LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- John Calipari's current Wildcats are trying to go where no other Kentucky team has gone.And if they heed his advice, they won't be going alone.
The Wildcats have been the top-ranked team in the country all season and were the unanimous choice again this week in the AP voting. They arrived in Knoxville ahead of Monday's snow storm and will be bidding for a 26-0 start against the Tennessee Volunteers Tuesday night.That would be a start not matched in UK's long, storied hoop history.
The coach has been through this before.He went 26-0 with one of his UMass teams and again at Memphis, but never beyond.Calipari said he handled it better the second time around.This time he's trying to avoid “putting his head in the sand”, as he says he did at UMass. If there's an issue he wants to talk about it.He wants to make sure he keeps demanding the best from his team each time out.And he wants this group relying on each other.
"These kids, I don't think they're worried about, 'Let's try to win every game.' They're worried about trying to win the next game and 'how do we play? My message to this team is going to be real simple today,” Cal shared on the weekly SEC Teleconference. “It's going to be, 'Our strength is in the pack more than any team that I've ever coached, and I've coached a lot of good teams.' More than any team I've coached the strength is in the pack. And I said, 'It doesn't mean we don't have some aggressive, tough wolves that will come after you.' But by themselves they're not the same.
"In the pack we have a little swag about us, we're a little more aggressive, we're really about each other, guys aren't afraid to step out and risk. This team, more than others – well when you have Anthony (Davis) or John (Wall) or DeMarcus (Cousins) or I could go back to Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose and Lou Roe and some of the guys we had, Tyreke Evens, we were a good team and we were efficient but we knew that one guy could go do this and carry us. That's not what we have. The strength of this team is in the pack."
The Wildcats are 12-0 in the SEC for the first time since the 2011-12 team went 16-0 in the league.Tennessee is 14-10 overall and 6-6 in league play, coming off a 73-55 defeat at home against LSU, a game in which they trailed 47-20 at halftime.Afterwards, first year coach and former Morehead State Head Coach Donnie Tyndall quipped that his team would lose by 100 against Kentucky if they didn't play better.He was asked about that during Monday's teleconference.
“Well, I've been a basketball fan since I was probably in the third or fourth grade,” said Tyndall.“It's been my entire life. So, I remember all the teams coming up from MichiganState and Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser to the Fab Five and Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony and Larry Johnson's teams at Vegas. I think it's arguably the most talented team to ever play in college basketball. I think that team with (Stacey) Augmon and Johnson and that group was probably my personal opinion the best team to ever play, but this team is certainly right there to be talked about.
“I wasn't exaggerating. If we don't play better than we did the first half against LSU, and LSU certainly deserves a lot of credit for how poorly we played, but that was the first time all year we didn't bring it in regards to competing. The second half we were better. But if we play like we did the first half it will be a long, long night for us.”
It's a 7:00 pm start at Thompson-Boling Arena.The Wildcats then host Auburn on Saturday at 7:00 pm.