John Calipari met with his favorite media members this afternoon to preview Thursday’s game against Tennessee, and the story of the day seemed to be progress.
“My concern right now, I’m focused on this team, we’ve got three weeks left. The season has blown by, there’s been ups and downs to it, but the greatest thing has been you see the progress. You see the guys are doing it. And we’re still not where we need to be, but we’re moving in that direction.”
The team is becoming “empowered”
Stop me if you’ve heard Calipari say this before: his team is becoming empowered. That’s a regular Calipari line we’re used to hearing around this time of year, and there’s no better example than the Cats’ performance with Calipari in the locker room at South Carolina.
“They’re becoming empowered. The guys that listen to anything I say in this group know every year that I’m talking about empowering the team and it being about them. They’re getting there. I think you’re seeing each guy flow into a role that suits him, and that’s what this is about.”
Calipari winked at the group when he said “the guys that listen to anything I say in this group,” so if the empowerment line sounds familiar, congrats! John Calipari just winked at you.
Everyone’s playing for seeding
With only three weeks left in the regular season, Calipari said every team in the country is trying to improve their seed for the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s always important. The history (shows) the higher seeds win more than the lower seeds. It’s just how it is. And very rarely, every 10 years, you’ll have a No. 10 seed or No. 11 seed pop through — every 10 years. And you can say, ‘Well, is this one of those years?’ We won’t know till the stuff starts, but I will tell you that it’s starting to group.”
“You know when we walk into the conference tournament, that’s all I talk about. It’s about seeding more than anything else.”
With games against two teams in the Top 30 of the RPI left — Texas A&M (RPI #22), Florida (RPI #28) — Kentucky still has chances to improve their seed, especially if they keep beating down teams like they have as of late.
Cal continued to stump for Tyler Ulis for National POY
Cal is on a mission and that mission ends with Tyler Ulis winning one or all of the National Player of the Year awards in April.
“I think he’s playing like a player of the year in the nation. And a lot of it will be how we finish and how we do, but when you look at what he’s done and how he’s doing it and how our team just now coming together and him being the leader and the things he’s doing with the Breakfast Club and all the other stuff, he should be a candidate for player of the year.”
To hammer that message home, UK included this new page in their game notes today, promoting both Ulis and Murray as All-American candidates:
Calipari says he’s willing to incorporate the zone
With Kenny Payne calling plays on defense on Saturday, UK broke out a 2-3 zone that stymied South Carolina. Today, Calipari said the team’s working on zone every day to use when they get in foul trouble.
“And we work on the zone. Tony (Barbee) has coached a lot more zone than I have, but we work on it. We work on it every day, and when we get in foul trouble, we went to it. And even the kids said, ‘Let’s go zone. They’re trying to foul out our whole team.’ So they went zone and all of a sudden it slowed them down in their tracks. So yeah, we have that. I just, the history for me, when they go zone, we cannot make a shot, and when we go zone, they make every shot. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve done this 30 years and that’s just a feeling.”