John Calipari

John Calipari finally speaks on Kentucky’s recent issues


Controversy has once again found Kentucky head coach John Calipari, as the young Wildcats lost on the road at South Carolina on Saturday and Calipari was ejected in the second half.

The loss was deemed “rock bottom” by a few national writers and on Monday, the head coach decided to place the blame on himself after not speaking to the media on Saturday.

Calipari responded to members of the media and the Courier-Journal‘s Kyle Tucker has many of the quotes, including Cal placing the blame on himself for Kentucky’s recent struggles:

“And again, look, my team, we’re talented enough to do what we want. We could beat anybody in the country, but we’ve also proven we can lose to anybody in the country. So it is on us right now, and basically it’s on me. I don’t put this on 18, 19-year-old kids. They don’t know. You think they know why they’re going through what they’re going through? Most cases they don’t. It’s our job and my job as the head coach to figure out what we have to do, how we have to do it, to get them to play as well as they can possibly play.”

Also interesting was Calipari talking about his teaching methods and how it applies to Kentucky’s confidence levels. Kentucky seemed to have things figured out a few weeks ago, but Calipari is potentially going back to the drawing board.

“But let me say this: I will be whoever I have to be, because this isn’t about me. This is about this team. And I’ve gotta get them more confident and figure out what do they need me to be. A cheerleader? What do they need me to be at this point? And that’s how I’ve always coached. It’s never changed. If I have to be tough, I’m tough. If I have to be easy, I’m easy. But again, it was only a few weeks ago that’s what we talked about. So as we go forward, the whole point of us is: How do we get our defensive confidence? How do we get our offensive confidence? Well we just had it 10 days ago, two weeks ago. How did that change? What did we do different? How did we think different? That’s what we’re going through now.”

So is Kentucky seeking its identity — again — as we get into March? That appears to be the case as there seems to be more questions than answers surrounding the Wildcats right now. Kentucky is one of the most talented teams in the country, but they are running out of time to figure things out as we get closer to the SEC Tournament and March Madness.

There are plenty of more enlightening comments from Calipari from today and they can be read in-full here and here.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.