Most of you by now have heard the news that Calipari wants to schedule a five-way round robin tournament between major college basketball powers, putting Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville, North Carolina and Kansas in a series of games that would allow each to play tough games against major opponents at home and away. It is a great idea that would allow for Kentucky to potentially play Indiana and Kansas at home one year and then Louisville and North Carolina at home the next. It would provide a great schedule for our boys in Blue in Rupp Arena, while also allowing them the test of tough games in other teams’ arenas.
So it sounds like Calipari is looking out for the program and making sure Kentucky has tough games right? Well not exactly. Kentucky can, and will, schedule difficult games every season and in so doing, it need not be part of any “tournament” to make it happen. But what the schedule format does do is put the onus on other programs to up their non-conference schedule or shut up. Calipari knows what the repercussions of his comment will be. Some aspiring reporter will call the coach of the four other programs and ask what they think of Calipari’s idea. Then that reporter will hear Bill Self at Kansas say, “GREAT IDEA!”, Roy Williams at North Carolina say “Good idea…but we better look into it some more” and Tom Crean/Rick Pitino run for cover. Neither Pitino, nor Crean, have any desire to play four tough non-conference games of this sort, and they will hide behind the supposed superiority of their conference schedules as reasons for their reticence. Calipari can then say (correctly), “see I would like to do something like that for the fans…but they aren’t interested.”
In everything Calipari does there are multiple layers. He wants to play a good schedule and get his teams ready, but he also wants to point out the hypocrisy of most of his critics. He has taken a lot of heat for not reaching a deal on the Indiana series, even though Calipari has made clear that he is willing to play the Hoosiers in a different setting. By throwing out this scenario he will make clear to anyone who cares to pay attention this fact…everyone wants to play Kentucky in theory because it helps them to do so. But when asked to take on the same scheduling burden that UK takes in the nonconference every year…one finds out that the other coaches have no intention of putting their schedule where their mouth is.