It’s Monday afternoon and the Cats are number one again, a fact which is simultaneously comforting and foreboding when you look ahead to the rest of the schedule. With less than two months ’til tournament time, what must Kentucky do to reach championship form? John Calipari thinks they need to get beat. Cal went on 790 the Zone in Atlanta with Barnhart and Durham this morning to talk about how the Cats can improve (listen to the interview here):
On his team getting tested the way they have been and if he thinks that will help them:
“My team as you know we’re starting three freshman and two sophomores and what happens is every experience for these guys is new. That’s why I liked what Alabama did to us. They basically, one of their players said ‘our coach told us to be aggressive, hit ‘em, and rebound.’ I don’t know what hit them means but they hit us. What happens is every game we play is a different kind of experience. We played Arkansas and they pressed us. We needed that a whole game. We played other teams that played us a whole zone. It’s all a new experience. I have a point guard who has made great strides in Marquis Teague but you just don’t know. You just don’t know yet. The same with Anthony Davis. Anthony wasn’t ready for the body to body contact. Anthony missed three dunks. How can he miss a dunk when his head is near the rim? Well when that body is on you and shoving you into the cheerleaders it’s harder to dunk. You have to figure out how I hold my ground, how I bend over, and hold position as they get physical. All this stuff is new to my team. I like our will to win down the stretch. In all these close games you’re gonna start getting nipped. You know what I told them last night Tony? We met at my house. I said ‘we probably need to get beat so you guys will understand that you cannot let a team come in and kick sand in your face and accept it.’ You can’t do it.”
Cal echoed this thought during his time with the media this afternoon, saying the Cats have gotten away with too many ugly wins and needed to lose one so they won’t accept being pushed around. While an undefeated SEC season sounds prettier than Keeneland in the spring, losses cultivate character and resiliency that are invaluable come March. After a few close calls and several scary road games on the horizon (@ Vandy on 2/11, @Mississippi State on 2/21, and @Florida on 3/4 to name a few), do the Cats need a loss to grow a pair? If so, which “W” would you be willing to sacrifice?