John Calipari has a few hills he is willing to die on. The older I get, the more relatable this becomes. He will always rag on the SEC Tournament. He cannot stand playing zone defense. The Selection Committee is always out to get Kentucky. After more than a decade, the trade-off for an excellent basketball product is well worth hearing his annual grievances.
There is one of his pet-peeves that needs to get the hell out of here. It’s time for the Wildcats to start playing great multi-team events (MTEs) again.
The NCAA gives each team one MTE per season, allowing for three games to essentially hold the place for one scheduling slot. That means a team can reach the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis by playing in three games, while not hindering its ability to schedule other non-conference games.
In Calipari’s second season the Wildcats reached the championship game of the Maui Invitational by defeating Oklahoma and Washington in consecutive days. On the third day of the event, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones got taken behind the woodshed in a 17-point loss to UConn in the championship game, the only loss they would not avenge in 2010-11.
Since that loss Calipari has not scheduled one more single entertaining MTE. We are treated each year to the Champions’ Classic and CBS Sports Classic, but the MTE is simply a “BBN Classic” where Kentucky beats the hell out of directional universities over the span of about 10 days. COVID-19 has forced Kentucky to adjust.
This year’s MTE is the Bluegrass Showcase. Kentucky will play Morehead State at Rupp Arena the day before Thanksgiving on Nov. 25. Two days later they’ll host Detroit Mercy, followed by Richmond two days after that. With the Kentucky football team scheduled to play Florida on that Saturday, it should make for a fantastic sports weekend in the BBN.
Calipari’s argument against playing in fun events like Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis is that if the NCAA Tournament doesn’t force you to play on three consecutive days, why should you early in the season? Well, it would give you experience in a similar scenario that you’ll face in the SEC Tournament. It’s also just fun. These kids spent their entire AAU careers playing four and five games in three days’ time. They should have plenty of legs for three games in three days.
This year’s Bluegrass Showcase does not force UK to play in consecutive days, but it’s still a truncated schedule with three games in six days. Hopefully some success to start the 2020-21 season will pave the way for Calipari to broaden his MTE horizons in the future with more fantastic Feast Weeks.