Most Recent Posts
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands obstacles, challenges at UK but “we’re going to play to win”
- Former UK great Jeff Sheppard excited about recruiting class, but says fans should remember players are young
- Kentucky fans even took time to throw up the “3 goggles” in the Alps
- Signee Marcus Lee says Kentucky “will refuse to lose next year”
- Even UK football coach Mark Stoops did not expect this much fan support at Kentucky
- Video: UK softball coach Rachel Lawson previews the Super Regional clash against Arizona State
- ESPN.com’s Jason King seems to have logical rankings going into next season
- Mark Stoops on John Calipari: “I love being around him”
Sometimes you have to believe that other college basketball coaches wish that Kentucky’s John Calipari would just take a break from the recruiting trail. Instead, last season’s NIT fiasco seems to have inspired him even more.
Now Calipari is hot on the trail of five-star shooting guard Devon Booker, a 6-4 player from Moss Point High School in Mississippi — and that means UK assistant coach Kenny Payne’s Mississippi roots and ties could play a big part in this recruitment.
Booker is considered the third-best shooting guard in the nation by Scout.com and the 19th-best player in the 2014 class by ESPN.com. He already had offers from Michigan, North Carolina, Duke, Florida and Missouri before Calipari added a UK offer.
Booker seems to be Michigan’s No. 1 prospect in the 2014 class as coach John Beilein, fresh off his Final Four appearance, is watching him a lot. And Booker is originally from Grand Rapids, Mich. Beilein, as well as assistants Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan, all watched Booker play last season.
Booker was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and now Calipari has made UK’s interest official knowing that one or both Harrison twins could likely be one-and-done players and the Cats will need to restructure their backcourt in 2014-15.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fans thought Wichita State junior guard Nick Wiggins was a wise man last summer when he said he thought Kentucky was the best spot for his brother, Andrew Wiggins. But now Nick Wiggins is rethinking where his brother, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, should go.
“I think both my parents would like him to go to Florida State University because that’s where my mom and my dad attended school so it would be pretty amazing to see him do that and I believe they would be happy with that decision,” Nick Wiggins told SNY.tv during an exclusive interview in at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Friday where the Shockers were preparing to play Louisville today in the Final Four. “But I mean they would also be happy with anywhere that he goes to school.”
Andrew Wiggins is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Florida State and North Carolina. He said during the McDonald’s All-American Game he was not ready to make his college choice and might wait until May. His brother hopes he does it in the next “two week to three weeks” and would like to see make his announcement in an ESPN event like other top recruits have done even though he knows that likely won’t happen because of his brother’s personality.
Nick Wiggins told SNY.tv that with the loaded recruiting class UK already has, Kentucky might not be the best place for his brother “to go and shine like he wanted to” but did emphasize that was his opinion and not coming from his brother. At the McDonald’s Game, Andrew Wiggins seem to at least be considering just the opposite. “If I went to that team (Kentucky), we’d win it all, for sure, because there’s nothing anyone can do with me, Julius [Randle], the Harrison twins, Marcus Lee, Dakari [Johnson] and James Young,” Andrew said. ”That’s something special.”
Vaught’s note: Okay, we all knew the Louisville-Duke game today was going to be full of 1992 storylines and UK fans are going to see that Christian Laettner game-winning shot all afternoon today as Duke and Louisville battle for a Final Fourth berth. But who do you want to win? Are you pulling for the Cards? Are you pulling for Duke? Will you be for either team?
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino are finally doing an encore. For the first time since their teams played perhaps the greatest game in the history of the NCAA tournament, Krzyzewski and Pitino will meet in the NCAA tournament Sunday when top-seeded Louisville faces Duke. In the regional finals, no less.
Never mind that few of their current players were even born in 1992. Or that Pitino is no longer at Kentucky, having switched sides in the state’s civil war after his brief trip to Boston and the NBA ended badly. Krzyzewski and Pitino are forever linked by that one game in Philadelphia, immortalized by Christian Laettner’s improbable shot.
DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - A’dia Mathies followed up the worst game of her career with one of her best.
Mathies matched her career high with 34 points and lead second-seeded Kentucky to an 84-70 win over seventh-seeded Dayton on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament.
The Wildcats (29-5) will face Delaware in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional on Saturday.
With Kentucky clinging to a 46-44 advantage early in the second half, Mathies scored 10 points during a 16-3 run to help the Wildcats take control of the game.
The two-time SEC player of the year hit two 3-pointers, including one to cap the burst and make it 62-47. She didn’t hit a field goal in the first round win over Navy. She made 13 of 17 against Dayton.
Andrea Hoover scored 22 points to lead the Flyers (28-3), who got no closer than eight the rest of the way to end the best season in school history.
One of the best seasons for Kentucky will continue in Bridgeport. The Wildcats have the most wins in school history and have reached the regional semifinals for the third time in the past four seasons.
Coach Matthew Mitchell is building a tradition at a school rich in men’s basketball history.
“We have the goal of becoming the best program in the country,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are making a lot of progress.”
Dayton got off to a strong start, hitting its first seven shots and were tied 14-14 with Kentucky before the Wildcats turned up their pressure. They went on a 12-0 run over the next 5 minutes to take a 26-14 advantage. Mathies hit two 3-pointers during the burst. The Flyers had four turnovers in that stretch.
Kentucky led 38-22 with 3:12 left and looked like they were about to blow the game open but went cold from the field and started fouling Dayton.
The Flyers closed the half on a 9-2 run hitting all six free throws they attempted to trail 40-31 at the break.
Hoover hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cap the burst. It was the Flyers first 3 of the game. They hit 10 in the opening-round 96-90 double-overtime win over St. John’s.
Dayton kept it going to start the second half and closed to 46-44. The Flyers only had one turnover during their run to bridge the halves after committing 14 in first 15 minutes.
Unfortunately the Wildcats’ “40 minutes of dread” wore down Dayton as the team had five turnovers during Kentucky’s burst that blew open the game.
The loss ended a spectacular season for Dayton. The Flyers won an NCAA tournament game for the second time in school history. They also won their first Atlantic 10 regular-season title before falling to Saint Joseph’s in the conference tournament semifinals. The team also surpassed the school record for wins.
Not bad for a squad that lost a lot to graduation last year and has the sixth youngest roster in the country.
Kentucky forward Samarie Walker had to briefly leave the game in the first half after throwing up in the corner. She has been battling a flu which has been running through the Wildcats. She returned a few minutes later wearing a fresh jersey.
KENTUCKY 84, DAYTON 70
DAYTON (28-3): Malott 3-9 4-4 10, Sant 5-7 3-4 13, Deane 3-6 3-5 9, MacKay 4-5 2-2 12, Hoover 6-11 8-10 22, Applewhite 0-6 2-3 2, Austria 0-2 2-2 2, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 24-30 70.
KENTUCKY (29-5): Walker 3-4 0-0 6, Stallworth 6-10 2-2 14, O’Neill 2-12 5-7 11, Mathies 13-17 2-4 34, Evans 0-2 0-0 0, Thompson 1-3 0-0 2, Pinkett 0-2 0-0 0, Sidney 2-4 0-0 4, Goss 4-13 3-3 11, Henderson 1-1 0-0 2, Bishop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-68 12-16 84.
Halftime_Kentucky 40-31. 3-Point Goals_Dayton 4-13 (MacKay 2-2, Hoover 2-4, Applewhite 0-1, Sant 0-1, Austria 0-1, Deane 0-1, Malott 0-3), Kentucky 8-24 (Mathies 6-7, O’Neill 2-8, Sidney 0-1, Evans 0-1, Pinkett 0-2, Goss 0-5). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Dayton 32 (Malott 8), Kentucky 34 (Walker 7). Assists_Dayton 12 (Malott 5), Kentucky 12 (O’Neill 5). Total Fouls_Dayton 15, Kentucky 23. A_1,144.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin was often UK’s best player, and often its most perplexing.
He led UK in scoring a team-high12 times, but also led the team in assists 12 times. He finished the season averaging a team-high 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Goodwin also got to the foul line 212 times — 80 more than any other UK player.
But he also had a team-high 101 turnovers and shot 44 percent from the field and just 26 percent from 3-point range.
Kentucky coach John Calipari told him “I cannot coach you” during a 30-point loss at Tennessee, but praised him for his spirited play and often put the ball in his hands when UK had to create a shot.
“I just want to win so bad that sometimes I just feel that I can try to put a team on my back and maybe other guys will follow suit and it will pick up other guys but sometimes it didn’t work out like that. I think at times I tried to do too much,” said Goodwin after Tuesday’s NIT loss at Robert Morris. “I’ve tried to do all I can, but we just didn’t win enough.
“I am a competitor. For us to wear this Kentucky across our chest and play like we did this year, it is an embarrassment. To represent this university like we did is really unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
So why did UK lose four of its last five games, miss the NCAA Tournament and not come close to reaching preseason expectations?
“Just got guys who don’t compete. Sometimes a lot of excuses are made. If we take away that and the non-competers, things happen for us,” Goodwin, who said after Tuesday’s loss that he knew he wasn’t prepared for the NBA and UK’s other freshmen were not either, said. “We have some guys on our team that have all the talent but kind of play for themselves and that hurts them as opposed to others on our team who don’t have as much talent or athleticism but work hard and outshine the other ones because they work hard. If we could justs cancel that out, we would not be a bad team but it’s too late now.”
Goodwin had 18 points Tuesday, including eight straight UK points in one second-half stretch.
“I just didn’t want our season to end. We have had a bumpy road, but this was our chance to show we deserved a spot (in the NCAA Tournament). But we just couldn’t do it with the way we played.”
Even though he proclaimed he was not ready for the NBA despite some draft projections that have him as a mid-first round pick, he says he’s a better player now than he was when the season started.
“I definitely think I am better. I learned a lot from this coaching staff and from playing with these guys,” Goodwin said. “I came in and got stronger. I became a better player all-around. That is from me working hard and working with the coaches each and every day to try and improve on everything I could.”
He said he didn’t know if fans felt he improved or understand the passion he had for winning that sometimes may have led him to mistakes from trying to do too much.
“Fans, regardless of who it is, are going to have negative stuff to say and me personally I don’t pay attention to it. They are not feeding me, they are not the people that I talk to every day,” Goodwin said. “They are not my coach. So their opinion does not really offend me knowing how they feel about me.
“At the end of the day I am still going to live, I am still getting an education and I am still playing and living out my dream. There is nothing they can tell me that is going to hurt my feelings.”
By Keith Taylor, The Winchester Sun
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Kentucky took a punch early and was rattled from the beginning.
It was the same ending Kentucky experienced in its last outing, but this one concluded the team’s season following a 59-57 loss to Robert Morris Tuesday night in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament. Unlike the loss to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last week in Nashville, Kentucky fought back, only to come up short down the stretch.
Although not given the opportunity to defend their national title, the Wildcats got a second chance as the top seed in the NIT and failed to get past the first round against the upset-minded Colonials.
Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein said the loss wasn’t because of a lack of effort and added the Wildcats failed to shove back after Robert Morris made it known they weren’t going to back down from the defending national champions during the first five minutes.
“It wasn’t like we weren’t playing hard,” Cauley-Stein said. “They had a game plan and they executed it – to get up in us, speed us up and muscle us. The did that the first couple of minutes and they got up on us and it was like we played catch up from there.”
Robert Morris scored the first 10 points and even claimed a 13-point advantage with 8:59 remaining, but Kentucky regrouped and made a late run down the stretch.
“We had the game, but if we eliminate two more turnovers after we got up on them, but (couldn’t stay composed),” he said. “It’s been that way all season. When we see pressure, we use our athleticism and try to get past (traps) with that and try to use our strength, but half of us haven’t figure that out yet.”
Kentucky rallied only to come up short against the Colonials, who got a boost from a fan base that stormed the court after the final buzzer after the hosts secured one of their biggest victories in school history.
“Their crowd was unbelievable,” Cauley-Stein said. “I give kudos to the crowd. That was by far craziest environment I have played in this year because they were so much closer to us. They had the whole side (of the court). In a bigger arena, it doesn’t seem like there are that many (fans), but they packed it in and they were on top of us. It was very loud.”
Just as road losses at Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia affected the Cats during the regular season, the team failed to tune out the noise playing in front of the smallest crowd of the season.
“You really didn’t any attention to it unless there was a dead ball or coming out of a timeout,” Cauley-Stein said. “It was the environment that you have to learn to play in. It was a really good environment.”
Cauley-Stein was disappointed, but not surprised by the final outcome.
“We knew if we didn’t come into this game and fight, we were going to lose,” Cauley-Stein said. “We didn’t fight in the beginning and we put ourselves into hole and had to dig ourselves out. In the second half, we fought our butts off, but it wasn’t enough.”
Cauley-Steinsaid following last year’s team proved to be a harder task than anticipated at the beginning of the season. Cauley-Stein said the team highlights included wins over Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss in the conference but added that losing in the opening round of the NIT doesn’t sit well with the school’s fan base. Kentucky lost four of its first five games to end the season.
“For us, we’re bunch a ragbag kids,” he said. “Me and Julius (Mays) were talking about that today. We’re a bunch of random kids that got thrown into a situation. We won 21 games, beat three Top 10 teams and all-in-all it was a good season if you look at it like that. On the outside looking in, you see Kentucky and all that hoopla, history and stuff like that, it’s just not acceptable.”
By RICHARD CHEEKS
On Tuesday, February 12, the Kentucky Wildcats were not a team on the same level as Coach Calipari’s first team (Elite 8 Losers to West Virginia) that finished 35-3 and #3 in Pomeroy. No one with a clear head would have argued that this team had matured into a team comparable to Coach Calipari’s previous team that finished 38-2, #1 in Pomeroy, and as National Champions. Many people longed to compare this team to the 2010-11 group that stumbled their way through the majority of the SEC season, but finished as winners of the SEC Tournament, and taking UK back to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.
The numbers did not provide a great comparison of this team with 2011, but some people continued to argue that his team was at least similar to the 2011 team. That team ended the season #6 in Pomeroy, and lost in the NCAA Final Four to eventual Champion Connecticut. A closer examination, a closer comparison to the 2011 team lends some support to the argument that this team, as of February 12, could at the least, hold its place in such a discussion about their 2010-11 cousins in Pomeroy and was riding a season high five game win streak on its trip to Gainesville.
Despite their up and down season to that point, they held a 17-6; 8-2 record, and there was an argument that could be made that this team would legitimately return to a top 10 Pomeroy rating now that they appeared to solve their main team issues. The 2012-13 disappointment was deep as the team carried their 5 game win streak to Gainesville, and this disappointment was anchored in home losses to Baylor and Texas A&M, more than the 8-2 SEC record prior to that Florida trip. However, this disappointment was also framed by the 2011-12 national championship that occurred on the heels of an Elite Eight and Final Four finish the first two seasons. The fans held tight to a general belief that #18 Pomeroy rating was an overstatement of the team’s first 23 games. However, the efficiency of the team, not the W-L record or the disappointing pair of embarrassing home losses was solid at #18 despite the general pessimism that permeated the Big Blue Nation in early February.
In 2010-11, with 8 SEC games remaining, the Cats stood at 16-6; 4-4 following a disappointing road swing through Mississippi and Florida that produced a pair of 2 point losses. That team entered the next game, against Tennessee at Rupp, with a #7 Pomeroy rating. Most fans at that point did not believe the #7 rating, and argued that the Cats were not a top 10 team at that point. This disappointment was anchored in the 4-4 SEC record was couched by the 2009-10 instant success of the Calipari debut season, thus the general belief that #7 was an overstatement of the team’s rank after 22 games. However, the efficiency of the team, not the W-L record, was solid, much more so than the 16—6 record appeared to the average Big Blue Fan.
The above summary of comparisons of 2013 and 2011 has a much stronger subjective tone than this objective analyst prefers, and old habits do die hard. After 22 games in 2011, the Cats had an offensive efficiency of 1.125 points per possession (ppp) and a defensive efficiency of 0.914 ppp. That produces a Net Game Efficiency of 0.211 ppp against a difficult schedule, 0.6995 per Pomeroy at the time. This team, through 23 games, had an offensive efficiency of 1.079 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 0.922 ppp. That is a Net Game Efficiency of 0.158 ppp against a schedule strength through Florida this year of 0.6209 per Pomeroy. Yes, this team was not as strong as 2010-11, but the #18 rating was not a #7 rating either, and the relative strengths of each team to the competitive fields in those seasons fully justify the #7 and #18 ratings.
The key comparison is what happened with each of these teams over the remainder of the seasons. The 2010-11 team changed for the better. It finished the year with 9-2 through the SEC tournament, and won the SEC Tournament before advancing to the NCAA Final Four where their season ended, in disappointment, to Connecticut. The 2012-13 team changed, not for the better. It has finished the year with 4-4 record through the SEC Tournament, losing in its first appearance to a weak Vanderbilt team. This team is now only able to dream of an opportunity to appear in an NCAA game, and no one believes this team could pose a serious risk to that field of opponents.
The objective measures of these respective finishes drive the point home. After the 24th game in 2011, the Cats had an offensive efficiency of 1.132 points per possession (ppp) and a defensive efficiency of 1.012 ppp. That produces a Net Game Efficiency of 0.121 ppp against an imposing closing schedule, 0.8656 estimated average Pomeroy. This team, after the 23rd game, had an offensive efficiency of 1.040 ppp and a defensive efficiency of 1.059 ppp. That is a Net Game Efficiency of -0.019 ppp against a more difficult, but less imposing closing schedule, 0.7841 estimated average Pomeroy. This team folded its tents and mailed in the finish while the 2010-11 team learned how to win those close games away from Rupp. The 2010-11 team finished as final four participant, a #4 Pomeroy season ending rating, and defeated the consensus #1 team, Ohio State in the big dance in the process. This team finished a one and done team in a weak SEC tournament field and a #45 Pomeroy rating.
All of this begs the question: Did fans have an objective basis for their pre-game 24 optimistic outlook (hope) for this team, or has this finish been simply a logical extension of their effort and results through 24 games?
I have never seen the loss of a single player impact a team as significantly as the loss of Nerlens Noel in game 24 affected this team. The closest comparisons in my UK history are the 1997 loss of Derek Anderson, the 1970 loss (off season) of Mike Casey), and the 2003 loss (in Tournament) of Keith Bogans. But, when Nerlens Noel went down in Gainesville, his loss seemed to rip the heart and the soul out of this team. Short of an all out press by Coach Calipari and his staff to boost the mood of the team, post Nerlens Noel, this team lacked the will to finish the season without their best player.
Let’s call it, The Nerlens Noel Affect.
By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari said he would have been more “patient” if he knew he would have all the current players for four years. Instead, four freshmen — Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein — have been projected as potential NBA lottery picks at times during the season.
“This may be a group of four-year players. There’s nothing wrong with that. Why is everybody panicked? So they’re four-year players? So? You move, you get another group and now you have a nice big team and you take on the world,” Calipari said.
Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt Friday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament to cost itself a NCAA bid and hit what Calipari called “rock bottom” for the season. By playing in the NIT, though, he says he has time to work more with the players.
“We’ve got a bunch of young guys. Keep coaching them and maybe the light goes on. Maybe reality hits. When you hit rock bottom, you either want to change or you’re delusional. We’ll see if we have delusional guys or if they understand,” Calipari said.
Kentucky has gone 4-4 since Nerlens Noel, its best player, went down with a season-ending knee injury. All four losses were on the road by 10 or more points. However, before that UK lost home games to Baylor and Texas A&M and blew a big lead to lose at Alabama.
“One thing is I have no regrets because I tried everything. Humbling because it’s probably the first group in a long time that wouldn’t respond and change, which means to say well it’s going to happen every year because it happened eight straight years, now it’s like think back to that year because it didn’t happen,” Calipari said.
“Again, learned a lot of lessons that our staff has taken into account as we go forward. What kind of team we have, what kind of personnel we have, what kind of mentalities we have, the guys we’ve always had in the past. It’s a great learning experience. Hate going through it. I would rather learn from someone else’s issues than my own. This was hard. I feel good but it was hard going through it. We never stopped coaching them, we never gave up on guys, so I have no regrets with what we did, yet just disappointed that the response wasn’t there.”
The UK coach even said there was no “anxiety” for him with this team because of its inconsistency.
“There’s no anxiety with this team for me cause why am I worried about it? Cause I have no idea what’s going to show,” Calipari said. “I’m going to say it again, at any point in your life you can change. Start today. Start today at practice, the game tomorrow, and go forward and change.
“Wishful thinking cause I’ve been saying it every day and we haven’t, but that’s my hope and I won’t change off of that. This team can be as good as they want to be. We could have backed into the tournament. We didn’t. No we’ve got to go on the road and play, which is a good thing for us. Do you want to keep the season going? Let’s go, keep it going.”
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut is looking at this NCAA tournament as a chance for redemption. The third-ranked Huskies, who lost both the Big East regular-season and tournament titles to Notre Dame, received the top seed in the Bridgeport Regional and will face 16th-seeded Idaho (17-15) from the Western Athletic Conference in the first round on Saturday.
(visit wildcathoops.com for a bracket)
The Huskies are again on the same side of the bracket with Notre Dame, setting up a possible third straight meeting in the national semifinals. The Irish have won the previous two and have beaten UConn seven of the last eight times the two teams have played, including all three meetings this season. The Huskies (29-4), who are making their 25th consecutive tournament appearance, are looking for a record sixth consecutive trip to the Final Four and an eighth national title. But coach Geno Auriemma said he feels UConn can’t be considered a favorite.
UConn will host the first two rounds at Gampel Pavilion, and is looking at a second-round matchup with either No. 8 seed Vanderbilt (20-11) or St. Joseph’s (23-8). Should the Huskies advance, they would play the next two rounds about 80 miles from campus in Bridgeport.
The second seed in the Bridgeport Regional is Kentucky (27-5), a team UConn beat in last year’s regional final. Kentucky plays Navy (21-11) in Queens, N.Y. Sunday at 12:05 p.m. followed by Dayton (27-2) vs. St. John’s (18-12). The winners will play Tuesday.
The No. 9 seed, St. Joseph’s, upset Dayton in the Atlantic 10 semifinals before beating Fordham by a point in the conference title game. The Hawks will face a Vanderbilt team that lost to Kentucky in the SEC tournament, but got star player Christina Foggie back from injury late in the season.
The region’s No. 3 seed is North Carolina (28-6), which lost to Duke in the ACC championship game. Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell earned her 900th career victory this season, joining a list that includes only Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and C. Vivian Stringer.
The No. 4 seed in the region is Maryland (24-7), which will play a home game against another team from Connecticut, Quinnipiac. The Bobcats, champions of the Northeast Conference, have won 22 in a row. And at 30-2, they are making the program’s first ever tournament trip.
No. 5 seed Michigan State takes on Marist, while the region’s No. 6 seed is Delaware, which also has ties to Connecticut. All-American forward Elena Della Donne originally committed to UConn and actually spent a day on campus before deciding Connecticut was not for her.
By LARRY VAUGHT
When University of Kentucky athletics officials told coach John Calipari a few weeks ago that if his team did not make the NCAA Tournament UK could not host a NIT game, the coach said he “absolutely” still wanted to play. Kentucky did stumble and now will open in the NIT Tuesday night when it plays at Robert Morris because UK officials have a conflict hosting the NCAA Tournament games in Rupp Arena Thursday and Saturday that prevented UK from being able to host Robert Morris at Memorial Coliseum.
“We’re not above all the rest of the world. If this is what we deserve then we’re going to go play and see what we do,” said Calipari Monday on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “But as far as playing at Robert Morris, no, but sometimes the committee says, ‘Hey, Cal is from Pittsburgh so it’ll be a good story.’ But you don’t know.
“But I will tell you I didn’t (have anything to do with it). If I did have something to do with it, I would have said let’s play Robert Morris at their place; it’ll be a great thing for them and hopefully it’ll be a terrific game.”
Calipari grew up near the Robert Morris campus on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
“I knew we would have to be on the road. I’m happy it’s Robert Morris, a place I have ties to, that I think have good people and a great program. We’re able to help that program by playing the game,” Calipari said. “Now, we’re going to have to go play. They’re a good basketball team. They’re tough. They shoot 3’s. They (make) nine 3’s a game. They’re in the top five or six in the country in both 3-point field-goal percentage and makes and steals. They’ve done a great job.”
Calipari knows while UK fans might not be excited about this game, the mood is different at Robert Morris for the ESPN game.
“I heard their students were lined up at 6 this morning for those tickets. I’ve had people calling me, ‘We can’t get tickets. Do you have tickets?’ I’ve got 10 tickets. I don’t have 100 tickets. So I think it’s going to be a tough ticket to get. If we were to do this, if Kentucky had to go somewhere to help a program, I would want it to be Robert Morris,” the Kentucky coach said.
Calipari knows UK fans are disappointed, but he tried to be realistic about his 21-11 team Monday that cost itself a chance to be back in the NCAA with a SEC Tournament loss to Vanderbilt Friday.
“Look, we’re coming off a national title. We lost six players. We had our best player (Nerlens Noel) injured. We were hoping to limp into the NCAA Tournament. We beat Florida and Missouri at the end of the year, but that wasn’t to be,” Calipari said. “If we beat Vanderbilt and we didn’t get in I would have been very upset and very vocal, but by losing to Vandy we put it in the committee’s hands and they made a choice.
“All those teams were about the same, and they chose not us. I’m not saying anything about it. We’re in this position because of us, because of fate with Nerlens, and now let’s see what we want to do. Do we want to play? Do we want to have pride? Do we want to go forward and learn? We’ve got a young team. Let’s use this as an experience. Or do we want to let go of the rope. We’re going to find out real quick on Tuesday.”
“We’re going to find out where they are. I thought we played great (leading up to) Vandy. We had great practices and then we went out tentative. We went out — I don’t want to use the term scared; I don’t know the other terms I can use for it — but we didn’t have any fight, no fire, no pride. All of a sudden you’re looking at a game like, ‘What is going on here?’
“And so this team has done that a few times this year, but there are other times against Florida, Missouri, Mississippi on the road where they competed their brains out. Now we’re in that position, let’s compete and let’s see what happens.”
Only three SEC teams — Florida, Missouri and Mississippi — made the NCAA field.
“First of all, for some reason there was an impression that the SEC was down. We had nine teams in the top 100. The only league that had more than that in the BCS was the Big East, and they had more teams than us and they had 11 teams in the top 100,” Calipari said. “The second thing, like a team like ours, the three teams that are going to the NCAA Tournament, we finished 3-1 against those teams.
“Tennessee, the things that they did. You had a team like Arkansas that at home was as good as anybody in the country. I don’t know their road woes, why they were that way, but at home they were as good as anybody in the country. Even the teams at the top, Missouri, Mississippi — and I thought Mississippi was one of our best teams all year; I thought they played well — and then Florida, we could have easily had a couple more teams in, but we were on that edge and I think a lot of things that hurt us were, ‘Oh, the league is down,’ and everyone keeps saying it.
“That’s why I tell the coaches, you’ve got to brag about each other. We’ve got to set that straight. You can’t let it go. It’s not us against each other. It’s us against the rest of the leagues, and sometimes we get caught up in our own thing, and that’s why I say you’ve got to brag about everybody. Let everybody know how good these other teams are.”