By LARRY VAUGHT
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.”