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INDIANAPOLIS — This Kentucky basketball team often plays with a ferocity on defense, which usually leads to success on the other end of the court. They have star players and approach each game with swagger, which are now more important than ever.
The Wildcats have the opportunity to do something really special in the NCAA Tournament, and it all starts on Thursday. There will be no overlooking Saint Peter’s, according to Sahvir Wheeler, who mentioned that the team received a stern message from Coach Calipari.
“The biggest challenge is the first game. Coach Cal has already said that. These teams are very good.”
But Calipari said losing in the SEC Tournament last weekend sparked this team. He called the loss to Tennessee a ‘Godsend’ because it allowed this group to have extra time together in practice. It also allowed their two guards, TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler, to recover from injury a bit longer.
“The injury to our two guards, we thought, ‘Ok, they’re back.’ Getting beat in the SEC Tournament was almost like a Godsend. We scrimmaged for over an hour when we got back and 45 minutes yesterday. We needed to get free on the court. I felt we needed to go, so let’s go.
“I don’t know when this is gonna end, but it will be a sad day for me,” Calipari added. “I can hold them accountable and they aren’t babies. They are coming every day to get better. Unless you coach, you don’t understand that that’s why we are a great team. We have great teammates, which makes up this team.”
Calipari is more or less downplaying the loss, which a good coach will do. He’s not making some sort of huge proclamation. We all know how he acts in certain situations. Calipari also said they only discuss the month of March in the locker room.
“We don’t talk about conference championships [or] conference tournaments. We talk about March. I think we are ready, but we’ll see.”
That doesn’t mean the rest of the season doesn’t matter though. There have been a lot of discussions about seeding in the NCAA Tournament going forward. But this is who Calipari is and nothing will every change him. He honestly doesn’t care much at all about the SEC Tournament. He cares about March Madness.
Though most of Big Blue Nation will get behind him, the 14,000 Kentucky fans who traveled to Tampa last weekend probably still went home extremely pissed. As you will see on Thursday, Kentucky can move past a loss pretty quickly, but I want to see them do it on the court, not at the microphone. They shouldn’t have many problems with Saint Peter’s on Thursday, but they also shouldn’t overlook them.
This is the time of year that John Calipari lives for, so prepare yourself accordingly. But if the Wildcats come out and play like they did against Tennessee, they won’t make it to New Orleans for the Final Four.