LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As he does each year, Kentucky coach John Calipari invited local news outlets to his home to watch the NCAA's selection show with his players.
And as he does each year, Calipari heard his team's draw and shook his head. The Wildcats, No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, won't play in Columbus or Louisville, but instead face a first-round NCAA game against Abilene Christian and then get the winner of Wofford and Seton Hall.
The winner of that pod heads to Kansas City, where North Carolina also would go if it advances.
After the show, Calipari met with reporters. The following is a transcript of his comments, with questions paraphrased:
Q: What did you think about your draw?
CALIPARI: It’s fine. I mean I thought that there was a chance we play in Louisville. I thought it was slim, but it was none. None! Not happening, but that’s fine. I mean this thing has a lot of good teams. The teams in our little corner of the bracket, one beat us, the other team is the team you knew. Then, Abilene Christian I don’t know much about, but if they are in my guess is that they shoot threes. Which means if they make 20, we lose in the first round. I mean at this time of the year it’s one and done. Look, we’ve used the year to prepare these kids for this tournament and the stuff that we just went through where you have your chances, a couple of things happen out of your control, a couple of things happen in your control. Then all of the sudden, you drop a game. What a great lesson going in. I remember 2012, we were up with four to five minutes to go, and then we let go of the rope and lost. That was the best thing that happened in 2012. So, we’ll see.
Q: What do you think about playing in Kansas City?
CALIPARI: I haven’t even looked so I don’t know, you’re telling me stuff. Look, every team right now, it’s who’s hot, who’s fresh. You have some teams that are beat up a little bit. You are just trying to survive game after game. These kids are so young, I told them to stop watching games because you don’t need anything other than what you have at hand. You have to have that free mind and any anxiety you have watching games is stupid and wasted. Teams that you may think you will play end up getting beat. Stay in the moment. Last year we had a heck of a run, the year before we had a heck of a run. Both games we had a chance of winning and advancing. It came down to the last play or two. The way Nick (Richards) and EJ (Montgomery) played in the first half, first half! Immanuel (Quickley) has gotten better. Jamarl (Baker Jr.) didn’t have a chance, but I told him you’re going to have a chance in this tournament. The main reason is, I know I can put him in because he can defend. He’s engaged with our team defensively. I said you get in the game and do something. It’s crazy, all of a sudden people will be talking about you. But, you need to be ready.
Q: Did the loss to Tennessee teach your team some lessons?
CALIPARI: Hopefully Reid (Travis) doesn’t get three tough foul calls. All three of them were really tough foul calls which took him out of the game. He would’ve been in that game and I imagine he would’ve got that ball. But it’s the other guys, like you’ve got to fight. It’s a dog fight and you have to give them credit. They kept giving him foul shots, but guess what? They kept making them. Then that kid makes the corner three, (Grant) Williams, it shows how mentally tough he is, not just physically. Throwing his body, flopping all over the place, getting fouls called, charges were blocks but it didn’t matter because he made foul shots and he made that three in the corner. We had a couple of turnovers that were, you know. I even told them when I look at the stats, I can’t believe we lost that game. I’ll watch the tape but if you look at the stat line, how in the world did we lose that? And until you had a charge called, a walk called, a step out of bounds… who stepped out? Did our guys step out, did their guy step out? Those three turnovers put us at 11, we had eight turnovers against that team? Come on. That’s why I said I feel good going in, let’s go let’s play the games. Not even unhappy we’re playing on Thursday because we didn’t play this afternoon so let’s play on Thursday.
Q: How do you feel about playing a team "on edge?"
CALIPARI: Everybody’s going to have an edge. Everybody’s playing for their life and survival. Can a team go back to their training? You can’t play up to the tournament. You know why? Because you can do that in 15 minutes. You can’t play up to the opponent because you can do that for 15 minutes. You have to play to your training, you play to your conditioning. And that you can do for 40 minutes and if you can play for 40 minutes, you’ll have a chance to win every game you play. You may not win them all because there’s so many other factors that are involved in it, but you put yourself in the best position to win if you can play if your team can play 40 the way they are capable of playing it.
Q: How do you feel about North Carolina being the third No. 1 seed from the ACC?
CALIPARI: I mean, it is what it is. That’s how they felt. It is what it is.
Q: What was your feeling on Tennessee getting the Louisville Regional?
CALIPARI: I’ll call him and say I’ve had to do that a few times and as a matter of fact, against you when he was at Texas.
Q: Have you watched North Carolina much lately?
CALIPARI: I haven’t watched them since we played. Guys look, I watch The Last Frontier, Life Below Zero, anybody watch those? The whole time I’m telling my wife I can do that. She’s like, psshh you can’t do that. Building Off The Grid, anybody watch that? I’m giving you stuff to help your culture. No, I didn’t watch the Top Chef, even that episode I haven’t. I don’t have time for that. So, I’m not watching other teams. I get to watch my own team and I get to watch the opponents we’re playing. I’d like to have a life so I may turn on a game for five minutes and I watch it. I think I watched the Duke vs. North Carolina game for about three minutes in the first half. North Carolina, I think I was like wow and then they told me what the score was, and I said how in the world did that happen. North Carolina’s playing good. The point guard’s playing good. They’re good. I’m not worried about them, we have to get through Abilene Christian. That’s all I’m worried about right now.
Q: Were you excited to see Belmont get a bid?
CALIPARI: Yeah Rick Byrd and I are good friends. Coach Byrd, they let us use their gym again and we talked about it. I told him with what you’ve done, you deserve to be in this thing, you should be at large and then what happens is all of a sudden, all these bubble teams start popping up and if you’re Belmont, you’re like what did this do? They deserve to be in it, and who wants to play them? I mean go ahead, they’re going to take 30 threes and run their stuff and execute. I don’t want to play them either. That’s not a good one to play.
Q: How do you get your freshmen to play to their training at this time of year?
CALIPARI: It’s hard, but you just talk about it. I was in huddles just saying play to the training, how do we make that play? What kind of play are we making there? We’ve done it a thousand times, play to the training, don’t do what you want to do, don’t do what you did in high school, it does not work here. And, that is where your coaching comes in. You take a guy out and coach him immediately. Is that the training, is that what you know? You ask, well why would you do that? You can’t be in on that. Then you put them back in and they understand that. It’s a process when you have young guys.
Q: Is it easy to spot when players aren’t playing to their training?
CALIPARI: No. A lot of times it’s as the game goes on and they get a little tired. I even said we kind of rode Ashton (Hagans) and now he gets tired that last minute-and-a-half or two minutes. So, we rode him and went high, pick and roll so it was like uh oh they can’t guard, well that was him.
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