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Basketball Season Coverage

Kentucky opens as a 3.5 point favorite at Vanderbilt

Las Vegas has set the line for tomorrow’s game down in the Wintry City and your University of Kentucky Wildcats opened as a 3.5 point favorite against Vanderbilt.

Kentucky hasn’t covered a spread since the Louisville game, so be cautious if you choose to place your hard-earned money on the Wildcats.

That being said, I might dabble a little in Kentucky.

Go Cats.

5 notes from a chaotic John Calipari teleconference

Because the team left Lexington early, Kentucky didn’t have time to hold a press conference to preview tomorrow’s game vs. Vanderbilt; instead, John Calipari hosted a teleconference for reporters, and, well, it was a hot mess. 

As anyone who’s ever done a teleconference in their entire life knows, you put your phone on mute as to not flood the line with background noise. Some reporters did not get that memo, meaning Calipari’s comments were interlaced with coughing, talking, TVs, other phones ringing, and at one point, I think someone singing. Here are the quotes I could understand, along with audio so you can laugh along at home.

Vandy may not have five guys that can shoot threes, but they’ll still shoot threes

Traditionally, Vandy lives and dies by the three, but this team has a post presence thanks to sophomore center Djery Baptiste and senior forward Jeff Roberson. As Calipari noted, the ‘Dores can still burn you with you the three, but they’re more balanced than in years past.

“It’s always a hard game for us. It’s always a tough game. They space the court, they play different. They play a wide-open court. They’ll shoot 3s. They’re driving the ball. The big kid (Djery Baptiste) is playing well for them, so they have someone next to the goal. It’s a different team because they don’t have a five man shooting 3s like they have in the past, which really made things hard. But they’re still a team and in this building they play well.”

He’s having to take timeouts just for the players to rest

With several players battling injuries, Calipari has to do something he hates doing: calling timeouts to let this team rest as opposed to making them push through their fatigue.

“Well, if we’re down in numbers I’ll be calling timeouts to give guys a rest. Not just strategically: We need one to change the flow of the game. We may need one just to rest. So, I’ve done that before. And the other side of this for this team is I may call a timeout that in the past I haven’t. In other words, play through it. Figure it out yourself. Well, that may not work for this group right now where we are.”

Eyes already on March?

Calipari mentioned he’s been experimenting with new stuff in practice as of late in hopes of preparing his team for the postseason.

“We’re doing things here that I’ve not done before. I’m experimenting. Even yesterday in practice, we tried some new stuff. Probably not the smartest to do. Just get good at these four or five things, but the problem is we have a bigger picture here. It’s not just to try to play the next game; it’s to try to grow. It’s trying to get better. It’s trying to be one of those teams at the end of the year. And we know we’re not right now. I mean, the players know we’re not right now. But it’s not right now that we’re dealing with. It’s, when we get to the end, where are we now.”

It’s (going to be) a trap!

For the most part, Vanderbilt has underwhelmed this season, but they’ve been slightly more respectable in conference play. Calipari said he’s expecting the ‘Dores to trap his team tomorrow and use the zone.

“They trap the post and they do a really good job. I watched South Carolina, at South Carolina, and they trapped as that ball was in the air and really gave South Carolina trouble. So, they have some different things they do, and they also go zone, so it’s not like you just throw it in and you beat them. That’s not what’s happened.”

He’s trying his hardest to get PJ to be a leader

After the Texas A&M game, Calipari anointed PJ Washington the leader of the team due to his toughness the past few games. A few days later, he said he’s still trying to teach PJ how to lead, i.e., don’t goof off in practice when you’re supposed to be setting an example.

“I’m trying to tell PJ I want him to lead, but I’m also having to teach him how he’s got to be on that basketball court all the time to really be the leader he needs to be. In other words, when you come with that spirit, that competitive spirit, you’re in that frame of mind, I need you to lead. When you’re in there to jerk around, or joke, or grab, that brings practice down. Then I don’t need you to lead.”

And don’t you dare spew that crap about how leaders are only born, they can’t be made to Calipari.

“All this stuff of ‘Leaders are born,’ that’s crap. That’s a bunch of crap. How would you figure out how to lead if you don’t understand servant leadership, if you don’t understand the consistency of it? You can’t lead when you feel like leading, you can’t lead on your terms. You have to lead for the team.”

The quotes really don’t do the teleconference justice. Listen to the audio below around the 1:29, 9:18, and 10:18 marks. Alan Cutler owned up to not muting his phone early on, but swears it wasn’t him the rest of the call:

Transcript after the jump.


What Vandy's campus COULD look like later today (Photo via Vanderbilt University)

Calipari gives a weather update ahead of tomorrow’s game

What Vandy’s campus COULD look like later today (Photo via Vanderbilt University)

With a winter storm currently working its way through Nashville, the team arrived last night to avoid any travel problems; however, with a layer of ice and up to two inches of snow expected to be on the ground by tomorrow, there could still be issues for fans heading to the game.

“It’s turning bad,” Calipari said on today’s teleconference. “I was out this morning and it’s gotten colder. Last night, I didn’t even have a coat on. We just made a decision to leave last night because the airline called us at 5 p.m. and said there’s some ice and rain and we may not be able to take off [tomorrow]. And then it was, well, we can ride a bus tomorrow but then it would be seven hours trying to get up here. So, we just decided at 7 p.m., we’re leaving at 8:30 p.m. So, we gathered up the guys and we just got in the bus and got up here around 11:30 p.m. and we’re here.”

Conditions are expected to be so bad that Vanderbilt is closing down campus at 3 p.m., but they’re letting UK get in their practice beforehand.

“We’re going to practice on their court. They’re nice enough — Vanderbilt– they’re going to practice before us because they’re going to close down the school. They want everybody off the campus by 3 p.m. because it’s supposed to be really icy and snowy and hopefully it clears up by tomorrow so we won’t have any issues with the game.”

If you are coming to the game tomorrow, please follow @NashSevereWx for the latest weather updates and the TDOT SmartWay map for the latest road conditions.

The latest on Kentucky’s injured players

What’s the latest on Kentucky’s injured players heading into tomorrow’s game vs. Vanderbilt?

John Calipari refused to say who would or would not play tomorrow, but did divulge that Quade Green has not practiced so far this week. After missing Tuesday night’s game vs. Texas A&M with back problems, Green underwent treatment on his back yesterday. Calipari said the team is practicing today at 12:45 p.m., at which time he’ll have a better idea if Quade can go after that.

Meanwhile, there was no update on Tai Wynyard (back) or Jarred Vanderbilt (foot), who started practicing with the team earlier this week, but Calipari did say that Jemarl Baker (knee) has started rehabbing. Baker had a minor procedure done on his left knee back in late October.

“He’s started rehab,” Cal said. “I don’t know what that means. I don’t have an answer for you.”

Well, alright. Let’s hope Quade practices today.

Vandy having a blackout for tomorrow’s game because of course

Vandy having a blackout for tomorrow’s game because of course

Today in “Things That Shouldn’t Surprise You”: Vandy is calling for a blackout for tomorrow’s game vs. Kentucky. The first 10,000 fans will receive free black t-shirts.

Also not surprising: tomorrow’s game will be Vanderbilt’s first sell-out of the season. According to the Tennessean, attendance at Memorial Gym this season is the lowest it’s been since the 1964-65 season. The ‘Dores are averaging 8,734 fans per game, well below the arena’s capacity of 14,316. Usually, Memorial Gym creates some magic for Vandy, but the ‘Dores have four home losses so far this season and their 6-10 record is tied for their worst start since the 1977-78 season. Yikes.

With ice and snow coating the roads in Music City as we speak, the real question becomes, will Vandy fans care enough to brave the conditions for tomorrow’s game? I know Kentucky fans will.

The Cats beat the weather to Nashville

The Cats beat the weather to Nashville

With inclement weather in the forecast, John Calipari rounded up his team and got a head start on the trip to Nashville. Normally they would wait until tomorrow to make the trip for a Saturday away game, but the Music City is expecting hazardous travel conditions this weekend, so the Cats arrived Thursday night to ensure they’re ready to go for Saturday’s game.

The early arrival means a lot of free time for the guys on Friday. If it were me, I would check out the top floor of Rippy’s then maybe walk over to Tootsie’s for a couple and then Tin Roof and then a shot-n-go at Paradise Park before dinner. But that’s just me. They probably shouldn’t do that.

Beat Vandy though.

West Virginia gets key player back… just in time for Kentucky game

We should’ve known West Virginia’s Esa Ahmad would be back in time to be ready for Kentucky. The junior forward was one of only two players to average double figures for the Mountaineers last season, but he’s been out all of 2017-18 while serving an academic suspension.

Ahmad—who Bob Huggins called the best rebounding small forward in the Big 12—is all set to return to West Virginia’s lineup on Saturday. Huggins said, “He may not be at the top of his game come Saturday, but it won’t be long after that he will be.”

Not long after, like, say, two weeks when Kentucky comes to town?

How convenient.

Tour the new UK basketball locker room and lounge

Tour the new UK basketball locker room and lounge

Kentucky basketball’s new Marksbury Players First Suite and Healy Family Locker Room are finally complete as part of the major renovation of the team’s practice facility.

We got a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the new digs via a video tour on UK’s official Twitter account. If you pay close attention, you can read the message John Calipari is trying to get through to his team:

It reads:

Make getting better every day your goal; TOUGH PLAYERS come to work every day to get better, and keep their horizons short. They meet victory and defeat the same way: They get up the next day and go to WORK to be better than they were the day before. Tough players hate losing but are not shaken or deterred by a loss. Tough players enjoy winning but are NEVER SATISFIED. For tough players, a championship or a trophy is not a goal; it is a destination.


Always with the toughness.

There is also a new interactive media wall to celebrate the players, both past and present, with a touchscreen!

A quick pan of the shower shows that the players use Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo, which is nice because it has the 3-Action Formula that cleans to remove oil and flakes; protects the scalp from dandruff; and moisturizes each hair strand from scalp to tip.

I believe that is the Head & Shoulders Ocean Lift with sea mineral essence and cooling mint to really invigorate the hair and scalp, but I could be wrong. It’s a little blurry.

The video also gives us a sneak peek into the team’s snack cabinet, which includes the No. 1 necessity for all college students: Kraft Easy Mac.

Take the full tour below:

Go Cats.

Kentucky still a four-seed in new Bracketology

Kentucky still a four-seed in new Bracketology

The national media continues to be unimpressed by Kentucky, but Joe Lunardi still has the Cats as a four-seed in his latest Bracketology. The potential matchups and locations are the least important part of these projections, but he has Kentucky in the Midwest Region, playing the opening round games in San Diego.

Lunardi has eight SEC teams in right now:

  • Kentucky (4)
  • Auburn (5)
  • Tennessee (5)
  • Arkansas (7)
  • Florida (7)
  • Texas A&M (7)
  • Georgia (11)
  • Missouri (11)

The four No. 1 seeds: Villanova, West Virginia, Michigan State, Virginia. Check out the entire thing for yourself over at ESPN.


Erin Calipari schools bartender talking smack about her dad

Erin Calipari schools bartender talking smack about her dad

It’s no secret we’re big fans of Erin Calipari. Not only is Calipari’s eldest daughter the best source for stories about her family, she doesn’t take crap from anybody, especially her father’s haters. One New York bartender/blogger learned that lesson the hard way.

Earlier this week, The Sports Turf’s Joselph Dalfonso recalled how he was bashing Calipari with a patron last April, calling him  a “cheat,” a “crook,” and “scum of the earth,” when Erin, sitting in a booth behind them, spoke up.

As my rant continued, a woman sitting in a booth behind Mary, turned toward me and asked who I thought was a good coach. First guy to pop to my head was Mike Kryzewski.

Ok, yes I am a Duke fan but that’s not significant for this story.

She snickered at that statement and then proceeded to say Coach K can’t even get out of the first round of March Madness. I rebutted but she continued by bringing up Mercer, VCU, Lehigh. Not wanting to be remembered of previous heartbreaks, I cut her off by asking if she was UNC fan. I was ready to take her on in an epic debate about college basketball, knowing no UNC fan was a match for me. What she said next was completely unexpected.

“No, I’m John Calipari’s daughter.”

BURN. Little did he know that Erin had been tweeting about him the entire time.

Dalfonso apologized to Erin via Twitter and she forgave him, but I think it’s safe to say he’ll look over his shoulder the next time he even thinks of saying a bad word about Cal.

Read his account of the entire incident at I can’t wait to ask Erin, now an assistant professor at Vanderbilt, about it on Saturday.

How I learned to stop worrying and love this team

The most common complaint I’ve heard from Kentucky fans this season is, “I just can’t get into this team.” The other is, “They just don’t have it.” Frankly, after last night’s win over Texas A&M, I’ve had it with both arguments.

Kentucky should not have won last night. Not only did Wenyen Gabriel foul Tyler Davis in the final two seconds (thanks for not noticing, refs!), the Cats were without their starting point guard and a backup center facing a veteran team with whom they matched up terribly that desperately needed a win. Yet, somehow, Kentucky won, despite Kevin Knox still not playing to his potential and zero interior defense. Regardless, some fans still grumble, lamenting all of the Kentucky’s growing pains and pining for the days when the Cats would steamroll opponents.

It’s time for a reality check. Not to be a Caliparrot, but this is the youngest team in college basketball; not just “our best players are freshmen” young, but “our top six scorers are freshmen” young. This year’s freshman class is producing more than any other of the John Calipari Era — 79.2% of the minutes, 86.1% of the scoring and 69.6% of the rebounding — because they have to. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones have been great (more on them in a minute), but the core of this team is babies. If you came into this season expecting Kentucky to steamroll opponents, you set yourself up for disappointment. Don’t blame the “KSR hype machine” either; all along, we’ve warned you guys this was going to be a process. More than ever, Calipari tried to brace fans for what is coming.

That’s why I don’t understand the vitriol. Sure, the Cats look like absolute crap on defense more often than not and, inevitably, someone is going to disappear for one (or two or three) game. But, judging by the backlash of criticism, you would think all of that was coming from a junior and senior-laden squad instead of a bunch of kids trying to break bad habits. Learning is not easy, especially when you’re doing it with no crash cushion in front of a fanbase that expects nothing but the best.

So, why are we so hard on them? The easy answer is, we’ve been spoiled by success. Calipari’s best teams have blended superstar freshmen talent with veteran experience, and even the ones that were short on the latter had at least a sophomore guard and a few other sophomores or juniors to ease the transition. Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dominique Hawkins, and Derek Willis will never get enough credit because, for the most part, their biggest contributions came behind the scenes. Wenyen and Sacha are carving their roles as contributors, but as Calipari said earlier this week, as sophomores, they’re still going through the process too.

Another way this season is different than others: the SEC has never been so unforgiving. In past years, you could count on easy home wins and at least two or three easy road wins. Not this year. The influx of talent — both players and coaches — in the league a few years ago is finally paying off, which is great for Kentucky’s resume but leaves little margin for error. Loafing through a routine home game vs. a lower level SEC team is a luxury this young team just doesn’t have. Stumbles have and will continue to happen; instead of being infuriated by the bad, we should all try being encouraged by the good, because there is a lot of good.

A few ugly stretches aside, one thing you can’t fault this team for is effort; it may not always come in the form you’d like, but there’s no denying that this team is trying. Like I wrote last night, I’ve never seen a team try so hard to both win and lose a game like Kentucky did vs. A&M. The fight was clearly there; unfortunately, the errors were too. With two months of SEC play ahead of them, there are plenty of opportunities to learn.

There are also plenty of players to love. For those of you complaining that you just can’t get into this team, how can you not love PJ Washington and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? Both freshman have exhibited unbelievable toughness over the past month to the point that Kentucky can’t afford to not have them on the court. PJ was born in Louisville and grew up a Kentucky fan for goodness’ sake.

Or what about Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones? After somewhat disappointing freshman years, they’ve found their roles and positively influence the team when in. Quade Green may not be Tyler Ulis 2.0 as some had hoped, but he’s arguably Kentucky’s best shooter and will be the stable hand we need for years to come. Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox have struggled, but if the Cats are coping this well without them, imagine what they’ll be like once they pull it together. And then there’s Jarred Vanderbilt, the mystery piece just dripping with intrigue.

Yet, there’s still anger that they’re “just not getting it.” Fury that the “light hasn’t come on” and “this group is soft.” In some cases, that may be true; however, in a season in which NOBODY is great in college basketball, haven’t we learned by now that it’s way too early to throw in the towel? What’s the fun in being a fan if you only expect your team to lose, or even worse, only expect them to win? That game was fun last night. Sure, it almost gave me a heart attack, but it was exciting. There was a sequence in the second half when Shai got a steal and threw it ahead to Hamidou Diallo for a slam that shows you what this group is capable of. In March, I’ll take that ridiculous length and athleticism over almost anything else.

And say Kentucky does go down in the second round this year. With only two, maybe three guys likely to go to the draft, they’ll return more players than ever before. Add in another intriguing freshman class and you’ve got another perfect storm brewing. Regardless of what happens in March, this year is an incredible foundation on which to build. At the very least, be excited for that.

So, as our New Year’s Resolution, can we all just take a deep breath and try to enjoy the ride? Because this is all a lot more fun when you do. Promise.

6 reasons Kentucky’s win over Texas A&M is more impressive than many realize

6 reasons Kentucky’s win over Texas A&M is more impressive than many realize

On Tuesday night, Kentucky beat Texas A&M 74-73 in a hotly contested game at Rupp Arena. Admittedly, that isn’t news to anyone reading this. What was news (at least to me anyway) is how little folks seemed to care about the win. Outside of a few savvy Kentucky and A&M fans, most reacted with apathy.

Yes, apathy.

Sure, Kentucky won at home. But it came against a reeling Aggies club which entered the game coming off a three-game SEC losing streak. Meaning that (according to my very awful math) when the final buzzer sounded at Rupp Arena, Texas A&M fell to 0-4 in league player. Therefore, it felt like just about everyone in the national media (with the exception of a select few) brushed off Kentucky’s victory as if it were a November win over Coastal Carolina or something. It hardly made a blip on the radar. And the few that did reference it, made light of Kentucky playing a close game against an 0-4 SEC team more than anything else.

Fortunately, I’m not most national media members (and not just because I’m handsomer than them all). I know just how tough the circumstances were Tuesday night at Rupp Arena, and know– despite what their record might indicate – how good Texas A&M is.

Yes, Kentucky has things to work on (including free throw shooting, turnovers late and a disappointing defensive effort for part of the second half). But make no mistake, this was an important win. And should resonate come March.

So why was this win more impressive than most realize? Here are six reasons why.

Brian Bowen leaves Louisville for South Carolina

Brian Bowen is no longer a student at the University of Louisville.

The $100,000 Dollar Man was granted his full release from the school following the fall semester. Bowen had registered for spring courses, but then decided to leave UofL to seek other opportunities.

ESPN’s Jeff Goodman is reporting Bowen will now try to suit up to play basketball for South Carolina. Bowen told Goodman he has been admitted to South Carolina and will seek reinstatement from the NCAA.

Bowen would have to sit out a year per NCAA transfer rules, should he even be granted eligibility at all, which seems silly.

Could we see him play against Kentucky after all?


South Carolina released the following statement to announce the addition of Bowen to its basketball program:

Jan. 10, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina head coach Frank Martin announced Wednesday that Brian Bowen (F – 6-7 – 195 – La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere School/Louisville) has enrolled at the University and has joined the Gamecock men’s basketball team. Based on NCAA transfer rules, Bowel will have to sit for two semesters before being eligible to play.

Of all the people to give Bowen a chance, I didn’t think it would be Frank Martin.

Hey Coach Cal, I do know some sh*t

Hey Coach Cal, I do know some sh*t

As a member of the working press at Kentucky basketball games, I was offended when John Calipari looked a room full of reporters in the eyes and said, “You don’t know sh*t,” after Tuesday night’s game against Texas A&M.

I was not in the room at the time, so maybe I wasn’t included in the group of sh*t-not-knowers he called out, but I still felt Cal’s brutally honest words deep down in my heart.

Now, in Cal’s defense, the media does not know much — definitely not as much as it pretends to know. And I can’t speak for everyone who watches the games with a lanyard around their neck and a laptop or Steno Pad in front of them, but I can speak for myself.

And I know a little sh*t.

Granted, it’s not much sh*t. But I do know more sh*t than Calipari led on with his comment at the press conference. So in defense of myself and some of my colleagues, here is some sh*t I know:

– I know Kentucky showed toughness last night, but still needs to show more or it can lose to anyone.

– I know P.J. Washington has looked great the last three games, finally.

– I know I’m not going to watch the replay of the final two seconds of the game because I know Wenyen Gabriel probably fouled Tyler Davis.

– I know Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the MVP since cutting his hair.

– I know Kevin Knox does not play defense.

– I also know Kentucky needs Knox’s offense.

– I know Hamidou Diallo is going to be horrible in some games and awesome in others. That’s who he is.

– I know the Rupp Arena crowd needs to stop yelling SHOOT! when Brad Calipari is in the game.

– I know Nick Richards needs to be better or he can take a seat.

– I know Wenyen Gabriel should never dribble, but always shoot when open.

– I know this team is far from its ceiling; the question is, will it find its ceiling in time?

– I know it’s ridiculous to say this team can’t reach the ___ round of the NCAA tournament because every team in college basketball is beatable, maybe more so than in any other year.

– I know the Cats need to accept Cal’s coaching (LISTEN!) in order to be a team that can make a Final Four run.

– I know Pitino knew.

– I know Quade Green better not be out much longer.

– I know nothing about what’s going on with Jarred Vanderbilt behind the scenes, but I have a pretty good guess.

– I know Kentucky can be much better fundamentally.

– I know the trip to West Virginia is going to be difficult.

– I also know the back-to-back trips to Texas A&M and Auburn will be difficult.

– I know we overreacted to the Tennessee loss.

– I know Kentucky really needs to beat Florida when ESPN College GameDay comes to town in 10 days.

– I know it’s stupid to give up on a team in January because the 2010-11 and 2013-14 teams almost won it all.

– I know Kentucky beat Louisville by 29 points.

– I know Kentucky could’ve beaten Louisville by 40 points.

– I know I like my team.

See, Cal? I know some sh*t.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played a nearly-complete 39 minutes of basketball, even when his legs “felt like noodles”

Once again, this Kentucky team brought the game right down to the wire. And once again, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander helped provide that extra spark needed for a victory. He came out firing, scoring the game’s first basket – a layup after less than 20 seconds of action – and didn’t stop there. He saw just a minute of bench-time in the first half; he never left the game in the second half. Not only did the point guard come up huge in the final minutes – grabbing the steal that led to Kevin Knox’s layup with 2:28 remaining, securing four rebounds in the final five minutes – but he did so with “noodle legs.”

“I’m a competitor. I like playing; I don’t ever want to come out. But yeah, I’m feeling it right now,” the Gilgeous-Alexander said with a smile. “The last five minutes I could barely feel my legs… my legs felt like noodles.”

The freshman played an exhausting 39 minutes of basketball during the Cats’ 74-73 rally over the Texas A&M Aggies. Without usual-starter Quade Green, who did not dress for the game due to back issues, Gilgeous-Alexander had to step up. And although the freshman may have been helping steady the ship since his breakout, 24-point performance against Louisville, tonight was the first time he had to serve his team as the sole point guard.

“It was interesting not having [Quade Green] there. It took a toll on my body,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after the game. “I’m a competitor, so I just fought through it. I just tried not to think about it and just tried to help my team.”

And help his team he did. Gilgeous-Alexander finished his night with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He went 4-6 from the free-throw line and committed three turnovers in his 39 minutes of action.

He did commit one costly error down the stretch – a turnover with 43 seconds left in the game. And he wasn’t the only one struggling with holding onto the ball in the final minutes: Knox also let one loose with 27 seconds remaining. What did Coach Calipari have to say about the errors?

“He said that we work on stuff like that in practice, and tonight it showed that we need to take it more serious, and stuff like that,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “But we’re young, and things like that will happen. We’ve just got to play like we’re not young.”

And although Gilgeous-Alexander is a self-described “competitor,” he’s alright with not playing 39 minutes per game once Green returns.

“I’m looking forward to him coming back. He makes us a better team,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Once he’s back, we’ll be better.”