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John Calipari knows plenty about R.J. Barrett

Duke freshman R.J. Barrett, right, beat John Calipari when he was playing for Canada.  (McDonald’s All-American Photo)


Duke freshman R.J. Barrett has already faced Kentucky coach John Calipari and UK players P.J. Washington and Immanuel Quickley.

He had a dominant 38-point performance when Canada stunned the USA in the 2017 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup to deny the Americans a gold medal.

Does having faced Barrett before help Calipari and UK tonight in Indianapolis against Duke?

“If he played like he did against us there, no, it doesn’t help. I mean, he was really good. He made jumpers, and ones and second shots. He was good. He was good. And they deserved to beat us,” Calipari said.

“But he played. And I imagine he’s going to be that excited as he was to play the USA and win that game. He’ll be that excited to play us. It’s going to be a challenge. ”

Calipari said coaches at Duke, Kansas and Michigan State probably wonder why they are starting the season with such a difficult matchup just like he does.

“But again, I would say all four it’s’ a process. You play bad and win or you play well and lose, this is learning,’ Calipari said. “And you really get a chance to say, OK, what are our strengths? What are some weaknesses? Is there anything glaring that we’re going to have to address?

“And I’ll tell you, it’s not bad that you address it right away.”

Calipari, as he normally does, has his way of spinning the significance of tonight’s game.

“If you win it’s huge. If you lose you just put it in the rearview mirror, learn from it and go on to the next game. But it’ll hold for any of the teams that win this thing. The two teams that win, it’ll hold through whatever. It’ll give you a cushion as you go forward, but it’s just, it’s early,” Calipari said.

“Do you remember UCLA beat us (in 2016-17)? And then we go in the NCAA Tournament and we beat them pretty good. I mean, would you rather have won this one or the last one? I’d rather have won the last one.

“It’s just every year it is, look, we don’t want to be playing in November like it’s January or February. We don’t want to be that team. We want to just continue the gradual climb in what we’re doing.”


  1. I’m a diehard and lifelong UK fan, but something tells me that Duke is going to win this game. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

  2. We will learn a lot about the Cats by midnight tonight.

    With respect to Duke’s players. Barrett has consumed over 19% of all of Duke’s possessions in the preseason, most on the team, and those offensive possessions have yielded an offensive efficiency of 0.808 points per possession for his team. In contrast, Williamson has used almost 17% of Duke’s possessions with an offensive efficiency of 1.141 ppp. After these two, Duke’s consumption rate drops to between 5% to 7% for DeLaurier, Jones, Reddish, and White with offensive efficiencies between 1.409 ppp to 0.892 ppp. Two other Duke players have logged more than 17 minutes per game in their preseason, Bolden (3.5% of possessions, 0.945 ppp) and Goldwire (2.4% of possessions, 0.458 ppp). I believe Duke’s rotation tonight will be 7 to 8 players deep.

    Barrett has been a ball hog, and as far as I am concerned, make him earn his shots, and UK wins Don’t deny him the ball, let him receive the pass, but UK needs to determine where he does so. Williamson has been unstoppable in their preseason. I still believe the drop off from those two is substantial, but the supporting cast did provide better numbers in their two exhibitions than their Canadian tour in August.

    In contrast, UK has had five players consuming 11% to 15% of possessions (Herro, Washington, Travis, Johnson, and Green) with offensive efficiencies of 0.942 to 1.265 ppp. Three more players have used between 7% and 8% of UK’s possessions with efficiencies of 1.232 to 1.460 ppp. Much deeper quality and much better distribution of the wealth among those eightplayers. One other UK player has averaged over 17 minutes per game in the preseason, Montgomery (3.1% of possessions, 1.113 ppp)

    Offensively, UK has better players top to bottom and better depth. Duke’s advantage appears in the defensive numbers. In both comparisons, the assumption is each team faced preseason opponents of similar strength. Duke averaged a defensive efficiency of 0.738 ppp while the Cats allowed its opponents to score at a rate of 0.835 ppp.

    Going to be a very competitive game, and while the overall numbers may give Duke a slight overall advantage, I believe Calipari’s defense will be better tonight that it showed in the two recent exhibition games. If it is, then UK wins pulling away at the end.

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