CRAWFORD | Calipari hits pause, takes a thinking day as Kentucky - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Calipari hits pause, takes a thinking day as Kentucky prepares for postseason

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AP photo by James Crisp. AP photo by James Crisp.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Time to think is a rare commodity these days. You know what your life is like. I know what mine is like. Everybody has smartphones. Everybody gets Email, text messages.

I can't imagine what John Calipari's life is like. He's taping podcasts. He's writing another book. I don't know if the University of Kentucky basketball coach went into actual airplane mode on Sunday, but he did say he took some time in his office to just think.

Don't underestimate the value of such time.

The Wildcats finished the regular season with a record of 26-5. They are ranked in the Top 15 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They won their 48th Southeastern Conference regular season championship. They are ranked No. 8 in the final regular-season Associated Press Top 25, No. 5 by Sagarin, and No. 7 in the Ratings Percentage Index and the Pomeroy rankings.

But Calipari's first word in a teleconference on Monday were, "We're not quite where we want to be." He followed that shortly with, "There's something that's not quite right that we've got a few days to try to fix."

The Wildcats have been slow out of the blocks their past three games. They trailed Texas A&M 16-2 on Saturday. On Senior Night in Rupp Arena last Tuesday, they fell behind Vanderbilt 25-6. Three days earlier, they trailed Florida 18-6 at home. They came back to win all three games, but their 74.9-point average over their past seven games is nearly 12 below their season average.

It's not the end of the world. A double-digit deficit in the game's first 10 minutes is hardly a crisis, especially for a team with Kentucky's offensive weapons. But it's also not the start you'd choose -- and not the kind of start you want in the postseason, when momentum is magnified. It also isn't the look of a team hitting on all cylinders.

So Calipari shut his door and took some time to think about his team on Sunday.

"I spent three or four hours just in the office, thinking of, 'Where have we come from? Where are we going? . . . You know, what do we bring back and what do we talk about, and how (are) we trying to do this?' So, you know, I'm in a great space right now and I want my players in the same frame and same mindset that I'm in."

Calipari didn't say exactly what his thoughts were in that Sunday brainstorm. But taking a step back from your team and asking those big-picture questions can be useful. And Calipari has been pretty good at postseason tweaks, and at changing things up to give his team a fresh perspective in the postseason.

"(We) had a couple of practice days here to get some stuff tweaked and get us to have a little different mentality as we approach games," Calipari said. "But I'm loving the fact that this team has learned to fight, that they stuck together when things looked bleak, and they just kept going and had a will to win and all that stuff."

That should help if the Wildcats encounter adversity in the tournament. Over the next few days, however, Calipari will be working on a few things in practice to perhaps prevent them from having to do that.

"If you remember early in the season, no one knew our team, we didn't know our team, and we were so fast and scoring so quickly and getting shots so fast that everybody adjusted and made us have to grind it out," Calipari said. "And guess what? We've become a pretty good grind-it-out team. Then, all of a sudden, these teams came in and tried to get us early in the game, and played, like, out of their minds early in the game, and we were a little bit not on point ready for the onslaught. Doesn't mean we weren't ready to play. It just means we weren't ready for the onslaught that was coming at us, and that's happened for three games in a row, yet we found a way to win and fight and stick together.

"There's two things you have to do as a team. You have to learn to fight, and that every possession matters, and then you have to learn to stick together, you have to stick to the script. You cannot break off and just do your own thing, you can't do it, not when you get down. So we learned how we have to play for 40 minutes, we just haven't done it yet. We've done it 20 minutes. That's why I say, we've got work to do now. Where we are right now, I'm looking at it and saying OK we're going to tweak some stuff the next couple days. We've got some good stuff."

Kentucky begins SEC Tournament play at 1 p.m. Eastern on Friday against the winner of Wednesday night's game between Tennessee and Georgia.


Freshman guard Malik Monk was voted a second-team All-American by USA Today, The Sporting News and NBC Sports, while freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox was voted to the third team by USA Today.

The Sporting News is one of four “major” NCAA-recognized All-American teams that the NCAA uses for its consensus All-American teams. The other three are the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Monk became just the fourth freshman in SEC history to win the league's scoring title, averaging 21.2 points per game.

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