Author: Eric Angevine

John Calipari

Calipari to Big Blue Madness crowd: “We are college basketball” (VIDEO)

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In case it wasn’t obvious already, John Calipari knows how to tell people what they like to hear. If you’re a top-ten basketball talent and you want someone to tell you you’ll be a lottery pick with the right coaching, he can do that. If your stud forward wants to meet Jay-Z or Drake, he can reasonably promise that, as well.

If you’re a fan of the Kentucky Wildcats, he’ll give you goosebumps from the podium, as well.

At Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness event, Calipari stood on a stage that looked like something out of America’s Got Talent, and crooned the words every Wildcats fan wants to hear: “We don’t just play college basketball, we are college basketball. As you know, we are everyone’s Super Bowl.”

Now, there might be a few other programs in the country who can claim to be Super Bowl caliber opponents, and claiming title to all of the sport’s charms is hubris in the extreme, but Calipari has always been a showman. If cranking up the love inside Rupp equals cranking up the hate outside of Lexington, he’ll take that heat.

Midnight Madness events are full of goofy stunts, as we’ve seen plenty of times already today. Cal might not dance, he might not get shot out of a cannon, and he might not jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but he doesn’t have to. The man brings the electricity to the building without stunts.

Want to see his whole revival tent speech? has it:

Wichita State’s Lufile hopes to think less, play more

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Coaching is a tricky business. Striking the proper balance between training players’ bodies and minds is crucial, and difficult to quantify.

And, even when focusing just on the mental aspects of the game, there’s still more nuance. Chadrack Lufile found that out recently, when he asked Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall to give him more  material to study; something to help him make a difference in the paint for a team that’s losing Carl Hall and Ehimen Orukpe from a wildly successful Final Four team.

“This was the first time I went to coach’s office and said, ‘I want to be better. I want to see what I do in practice and what to work on,’” Lufile told the Wichita Eagle. “It’s like being a professional artist, you’re working every day to get that drawing to its best, as detailed as you can. I’m trying to get my game as detailed and polished as I can.”

The 6-foot-9, 250 lb. Lufile should be hungry for more. The juco transfer saw just 19 minutes of floor time in the NCAA tournament last season.

The key, as far as his coaches are concerned, is to turn a pile of book learning and game film studying into instant action. On the court this season, Lufile isn’t going to have time to think.

A year’s experience in WSU’s system helps. His movements on the court are becoming more instinctive and getting to the right place is no longer a thoughtful process. That frees him to concentrate on improving shooting and ball-handling skills.

“I can work on my game more without having to think about the plays,” Lufile said. “I’ve got to finish better. I’m getting better on my moves.”

As always, the coaches want more defense. Lufile, despite good size and speed, didn’t provide much deterrent to scorers last season. He is not a naturally aggressive defender and that needs to change. Defending, rebounding, setting screens are his primary jobs.

The opportunity is definitely there for him. Cleanthony Early will provide a versatile scoring punch inside for the Shockers, and Lufile will share time with Louisiana transfer Kadeem Coleby and behemoth freshman Shaquille Morris on the low block.
Lufile doesn’t have to be a genius in this offense. In fact, the less he thinks this season, the more successful he is likely to be.

Hardcore hill training gets Badgers ready for a long season

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Championship - Wisconsin v Ohio State

Bo Ryan has been head coach at Wisconsin since 2001. His Badgers haven’t missed the NCAA tournament once during that time. They’ve never finished lower than fourth in the exceptionally loaded Big Ten. Think on that, and consider the persistence and consistency Ryan imparts to a team that changes in makeup every season.

The grit that characterizes Wisconsin basketball under Ryan is born in the preseason, as the Associated Press recently discovered. Ryan has his team run a hill in Madison’s Elver Park that the AP writer estimated to be 150 yards from bottom to top, at an 8 percent grade. As if the hill itself weren’t bad enough, the team has to face the famously unpredictable Wisconsin weather as well.

“The elevation and the pulse. The stamina, the team building. There are days when guys struggle,” Ryan told the AP. “We’ve had days where it’s 90 (degrees). We’ve had days where it’s 40, windy, blustery.”

The hill run is Ryan’s version of the Boot Camp training that other high-profile coaches like Bill Self use to get their players in shape. Somehow, it seems fitting that the grind-it-out Badgers use something so low-tech to get ready year-in and year-out. It’s as much mental as physical, of course:

Ryan, looking fit and rested in shorts, a vest over a sweatshirt and cap, clocked his players with a stopwatch. Midway up, a trainer shouted trivia questions.

The fastest group gets to the top in about 25-26 seconds, while the fourth group gets up in about 29 seconds, Ryan said. Generally, the guards get up the quickest, the big men the slowest.

They went about 10 times this offseason. Each time out, the reps build, from eight the first time to 22 or 23 the last time out.

Wisconsin has talent this season, with Sam Dekker tagged as one of the best players in the Big Ten and guard Josh Gasser back from an injury redshirt season to join a backcourt with Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson. With all that talent learning how to grind it out and work together in the preseason, the Big Dance will likely hold a place for Wisconsin yet again this season.