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Calipari still believes nine-loss Kentucky can make Final Four run

Jarred Vanderbilt could not stop Auburn inside. (Auburn Athletics Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

John Calipari was talking Final Four, not NIT, after Kentucky’s loss at Auburn Wednesday night — Kentucky’s fourth straight loss in SEC play and ninth loss on the season with five more regular season games to go.

“We get on a run and we go to the Final Four this year, it doesn’t change me, but I’ll tell you what. It helps these kids. We go the wrong way and we don’t get it going it’s affecting these kids,” Calipari said after the 76-66 loss.

It’s not easy to write off Calipari’s Final Four talk. No one really believed his 2011 team could make the Final Four. Remember, it was lucky to beat Princeton in the first round of the NCAA. But it made the Final Four.

Same with 2014. That team got beat at South Carolina and at at Florida to end the season. It looked in disarray but made the national title game.
However, those two teams were never in danger of missing the SEC Tournament. This team is.

Kentucky is 6-7 in SEC play. Kentucky is in seventh place in the SEC. The Cats already have nine losses. They are not ranked in the top 25.

So does Calipari really believe a Final Four run is possible because I don’t think many UK fans believe that today?

”Yeah, I do. I do. You saw that team out there. If that’s a No. 1 seed (Auburn) and we’re on their court and we got a four or six-point lead with a chance, but everybody’s gotta play for us,” Calipari said.

“And again, the other thing, we gotta make some shots. This is the game of basketball. When you’re wide open, if you don’t think you can make a 3, make a 2. We just gotta do that.”

Sounds good. But for this Kentucky team, nothing has come smoothly and right now UK better just be talking about making the NCAA and not worrying about the Final Four.

23 comments

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  1. NIT

  2. How many teams with 12 losses have received NCAA at large bids in the past? I think that a little research will reveal that the number is very small.

    This team now has 9 losses, and with road games at Arkansas and Florida still coming, 11 losses going into the SEC Tournament is very likely. Drop another home game to either Alabama or Missouri (either of which would be possible), and it is 12 losses. I don’t see any way for this team to avoid a 12th or 13th loss in the SEC Tournament.

    This team is squarely sitting on the NCAA bubble, and the only way to get off on the good side of that bubble is to win out at Rupp and pick off at least one of those two remaining road games.

    I would like to know in what world Calipari is living? No wonder his players say delusional things to the press.

  3. This team is mentally fragile and physically weak. How bad are we really? When Cal says “i think if we can win a game we are going to be ok”…that’s how bad and speaks volumes of his coaching abilities and talent judgement. Then Cal comes back with “poor Hami” Let’s give Hami a little credit though…..he did have 2 rebounds. It has been a long time since a Kentucky team has been this painful to watch..young and dumb.

    1. I cannot watch anymore.
      It’s just too painful.

  4. Coach Cal can no longer lay claim to the title of best recruiter in college hoops after this year’s debacle.
    There has been talk of these “kids” sticking around for another year. I hope that’s not the case. It’s time for a do-over, IMO.

    1. One more observation, and that is, I believe Pearl out screamed Calipari in that game last night. It was pretty close, but I give the edge to old Bruce, who looks like a maniac by the way. On another less important note, I have always wondered why many basketball coaches at the college level dress to the irons, tailored suits,colorful ties, starched dress shirts, etc. just to get all lathered up in a sweaty gym. It has to be “hey look at me, ain’t I important and well off?” I like the Huggins look. Just saying. Cal at WVA this year looked like a real coach in the Huggins like attire. I liked it.

  5. This team is missing a brain. I think they have a heart, they just do not know how to play together! Everyone is so fragile, no one trust each other. If Cal turns this around, it will take a miracle and a step forward to sainthood for Cal. He first needs to get his players listen and follow his advice.

  6. Diallo is now shooting 20 percent from 3-point range in SEC play and 31 percent for the season. He has made only five 3s in the SEC and only one in February. He hasn’t made more than one 3 in a game since Dec. 16 and has eight SEC games where he hasn’t made a single 3.

    Sorry Coach, but when you’ve got a shooting guard who can’t shoot it’s hard to share your optimism.

    1. Always amazed me how a player who couldn’t shoot was ranked as the top shooting guard in his recruiting class. Great point here Kent

  7. Diallo is a great NYC streetballer, but he’s not ready for primetime at the collegiate level and definitely not ready for the NBA.

  8. The “Gold Standard” of basketball has taken a big fall so far this year. Maybe it’s the coaching because these guys look lost out there.

  9. Can seems to still be a little delusional..had the cahunas to say he still wanted to win 40. Does he not remember he blew the only chance he had?

  10. Really been tough to watch. The players have checked out. They are not progressing at all. Same team from the beginning. So many 1vs1 scenarios. I just don’t see a team that has bonded and believes in what they are doing. Diallo is a shame. A whole year to see what this is, and still he is shell shocked contantly and emotional. Also seems like the kid has never adjusted to his elevation while shooting. I see alot of him releasing after the apex of his shot. So strange that is an issue at this age.

  11. This group of so called “one and done’s” at UK now is not nearly as talented a team, top to bottom, as other Calipari teams of the past. He has had one other team in the past that sort of resembled this one, the 2012-13 team. This year Kentucky is facing teams across the land with just as much talent and fire power as Kentucky has, especially in the SEC, and it is telling. Can Calipari take less talented players and mold them into a good team.? I am beginning to believe he can’t. As long as he has size, and overwhelming talent he looks like a great coach. Against UT, A&M, and Auburn, Calipari had no answer. If this group of players at Kentucky now don’t want to listen as some say, then Calipari is directly responsible and should teach them to listen or watch from the bench. For a whole game or for several. Kentucky can lose just as much with our bench players who always watch from afar. I for one am sick and tired of all the excuses about youth, and which lineups to insert, etc. etc. Just tell BBN what the situation is like a straight shooter, and take control of your team coach.

  12. “Can Calipari take less talented players and mold them into a good team.? I am beginning to believe he can’t. As long as he has size, and overwhelming talent he looks like a great coach.” Interesting question Larry, and I believe the answer is he can do this, but not in one season. For these type of players, he need multiple seasons to mold them into college basketball players.

    The problem with his OAD approach at UK is that even the players that need that 2nd or 3rd year of seasoning are still leaving too soon, just as the true OAD level players are.

    1. I agree with your last paragraph Professor. There in lies the problem with Calipari’s system IMO. It don’t look like he plans to change his system any time soon either. If he remains at UK he may have to change since he is losing recruiting wars to Duke, and others now pretty regularly. Also a rule change could force him to recruit players who will agree to stay longer and develop their game at the college level.. I just don’t think Cal is a good X”s & O’s type coach, or as hard nosed as he should be when it is necessary. Every now and then a coach has to show kids who the boss is. All Calipari seems interested in is getting players to the NBA as quick as he can, and then sign a new class every year. Tell me where I am off base here.

  13. Calipari’s strong suit has always been recruiting.
    Now that he’s being annually spanked by Coach K in that department, Cal’s deficiencies are becoming more and more obvious. If he was still recruiting the top class every year the fans would not be so restless, IMO.

    1. Duke always seems to have a blend of OAD’s and veteran players too. That is a wise strategy.

  14. He is supposedly getting top talent, and i think the fans are restless because he is not coaching and developing this talent.

  15. I’m a Calipari fan….He returned the excitement and fun of KY basketball back to me. Yes, this team is a recruiting miss for him…But on paper they looked good… However this team turned out to not have any consistent shooters from the outside which negates the dribble drive and height advantage post ups because opponents have collapsed so tight into the paint so far. This team while athletic has the slowest foot speed ever on a KY team that hurts them on defense, they can’t stop dribble penetration. I think that Diallo need his minutes to drop to 7-8 minutes a game because he is a shooting liability but he insists on shooting 3’s. His instincts on defense are not there. I would give his minutes to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt need to get into the 25 minutes per game mode. He is the quickest player on the team and the best passer and an aggressive rebounder. Knox is a shooting guard, and not a post up forward, play him as a shooting guard. He needs to watch some tape of Jamal Murray the way he was always constantly in motion instead of Knox spending a lot of time standing still out on the 3 point line. And This team in not a final 4 team, you have to have too many games in a row where you have to play great games. This team can win a NCAA game or to when they have low turnovers and hit some outside shots…They have had those kind of winning performances but those games are seldom back-to-back.

  16. Cal is a great coach. Just go back and look at some of his teams at Memphis. He didn’t rely on one and done players but coached them up over several years. I loved watching how hard his teams at Memphis played. This team could be good, but Cal needs to make adjustments that he is not willing to make; such as, moving Knox to shooting guard, put Diallo behind Alexander. I would start Green, Alexander, Knox, Vanderbilt, and Richards. I would post Richards from the free throw line on in, and post Vanderbilt 8 feet on in. That leaves you Green and Alexander to put the ball on the floor for drives and Knox can sleep at the 3 pt line. I would tell Diallo and Gabriel if they take another 3, they will sit the rest of the half. Richards has got to touch the ball at the free throw line because he is such a good shooter. No one in the country can stop his shot at that position. About 50% of the time, you could even put Alexander underneath on weave cut throughs and move Vanderbilt to the PG because he is the only decent passer they have.

    1. Well OF, if you have figured all that out, why can’t Calipari? I personally think Cal has lost his team this year. They are playing worse now than when they started. Hope I am dead wrong, but time is running out. I also think Calipari is worn out physically. He even admitted that saying he was “tired.” His daily grind and schedule would do that to the best of men. It has to be a real challenge to recruit a new team every single year and then try to make men out of boys, figuratively speaking of course.

  17. LP, I think Cal knows it in the back of his mind, but he has become consumed with trying to showcase players he thinks should be one and done; even to the detriment of the team. If SGA was playing like Knox and just standing around at the 3-point line, I don’t think he would be playing. Richards leash is much shorter than Washington’s. Green’s leash is much shorter than Diallo’s. I don’t like saying that, and I hope I am wrong, but it really appears that way to me. I think Cal is so concerned with getting players to the NBA that winning has become secondary. Not that he doesn’t want to win, but showcasing players is more important.

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