical, they’re coming after you that way. We’ve got to be able to fight and battle for 40 minutes, be strong with the ball, make sure you’re getting open, those kinds of things,” Calipari said. “The score will take care of itself for us. This thing is, alright let’s battle, let’s go after it, let’s see what we’ve worked on. Yesterday we had a terrific practice but, you know, see how we do today and then we get on the bus and go down.”
Could being a big underdog work to his team’s advantage?
“I’ve got all young kids so you have no idea. I mean I go in game-to-game saying, ‘I wonder what’s happening here,’ trying different lineups, doing different things trying to figure out my team,” Calipari said. “They are, again, a Final Four team with everybody returning, a healthy Blackshear, a Harrell added to the team, that just took them another notch. They are a well-oiled machine; we are a work in progress. I still like my team, I like that they’re working hard, they’re getting better, I’m feeling more comfortable, yet really a work in progress.”