If Kentucky looks a little sleepy for Saturday’s game against Alabama, there is a good reason why.
The Wildcats had their sleep interrupted by fire alarms that went off in the middle of the night at their hotel. According to what the team confirmed to SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker, fire alarms went off at 3:30 a.m., 5 a.m., and 7 a.m. They were awakened by the first two and had to evacuate after the first fire alarm. Luckily the second one was brief enough where they did not have to evacuate.
The 19-5 Wildcats have lost three of five entering Saturday’s 1 p.m. ET game against Alabama. Being on interrupted sleep for the game certainly won’t help their efforts against the Tide.
The Kentucky men’s basketball team has struggled over its last several games, and even a win wasn’t enough to satisfy John Calipari on Tuesday night. Unhappy with his team’s performance in a 92-85 victory over LSU, Calipari did not hold back in a postgame interview.
“If anybody wants to quit, they can quit,” the Wildcats coach said.
One of Calipari’s former players took note. Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns took a shot at this year’s Kentucky squad on Instagram with a comment directed toward fellow former Wildcat Devin Booker.
The Kentucky team Towns and Booker played for went undefeated during the regular season, eventually losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four and finishing with a record of 38-1. This year’s Wildcats have lost three of their last five, the most recent of which was an 88-66 blowout at the hands of Florida. Still, it’s not all that common for an alumnus to call out his former program publicly.
It’s no surprise Calipari is frustrated, especially when you see what some of his players were doing toward the end of their latest loss.
Losing a game is about the worst thing that can happen to a team in the eyes of most fans, but John Calipari actually thinks a loss was a good thing for his Kentucky squad.
Kentucky is ranked No. 4 in the country and 17-3 on the season. They lost two non-conference games to UCLA and Louisville, but then they recently lost in conference to Tennessee.
With a roster full of young players, Calipari believes the defeat to the Vols on Tuesday night was good for the development of his youngsters.
“You’ve got to let them fail fast and hope they learn from those mistakes,” Calipari said on ESPN’s “College GameDay” program Saturday morning. “If you try to tell them, ‘that won’t work,’ you’re kind of holding them. You have to let them go a little bit and they’re going to make some mistakes.
“I hate to tell you, losing to Tennessee was good for us because I didn’t have their attention,” Calipari said of his players. “We almost lost to Mississippi State, we almost lost to Auburn, and now we lost to Tennessee. We didn’t have the energy. So that’s the kind of stuff with young kids.”
Kentucky only played eight guys during Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee — all but two are freshman or sophomores. Four of the starting five are freshmen, which explains why Calipari wants them to take their lumps early in the season so they can be at their best in March. Though his quote sounds odd on the surface, it actually makes plenty of sense.
Drake may have jumped on the Kentucky bandwagon less than 10 years ago, but he is determined to convince everyone that there is no bigger Wildcats fan in the world than him right now.
In an appearance on John Calipari’s podcast this week, Drake spoke about the first time he visited the Kentucky campus in 2009. Although he was on the verge of becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the entertainment industry, the rapper claims his trip to Lexington was one of the most inspirational experiences of his life.
“When I came to Lexington and met you, I didn’t want to leave. I would probably have traded my life at that moment to play Kentucky basketball and be under you and it felt like a mentor,” Drake explained, as transcribed by Kentucky Sports Radio. “It felt like a father figure. It felt like this incredible feeling. And at 26 years old, it made me go and reconnect with the teacher that I loved the most from grades nine through eleven before I decided to stop going to high school, and I reconnected with her and — we still talk every day — but at that point in time, we would talk a lot and I asked her if she would help me graduate high school. And I felt like I was doing it just in honor — and this is not just to say this because I’m on this show — to honor what I had seen in Lexington and feeling like I was part of something.”
Talk about some heavy stuff. Knowing exactly what he was doing, Calipari asked Drake where he would play college basketball if he was a top high school recruit. We’ll let you guess how Drake responded.
“To answer your question, there’s no doubt in my mind. I wouldn’t have to do some big spectacle of choices with different caps on the table,” he said. “I would go straight to Kentucky because I’d have to play under you. That would be one of the greatest things to ever happen in my life.”
Drake has become an important recruiting asset for Calipari. If you think his opinion and connection with the program doesn’t matter, you have no idea how modern day college athletics works. Remember who introduced Calipari at Big Blue Madness a while back? That was no coincidence.
Just how serious is the Kentucky-Louisville basketball rivalry? Enough to make John Calipari say that it’s bigger than life or death.
Calipari was asked about the rivalry game ahead of Wednesday’s matchup between the teams.
“I’m happy when it’s over,” Calipari said, via CBS Sports. “Just get it done. Everybody makes it life or death and it’s not life or death. It’s worse than that.”
Not only is there the proximity of the two schools that makes the rivalry heated, but the big factor contributing to the intensity is the success of the programs. Calipari and Rick Pitino are two of the best college basketball coaches in history and routinely have their teams contending for national championships. Things are so contested between the programs that there was a controversy last year about whether or not Pitino flipped off some Wildcats fans.
Kentucky leads the all-time rivalry 34-15 and has won four in a row against the Cardinals.
This is a new one – John Calipari’s entire Kentucky team, walk-ons included, will be submitting their names into the NBA Draft pool.
Calipari said so on Twitter, but don’t read too much into it – under the rules, this can be done up to three times, and it doesn’t mean the entire team is going to enter the draft and not come back.
By rule, players can attend the combine and still withdraw from the draft within ten days of its conclusion, so there’s really zero reason not to do this. A number of players won’t even be invited to the combine and will return to school, so this is just sort of a grandiose statement on Calipari’s part for no obvious reason. Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis, and Skal Labissiere are likely gone, along with senior Alex Poythress. The rest of the team is likely to be back, augmented by a strong recruiting class, including a kid that could guarantee keeping the coach in Lexington for at least four more years.
Kentucky fans had their hearts broken earlier this year when their team fell two wins short of completing college basketball’s first perfect season in over 30 years. But if you believe John Calipari, the loss wasn’t quite as devastating for the team.
In fact, Calipari recently claimed some of his players were “relieved” after they blew a 60-56 lead against Wisconsin with five minutes remaining.
“It probably would have been better if we lost a game (in the regular season),” he said. “When we lost to Wisconsin, some guys were relieved in that locker room. When I walked in, I thought they’d be devastated. A few of them were relieved like, ‘whew!’”
If you believe that, I have a pair of white gloves and a ketchup Popsicle to sell you.
Calipari is a master of spinning things when the Wildcats face adversity, which is one of the things that makes him such a fantastic recruiter. His comments about players being “relieved” are similar to the ones he made a few months ago about what his team’s goal was last season.
It’s impossible to imagine 18- and 19-year-old kids not being crushed after a Final Four loss. A sense of relief may have come if Kentucky had lost earlier in the season, but there are no positive emotions after falling 45 minutes shy of winning a championship.
One die-hard Kentucky basketball fan was not about to let his team’s disappointing loss in the 2015 Final Four spoil his tattoo party.
According to Kentucky Sports Radio, a Wildcats fan named Cory Eaves got the tattoo you see above after Kentucky lost to Wisconsin to finish its season 38-1. One would think the ink would have said “40 and 0” originally and been edited accordingly, but that apparently was not the case.
In addition to the John Calipari face making this one of the creepiest tattoos we have ever seen, it is also one of the most confusing. At least that fan who got this ridiculous Kentucky tattoo last year was taking a risk that didn’t pay off.
Photo: Twitter/Cory Eaves
Kentucky faced perhaps its toughest test of the season in an Elite Eight matchup with Notre Dame on Saturday, but the Wildcats prevailed to keep their perfect season alive and advance to the Final Four.
The Wildcats trailed at various points in the first half and went into halftime tied at 31 with the Fighting Irish. In the second half, they trailed by as many as six points with under six minutes to play before going back-and-forth with the Irish over the final few minutes and eventually winning 68-66.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the star for Kentucky. He set the tone early in the second half by making three baskets and accounting for six of the team’s nine first nine points. They continued to feed him in the low post, and he delivered by scoring 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. The freshman forward looked like a future No. 1 overall pick the way he was able to take it to Notre Dame on every possession. Devin Booker, who scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, was the only other Wildcat in double figures.
For Notre Dame, the efforts of Zach Auguste helped them put Kentucky on the ropes. The junior forward scored 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting and added nine rebounds in the loss. Star guard Jerian Grant scored 15 points and nearly went down in history for his efforts, but he faded down the stretch and missed a huge 3-pointer that could have given them the lead. After sinking an enormous three to make it 66-64 Notre Dame with just over two and a half minutes to play, Grant missed his final three shots, including two threes. One of his last-minute 3-point attempts was blocked by Willie Caulie-Stein on a great defensive play by the big man, who was guarding Grant all the way out at the top of the circle. Caulie-Stein had two blocks in the game, while Kentucky combined for nine in the contest, compared to just one for Notre Dame, once again showcasing the elite defense that has made the Wildcats a team on the verge of history.
After the game, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey acknowledged that Kentucky’s size is a challenge.
“(Kentucky’s) size does get to you over the course of 40 minutes,” he said via WDRB’s Eric Crawford.
Not only were the Wildcats stingy defensively, but Brey also said he struggled to find a good defensive solution to stop Kentucky’s offense.
“The one time I go zone, Booker hits a 3. The one time I double, Ulis hits a 3,” Brey vented after the game, via Crawford.
As well as Notre Dame played, they just didn’t quite have enough to take down the 38-0 Wildcats, but they did give Kentucky perhaps its toughest test of the season. You can credit some great defense and clutch shooting by Kentucky for the win. They made their final nine shots, while Andrew Harrison made two big free throws in the final 10 seconds. A deserving Towns was named the Most Outstanding Player of the region.
Kentucky now moves on to the Final Four where they will take on Wisconsin, a team they beat by a point in the Final Four last year to advance to the championship game where they lost to UConn. After watching the way the Badgers played earlier in the day Saturday, fans have to be pumped up for the game.
Kentucky completely embarrassed West Virginia in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night, and that’s exactly what freshman guard Tyler Ulis says the Wildcats set out to do.
As you have likely heard, West Virginia’s Daxter Miles Jr. has been taking all kinds of verbal abuse from fans after he predicted the Mountaineers were going to ruin Kentucky’s undefeated season. After Kentucky’s 78-39 win, Ulis made it clear his team used Miles’ overconfidence as bulletin board material.
“They should have kept their mouth shut and it might not have been like that,” Ulis told reporters, per Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio. “Our whole plan was to crush their spirit — beat ’em by 50 for disrespecting us.”
Kentucky “only” won by 39, but the message was clear.
Miles is a trooper for even leaving his Twitter account active. Some of the stuff that was written about him on Thursday night was downright nasty, and I’m sure it didn’t get any better overnight.
Kentucky’s future opponents have surely taken note.