John Calipari’s Playing Head Games
Kentucky coach John Calipari has made some strange comments to the media recently and I’m trying to figure what it’s all about. Right before the SEC tournament, he said his team probably needed to win two games in the SEC tourney to be a number one seed in the Big Dance. Kentucky would have been 29-3 even with a first-round loss in the SEC tourney and a lock for a one seed along with Kansas and Syracuse. Calipari was downplaying his team’s accomplishments and level of national respect, perhaps to keep his players motivated. Fast forward to Saturday night after Kentucky got done hammering Wake Forest by 30 points. The Wildcats were already a number one seed and picked to reach the championship game by most analysts. They were the second most popular pick to win the title behind Kansas. As soon as Kansas was upset by Northern Iowa, Kentucky became even more of a favorite than they already were. Not in Calipari’s eyes. Check out what he said:
“I don’t know if we’re the overwhelming favorite. Everyone was picking us to lose today, be in a tough game. They were also saying we’d be the first number one [seed] out. So how do they change those talking heads overnight? With one game? Come on. We’re still a bunch of freshmen and sophomores in our second NCAA tournament game, they’ve never played in any other games. All we’re going to worry about is us.”
I honestly don’t know what planet he’s inhabiting. Everywhere I’ve looked people have been in agreement — it was Kansas and Kentucky and everyone else at least a step below. I don’t know of anyone picking Kentucky to be eliminated in the second round; most people had them in the championship game from what I could tell. I don’t know if there are some talking heads disparaging Kentucky to whom Calipari has something to prove or if the guy is just being really crafty and playing mind games. Most likely, he’s trying to keep himself and his players from believing their press clippings and hype so that they maintain their edge. The guy has me scratching my head right now, but if this is part of his strategy to keep his players hungry and operating in an underdog role, then more power to him. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure it all out.