Big Blue Nation is as frustrated as ever. The fan base is turning on Coach Calipari, questioning every move on the court and every quote off the court, pleading for more Dontaie Allen, and wondering if college basketball has passed by Kentucky and the “1-and-Done” system. As an editorial comment, I don’t personally share any of those sentiments really, but they certainly are the prevailing thoughts and feelings surrounding the program.
Even while the fan base spirals out of control with and anger and pessimism, Coach Calipari and the players must move on because there are two more Southeastern Conference contests to be played this week. The Wildcats will travel to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday evening before returning home to Rupp Arena to host LSU on Saturday.
Can Kentucky get the train back on the tracks with a couple of wins this week? Or will the season continue to go downhill with more poor play? I guess all we can do is wait and see how things go on Wednesday night.
Storyline of the Week
Coach Calipari’s Postgame Comments
“What you’re trying to do is, I’m not trying to —I want to win every game I coach, but the other side of it is, I’m not trying to take anybody’s heart away,” Calipari said when asked about keeping Dontaie Allen and Jacob Toppin – Kentucky’s two leading scorers at halftime – on the bench to start the second half.
This is the postgame quote that has made the rounds around Big Blue Nation. Tonight on his radio show Coach Cal admitted that his comments might have came out wrong, but he doubled down that he “still doesn’t want to crush any player’s hearts by taking them out of the starting lineup.”
Calipari says on radio show that his comments after the game Saturday probably came off wrong
Says that in past when speaking on playing time he has said “this isn’t communism” and it’s still the case
Says he told team starting spots are now up for grabs
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 18, 2021
I absolutely believe that Coach Calipari wants to win every single basketball game that he coaches. I also believe he does what he thinks is best for the team and what will accomplish that goal of winning. However, I do think that he can be a little stubborn at times as well. Almost every great coach in the country, regardless of their sport, has a tendency to be a little set in his or her ways.
Coach Cal is trying to build B.J. Boston up. There isn’t much going right for the kid right now. If he searches his name on Twitter the results won’t be pretty. Probably even more importantly, he is dealing with the weight of potentially losing millions of dollars. Boston was projected to be the third pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, after just 12 games, there are some draft “experts” that believe he could go undrafted. I don’t think enough people are considering how difficult it would be to face that reality. Then, compound that difficulty by putting yourself in the shoes of an 18-year old kid playing on the biggest stage of collegiate basketball and having to face that reality.
Taking away Boston’s starting spot or benching him for prolonged periods of time would just be another reminder to him that he isn’t living up to expectations. That isn’t what Coach Cal wants to do. Also, the best version of this Kentucky Basketball team STILL involves B.J. Boston being one of, if not the, best player. Rolling with him in the short term may have cost the ‘Cats a game or two. However, sticking with him may pay off big dividends in February and March if he becomes even a fraction of what he was expected to be.
The wording of Coach Cal’s comments may sound a little weird and the fan base may not like rolling with a guy that doesn’t seem to be producing. However, sometimes the coach’s job is to pull the right strings. Coach Calipari believes he is doing the right thing and he has a long track record of success to prove that all of us armchair coaches and keyboard warriors should trust the man paid to do the job.
This Week’s Opponents
The Georgia Bulldogs are 8-4 overall, but just 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The Dawgs are coming off of their first SEC win on Saturday, a 78-74 victory at Ole Miss. Georgia is led by Freshman K.D. Johnson who played his first two games of the season last week and earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his performances. Johnson scored 21 points in his debut against Auburn and then had 14 points on 4/5 3-point shooting. Johnson is a former 4-star recruit and was the cornerstone of this year’s recruiting class by Coach Tom Crean.
Rounding a balanced scoring attack are Sophomore Guard Shavir Wheeler and Sophomore Forward Toumani Camara who average 14.5 and 14 points per game respectively.
Kentucky is coming off of up-tempo teams in Alabama and Auburn, but it is actually Georgia who leads the conference in pace of play. The Bulldogs average just over 79 possessions per game which is the ninth most nationally. So, be ready for another face-paced game Wednesday evening.
Coach Will Wade and LSU Tigers will come to Lexington Saturday night for an ESPN game. In typical Will Wade fashion, the Tigers continue to dance around NCAA investigations and put a heck of a basketball team on the court.
Trendon Watford, Darius Days, and Javonte Smart all decided to come back to school after testing the NBA Draft waters and it gave LSU arguably the best returning roster in the conference. On top of that, blue chip Freshman Cameron Thomas leads the conference in scoring at 22.1 points per game and is quietly building his resume to be named Player of the Year.
The Tigers are 10-2, 5-1 in the SEC with their lone set back being at Florida by four points. This is a team that will absolute compete to win the conference this season.
Along with star Freshman Cameron Thomas, the three returnees in Watford, Smart, and Days are averaging 18.7, 15.2, and 13.7 points per game respectively. Those four account for 81% of the LSU scoring.
Around the Southeastern Conference
-Auburn took full advantage of the addition of Sharife Cooper with wins over Georgia and Kentucky.
-Alabama continued its dominant ways with a 20-point win over Kentucky and a 31-point victory over Arkansas. The Crimson Tide are now 6-0 and alone atop the conference standings.
-South Carolina finally returned to the court with an 85-80 loss on Saturday to LSU.
-Kentucky dropped both of their games after starting the conference season 3-0. The ‘Cats fell to Alabama and Auburn.
-Missouri got back in the win column after 10 days off by defeating Texas A&M on Saturday 68-52.
Games to Watch Nationally
#15 Ohio State vs. Purdue (6:30 p.m. Eastern Time Big Ten Network)
#6 Tennessee vs. Florida (7:00 p.m. Eastern Time ESPN)
#7 Michigan vs. Maryland (7:00 p.m. Eastern Time FS1)
#19 Missouri vs. South Carolina (7:00 p.m. Eastern Time SEC Network)
#22 Illinois vs. Penn State (8:30 p.m. Eastern Time Big Ten Network)
#3 Villanova vs. Seton Hall (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time FS1)
LSU vs. #18 Alabama (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time ESPN2)
Georgia Tech vs. #20 Clemson (7:00 p.m. Eastern Time ACC Network)
#10 Wisconsin vs. Northwestern (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time Big Ten Network)
#11 Creighton vs. Providence (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time FS1)
#4 Iowa vs. Indiana (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time FS1)
California vs. #24 UCLA (9:00 p.m. Eastern Time ESPNU)
Purdue vs. #7 Michigan (7:00 p.m. Eastern Time FS1)
Michigan State vs. #22 Illinois (TBD)
#8 Houston vs. Cincinnati (12:00 p.m. Eastern Time CBS)
Oklahoma vs. #9 Kansas (12:00 p.m. Eastern Time ESPN)
Oklahoma State vs. #2 Baylor (2:00 p.m. Eastern Time CBS)
#11 Creighton vs. #23 UConn (2:30 p.m. Eastern Time FOX)
Florida State vs. #20 Clemson (3:00 p.m. Eastern Time ABC)
#10 Wisconsin vs. #15 Ohio State (4:00 p.m. Eastern Time CBS)
Standford vs. #24 UCLA (5:00 p.m. Eastern Time FOX)
TCU vs. #5 Texas (6:00 p.m. Eastern Time ESPN2)
#18 Alabama vs. Mississippi State (6:00 p.m. Eastern Time SEC Network)
#3 Villanova vs. Providence (8:00 p.m. Eastern Time)
#13 Virginia vs. Georgia Tech (8:00 p.m. Eastern Time ACC Network)
#6 Tennessee vs. #19 Missouri (8:30 p.m. Eastern Time SEC Network)