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1. How UK will Fill Vanderbilt’s Void
Jarred Vanderbilt’s loss can be his teammates’ gain. John Calipari does not expect one player to replace the freshman phenom’s production, but through a collaborative effort Kentucky can still win without him.
“We’ll miss him. It’ll be harder to play without him,” Calipari said. “It gives Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Nick (Richards) a chance to play more. It gives us a chance to put Wenyen (Gabriel) at five. That makes us a different kind of team.
“What we have to do is make up for his energy. Someone’s gotta come in and it’s not one. Let’s all pick it up five percent. We’ve gotta pick up nine rebounds. So where are we going to get those nine? And those nine need to come from a couple—a couple from P.J. (Washington), a couple from Wenyen, a couple from Kevin Knox, guards get a couple. Sacha, you and Nick together get a couple more than you’ve been getting.”
2. Calipari’s Greatest Concern
Coach Cal believes they can recover Vanderbilt’s production elsewhere. Finding someone to spark intensity might be more difficult, but it can be done. What’s impossible to replicate is the cohesiveness Vanderbilt and Washington developed over the last month.
“I do (worry about that), and I mentioned it to the group. I mean, what they became was they played buddy basketball. They both knew where each other were. They created good opportunities for each other. We’re going to have to see if that can be Wenyen (Gabriel). Can that be him? How can we do this?”
3. Calipari still Loves Mark Fox
Coach Cal has always been quick to praise Mark Fox. Is it because Fox has only beat Cal’s Cats three times? Maybe. Whatever it is, Fox’s team always finds a way to keep it close vs. Kentucky.
“I have great respect for him. The game we played against them at our place when I watched the tape, we should have got beat. I mean, they had us beat. So he’s doing a good job. It’ll be a hard game.”
Kentucky only beat the Bulldawgs by five this year in a New Year’s Eve match-up at Rupp Arena.
4. JJ Frazier Pt. 2
Georgia guard J.J. Frazier made life very difficult for Kentucky in 2017. Relief filled the air when he graduated last spring, but Fox has another guard who’s playing near that level in St. Louis.
“He’s good,” Cal said. “He hadn’t been playing as much and then the last two games they’re playing him a lot. And you know what? They’re putting him in a high pick-and-roll kind of like they used to do with JJ (Frazier). So now all of a sudden here’s this kid coming and shooting bombs and then getting to the rim and shooting layups.”
In two tournament games the freshman is averaging 13 points and 4 assists after scoring just 3.3 points per game in the regular season.
5. Calipari Still Doesn’t Like the SEC Tournament
Nobody is a bigger hater of conference tournaments than John Calipari. That isn’t changing anytime soon.
“We’re using this tournament to prepare for next week. And we’ll also use this tournament to see if we can improve our seed – which it never does.”
If that wasn’t enough snark, this is how he walked out of the room.
John Calipari was asked about being negative about the SEC Tournament, so this is how he ended his press conference. pic.twitter.com/zNhln3ZgyW
— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) March 9, 2018