John Calipari

Kentucky head coach John Calipari blames himself for team’s struggles

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During John Calipari’s time in Lexington it became the norm to watch Kentucky find a way to be highly successful despite essentially having a completely different roster every season.

But that hasn’t happened in 2012-13, and with the Wildcats (20-10, 11-6 SEC) losing 72-62 at Georgia on Thursday night there’s a chance that the reigning national champions won’t return to the NCAA tournament.

So who did Calipari blame for this group’s struggles following the loss? Himself, stating that he’s disappointed in the way he’s coached this season.

“The biggest thing is: I am so disappointed in the job I’ve done with this team, I can’t even begin to tell you. I look at a team – I’ve done this 20-something years; I’ve never had a team not cohesive this time of year. Every one of my teams (was) cohesive. Every one of them had a will to win more than how they were playing. Every one of them had a fight. Well, if this team doesn’t have that, that’s on me. What in the heck did I do? I’ll tell you: I’m going to go back and evaluate how we practiced, what I accepted, because they’re giving us what I’ve accepted – which is, ‘It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose, I’m going to play the way I want to play.’

In regards to the on-court chemistry it’s difficult to argue with Calipari’s statement. In the aftermath of Nerlens Noel’s torn ACL the Wildcats need each other; there isn’t a “star” among the current group that can lead Kentucky to consistent success.

Sure there are talented players such as Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein, but none of the players still on the floor have the ability to not only raise their level of play individually but also take their teammates with them.

Also in those postgame quotes were comments from both Goodwin and Cauley-Stein, with the former lamenting the lack of fight that some of his teammates display at times and the latter saying that “you can’t coach a mentality.”

Those comments sound good because it’s essentially what fans seemingly “want” to hear when their team is struggling. But making those statements and doing something about the issues are entirely different things. That’s why Kentucky is in the position they’re currently in.

Can Calipari be blamed for this group’s struggles? Sure, but at a certain point the team has to take ownership and the play of this group shows that they have yet to do so. Calipari’s words seem to be as much about relieving some of the pressure on his players as they are about him taking the blame for a season that hasn’t panned out as many expected it to.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: