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Calipari not worried about losing No. 1 seed or team regressing because of loss at Tennessee

John Calipari is not worried about his team regressing. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

If Kentucky had won at Tennessee and then closed out the Southeastern Conference play with two more wins, many believed that would have been enough to earn UK a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, UK got trounced Saturday but UK coach John Calipari isn’t worried about the impact that might have on a potential No. 1 seed.

“No, because other teams have lost, and they have moved up in the poll,” Calipari said.

Calipari also doesn’t worry about his team “regressing” because of the loss.

“This is one game. They have not lost here in two years. For us to win without Reid (Travis), we were going to have to play one of our best games in the past 10 years. As soon as I saw how it started and when P.J. (Washington) got his second foul, I was like, ‘Okay, how do I make this close.'” Calipari said.

“I was angry because it was a 14-point game and we had three possessions. We had a chance to get the lead down to seven or eight. There was only one guy thinking we could get it down to seven or eight. Me. I asked them way they would think that way. Turnovers, P.J.threw one in the seats.”

Calipari also knows the doubters will return and the noise will start that UK is not as good as some thought.

“Tennessee deserves this. It was a great win on national television,” Cailpari said. “It’s amazing, now they will say that we aren’t that good. When we  beat them, they said they weren’t that good. When they beat us on their court where they haven’t lost in two years, now we aren’t that good.

“This is college basketball. When you are playing freshman and sophomores, you have games like this. These kids are not machines. They are not robots. Sometimes, they play bad and sometimes the other team is more inspired to play and they beat you.”

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  1. Generally, when a team loses one player due to injury, the team’s character and strength is distributed broadly enough to absorb the loss of the one player. Time and again, we have all witnessed this not only with UK teams but with other teams. Over the years, there have been two notable exceptions in the Kentucky record. In 1997, UK’s loss of Anderson resulted in a drop in the quality of the team’s play, and that drop probably cost the 1997 team a championship that they lost to Arizona in OT in the Championship game. In 2013, a UK team that was probably headed to a Sweet 16 finish cratered and the wheels came off completely when Nerlens Noel suffered his season ending injury.

    I have seen enough of this team without Reid Travis to believe the loss of Travis is more significant than the loss of Anderson in 1997, and probably not quite as severe as the loss of Nerlens in 2013. This team had been playing at an extremely high level before the Travis injury, at a level in line with a true Championship contender. Since the Travis injury, this team has fallen dramatically in the quality of its play.

    Yesterday’s game was a significant indicator of the degree of the decline. Losing at Tennessee, especially this season, is no surprise. What is a surprise is the margin of defeat. 19 points can only be explained by the loss of Travis. The same with the poor late game performance at Missouri after Travis went down, and the complete no-show against a weak Arkansas team.

    Calipari need not worry about #1 seeds or even #2 seeds at this point. He should worry about whether his team has the ability to compete at a high level WITHOUT REID TRAVIS on the floor.

    I understood yesterday that Calipari could have played Travis, but chose to hold him out again. Those close to the program echoed support for Calipari’s decision to hold him out, and in Calipari’s own explanation, he seems more concerned about NBA futures than UK futures, yet again.

    UK, via the BBN, pays this man all those millions to win for UK, not the NBA!!!!

    Get your priorities straight coach.

  2. I agree with your thoughts Professor. This team without Reid Travis on the floor is a much weaker team as we all witnessed yesterday. If he could have played I would have played him. Why? This was Tennessee, the big one with so much on the line. But he chose not to play him. This is why I dislike Calipari’s system. Every year there is way to much youth on the floor come March when it counts. He also leans toward protecting his NBA angle too heavily in every decision as opposed to what is best for Kentucky basketball. Yesterday was an A$$ kicking, and I thought Calipari sort of threw his team under the bus with his post game comments. Hey, it’s his team and his youth. It is that way every year too.

    That said, I also thought UT got a ton of home cooking too. Maybe it is sour grapes on my part. I don’t know what a foul even is anymore in college basketball. Pushing, shoving, body contact. Tennessee got away with a lot of extremely physical play IMO. That said, UK folded for the most part. It happens with young players in games like this. Calipari said that himself. Finally, It ain’t over yet. UK can still win it all.

    1. You are right Pup, there was a ton of home cooking in that game, but we always get that at TN and on the road in general. They saw how Arkansas pressured the ball and the passing lanes and how it rattled us for most of the game. Throw in the cooking and it was revenge time.

      Calipari will always have an excuse and really couldn’t care less about winning the conference season, or its tournament…he has said so publicly many times…when are we going to believe him? Winning the Big Dance is of no concern to him either as long as he gets some players in the NBA. I really think he is going to make a jump back there as soon as Brad graduates.

      This team without a HEALTHY Travis is 2 and done in both tournaments. With a HEALTHY Travis, who knows…they could win both or get KO’ed in the 3rd round of both.

  3. Professor , I honestly don’t think he held Reid back just protect him for NBA. He stated he wasn’t gonna push it real fast for Reid to play and besides we need him when it counts the most the SEC tournament and for most of all the NCAA tournament.

  4. We shall see what we shall see with regard to Calipari playing Travis. It is too late now to affect anything of importance in the SEC, that opportunity passed yesterday.

    I say, do not play him again until the Sweet 16, and see if these kiddies can survive the next 3 weeks without him.

    1. Must be read, dripping with sarcasm.

  5. I’m almost 83 years old, and honestly, there has never been a decade of UK
    basketball that comes close to what coach Cal has given our program. Throw
    out some key injuries and inconsistencies in refereeing and you are looking at an
    almost unreal era. Who has done a better job? No one in my two/cents worth opinion. Week before last, it was Swag Cal and this week he is not satisfying a lot of fans. I don’t mind UK basketball consistently being in the conversation for high seeds every year, but the unreal expectations take a lot from my personal enjoyment. I’ve grown to respect his ability to find seemingly, high character kids, and in an incredibly short time, mold them into potential Final Four teams. No one does it any better. Between all the recruiting hype, High School All Star games, NBA draft night, NBA Summer League, he gives Kentucky basketball a year round exposure that no other coach in American can match. Now that I got that out of my system, I will close by saying, I would give almost anything to hear
    and see at the start of every televised UK home game, a darkening of lights, and a spot light on the marked place for the man who would always welcome us with,
    “Hello everyone, this is Cawood Ledford, coming to you from courtside Lexington, Kentucky, home of the UofK Wildcats. I swear to you, that would bring chills to my old body and tears of joy from my eyes-Go Cats

    1. Amen to that hfb. That is might near spiritual. There will never be another
      Cawood Ledford, ever.

  6. Yes I have been critical at times, just because we got spank yesterday doesn’t mean this team can’t accomplished the number 9 run. I like our chances just as much than any team in the country . This team has a mind set to get it done than any other team since that big blow LOSS to Wisconsin.

  7. If I’m wrong about this, please offer your insight. My take on getting upset with Coach Cal on supposedly putting more emphasis on getting OAD players to the NBA than Kentucky ‘s rich tradition of winning SEC conferences and NCAA Championships, has always been a smoke screen. He values talent over experience, and it would not be consistent or congruent with his recruiting pitch not to emphasize this…you have to get them here first. He maintains this pitch since he delivers, however he didn’t become a HOF coach without an ego. What’s so special about his ego, is not only does he want to win every game, he, himself still wants to be the best he can be by mixing in the “servant” and “brothers’ keeper” transition of “me to we” . For the short time the OADs are here, his impact on them in this area gets home. You have to be proud of our program when you see Kentucky NBAers making big cash donations and giving of their free time to less fortunate families. Name a big time coach teaching this concept along with basketball skills training? He’s not a saint, but the traits are certainly admirable. What’s so unbelievably unfortunate, is he is hated for this-wow! He’s delivered on his promise to not only get us back to the top of the mountain, but he’s changed a lot of people lives and he’s obviously affected them since we don’t see too many acting poorly in society. Lastly, his comment about losing not affecting our ranking since “other teams” lose and it doesn’t effect them, keeps the totally human Swaggie Cal in prospective. If he maintains his integrity, it will be a sad day when he hangs it up.

  8. I just don’t like his OAD system period. No doubt Calipari has done a lot for basketball at UK, but he has only one national championship in spite of all the talent he has brought in. He is being paid millions to win championships at Kentucky, both SEC, and national championships, that is Kentucky’s destiny. He seems much too preoccupied IMO with placing the most first round draft picks in the NBA than any other college coach around. Great four year players can still play in the NBA too last I checked. I don’t think UK wins it all this year either, but I still have hope. The Tennessee loss was the latest step in the wrong direction. The freshmen laden teams Calipari produces year in year out are his constant excuse for poor play. That alone gets old because it is his choice. I liked UK basketball most when talent laden teams stayed around long enough for fans to remember all their names. I just look at things purely as a UK basketball fan, nothing more. Not so much patting ourselves on the back because four or five more bolted for the NBA after only one year at UK. How does that help the UK fan base? Then Calipari starting all over again with fresh faces who only have eyes for the NBA and really no deep passion for the rich tradition that Kentucky basketball represents. Can I blame kids for chasing the money, of course not. In many ways Calipari seems to have lost his recruiting edge too of late. In his system he must constantly feed the beast to survive.

  9. If I live to be 83 years old, I hope I have acquired as much knowledge as the poster know as Hope For Best.

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