The Beat

The Beat

A Kentucky sports blog by KyForward.com sports editor James Pennington

Spring football interviews with Stoops and Brown, April 9

Less than 12 hours after getting home from the Final Four, I found myself at spring football interviews for the first time since practice started up. Here are quotes from head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Questions are in italics and paraphrased for clarity.

MARK STOOPS

Opening statement:

Pretty good work today, good energy. The offense responded a little bit Monday, defense got after it a little bit, had good energy, good enthusiasm, probably had the upper hand in team drills. Today the offense responded a little more, a little more balanced, but I like what I see. The guys are working hard and getting better. As I always say, we’ve got miles to go, but I like their attitude and their energy and their work ethic and we’re improving. Good to see some guys back. You guys were off the basketball trail.

 

On Ryan Timmons:

Timmons is, he’s doing very good. He’s more consistent of being a complete wide receiver. We know he’s good with the ball in his hands and he’s got to learn to get open, it’s not just screens and fly motions and handing him the ball and all that. He’s improving, he really is. He’s making some big plays. He’s been more consistent; he’s stronger. I like the way he’s playing.

 

On if Timmons has gotten stronger:

Just get in great shape and he’s working on that, yeah.

 

ON RUNNING BACKS. DO INJURIES IN SPRING ILLUSTRATE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HAVE DEPTH AT THAT SPOT?

On running backs and if spring injuries show how important depth is:

It is. They’re better. We’re getting more depth at that position. Mikel (Horton) is getting a bunch of work. Josh (Clemons) being back a little bit has been helpful. He’s a tough, physical presence in there. It’s been good. We need a bunch of guys and I’d like to say it’s because we’re much more physical and we’re bigger and stronger and we’re beating them up, but I don’t know if that’s the case. I can’t say that yet. But anyway, we need some guys, need some depth.

 

ON CLEMONS’ RESILIENCE, THROWING AWAY ANY CAUTION AND IS JUST PLAYING:

On if Josh Clemons’ resilience is akin to him throwing caution to the wind and just playing:

Yeah, that’s a good analogy. And he’s been playing very well. It doesn’t look like he really missed a beat to be honest with you. It seems like he’s moving good, has good agility along with his power. It’s been good to have him.

 

On Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle:

They’ve been very good. They’ve been more consistent. Again, they’re bigger and stronger. They’ve been taking more of a leadership role, so I like the way those two are playing. They’ve been really solid, and need to continue to improve, but I like what they’re doing, both on the field and off.

 

On wide receivers’ physicality:

We’re a work in progress there, but we’re all over them. Coach Mainord’s coaching them up tough. I think defensively, we’re putting pressure on them that way. We’ve incorporated some drills and half line, things like that where maybe the defense knows screens are coming and so we’re just flying to the ball, making them put their face on the defender and learn how to block and how to be tough. We’re getting better.

 

On saying he admired basketball team’s run and what specifically he can take from that:

What I said was it was good for any team or any program to see how they just kind of put all the distractions aside and just went to work and put their head down and listened to their coaches and really came together. I think any team could learn from that. We’re much further off. We know that. We’ve got a lot further to go, but in the same analogy we just need to put our head down. You guys hear me talk about that all the time. We can’t worry about anything except getting better out there today. Our players are starting to take that approach. And even during practice or after practice we get all excited and sometimes in the spring it gets competitive going back and forth –  it’s not necessarily always about just winning a drill. Are we winning a winning a drill because we played very good or because the other side didn’t execute? So, I’d like to see good execution on both sides of the ball. And again, I think we’re improving in that area. We’re still not there, but we’re getting better and I think that’s one of the things we kind of can take from it: just put our head down, go to work and get better.

 

On if there has been any movement or separation in quarterback battle:

No. You know, it’s tough, because maybe one guy will jump out at you. Jalen (Whitlow) really had a good drive today, really did a good job with the first-team offense and really did a nice job of moving them and was very effective. So, it goes back and forth.

 

On any injury updates:

Jojo (Kemp) was back out there. It was good he was back out there at full-strength looked good. Nothing new. A few little nagging things here and there, but overall pretty decent.

 

On who is working at returner:

We’re working a bunch of guys back there. We’re getting Timmons involved and having him return some, some new guys would be. Timmons and T.V. (Williams) is back there. Of course, Demarco (Robinson). So, we’re bringing those guys along, along with some others. I’d like to get Timmons back there. If he could get comfortable catching the punts, I’d like to look him.

 

On how TraVaughn Paschal has looked and if he is at linebacker full time:

Yeah, he had that offseason — he had an offseason surgery, so he’s not getting a ton of work right now. But yeah, I think TraVaughn is the type of guy we can still move around a little bit, kind of in Bud’s role.

 

On how Ryan Timmons has looked returning kicks:

He’s better. He’s better. Yeah, he’s more comfortable. He’s not as indecisive about the catching. He’s going and making good decisions and going and getting it. So he’s getting more comfortable.

 

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR NEAL BROWN

On Wednesday’s practice:

We had a really good, spirited practice, both sides, some give and take. Defense made some big plays against us; we were able to regroup, made some big plays toward the end. I liked the energy we got, especially up front with the offensive line. We’re starting to get some leadership up there with Jordan Swindle and Darrian Miller and Jon Toth really coming along. It was good we had a couple running backs get back out there today, so we were better at position. The quarterbacks were all better. I’ve told you that. We’re all much-improved. Not much separation. It’s hard to tell until I get back and watch it, but that’s kind of where we’re at.

 

On what he wanted to see from Ryan Timmons this spring and whether he’s seeing it:

I wanted to see him take a step. I’ve been talking to him a lot about a kid we had at Troy named Jerrel Jernigan that plays for the Giants now. He was a lot like Ryan coming in: hadn’t played just a ton of true wideout. Jerrel had actually been a quarterback – an option quarterback – in high school. Came in, we used him – use Ryan very similar to how we used Jerrel at Troy in 2007. Then from the end of the season in 2007 through spring practice, into the start of the season in 2008, Jerrel changed his body, really learned how to play receiver, and he was a first-team all-conference player, a third-round draft pick, so on and so on. So that’s kind of the guy I’ve been talking to Ryan about. I’m pleased with where he’s at. His practice habits are a lot better. He’s catching the ball more consistently. And he gives us a big-play threat.

 

On whether Timmons is stronger:

Yeah, his body looks a lot better. Where he played three sports in high school, which is a great thing, he just wasn’t in the weight room a ton. And he had that shoulder surgery about this time last year, so he didn’t get to go through any of our offseason stuff. So his body looks a lot better.

 

On calling offensive tackles Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle the offensive MVPs last season and whether that was about what they did or what skill positions didn’t:

I don’t know. It’s a combination probably. They were our two best players, so probably when asked that question I answered it just from who our best players were. Those two played at the highest level. Those guys, they take it personal. I probably get on them as hard as I get on anybody, just because I think they can play at a really, really high level, and when the guys see me challenging them, I think they accept that.

 

On what example Josh Clemons has set for young players:

Toughness and perseverance, without question. He really attacked his rehab. He looks better now than any time I’ve seen him. Obviously I wasn’t here when he was a freshman before all the injuries took place. He looked really good on video, I’ve seen him on video from his freshman year. But I think it does, especially some of these young guys to see how important it is for him to go through what he’s gone through to get back. It sets a great standard.

 

On if Brown ever thought TV Williams would be too small:

Yeah, I think that’s a concern. I think that’s a legitimate concern. I don’t think you can have a whole team of guys his size, but you can have small guys. We signed a kid named Jakeem Grant at Texas Tech, and he made a lot of plays when we were there and he’s made a lot of plays last year for them, and he’ll make some more in the two years you’ve got left. We’ll be careful. We know how to use him. We’re not going to ask him to be a lead blocker. We’re not going to ask him to do things that he’s not capable of doing, but he can stretch the field and he can make some plays when he gets the ball in his hands, for sure.

 

On if wide receivers need to improve blocking:

They need to improve everything. But we’re better. We’re still not where we need to be. But to be honest, it’s going to take time. I’m sitting here a year ago talking to you guys, and we were in bad shape at wide-out. I don’t think there was as bad a shape anywhere in the country going back to last spring. We’re better. By no means where we need to be or where we’re going to be. It’s probably going to take another year to get it exactly where it needs to be from a depth standpoint, but they’re better. They’re more coachable now, and they’re studying the game when they’re not here. I’m excited about those guys. They’re hungry, which is an improvement from last fall.

 

On Patrick Towles’ hitch, and if it comes back in stressful situations:

You know, I really haven’t seen it much this spring. He’s doing a good job. I’m pleased with how he’s worked, how he’s progressed. Fundamentally, he’s a lot better than he has since I’ve been here. I’m excited about it. I’m excited about him.

 

On if running back feels like a position that will be improved:

Yeah. I think we’ll be more talented. I think some of them are going to be young, though, with Mikel and Boom. It’ll be to be determined. I think with Jojo, if he continues to progress he should be a better football player. Braylon’s got some experience. So I think so. I’m optimistic, but they’ve got to go out and get it done.

Orlando Antigua Q&A: The new South Florida coach still has business to settle on Kentucky’s bench

Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua was introduced Tuesday as the new head coach at South Florida, but he’ll stay on the bench with the Wildcats as they finish out their season at the Final Four here in Arlington, Texas. Antigua took questions after Thursday’s practice about his new job, Willie Cauley-Stein’s ankle—he declined to say anything, if you could imagine—and Kentucky’s week ahead here at AT&T Stadium.

Questions are in italics and are paraphrased for clarity.

**

On why USF was the job:

I just think the combination of different things: getting a chance to meet with (South Florida athletics director) Mark Harlan, his energy and his passion for where he wants to take the program; knowing the commitment that the university has made to the athletic department; to the facilities that they have; to the players that they’ve got on their current roster. I just think that a combination of those things lends to allow to put you in a position to go out and be able to compete.

 

On how much USF’s exit from the Big East affects it as a job:

I don’t know, because the American conference is pretty good. I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s a team in this tournament that plays in that conference. So I think it’s a great conference. It’s not the old Big East, but that conference is no longer together as it is right now. I just think you’ve got very competitive teams in the conference, and I’m excited about the challenge to see how we compete in it.

 

On what John Calipari taught him over the years:

He taught me to adjust to the personnel that you have, how to keep challenging kids. How to keep raising the bar. Those are the things that immediately come to mind. I’m sure as I get into the trenches there will be more of that stuff that surfaces, that comes out. Dodgeball—maybe. Hopefully I don’t have to be playing dodgeball.

 

On how hard it was to tell the UK players that he was heading out:

It’s funny. When I got back from the press conference, they all started busting my chops. But it’s great. They’re a great group of kids. I’m really happy for the experience that I got a chance to have by being at Kentucky and being with this staff. The administration has been phenomenal, and the relationships that I’ve built there will be relationships that I think I have for the rest of my career.

 

On juggling duties at the Final Four with new obligations:

You try to take one thing at a time right now. Mark has been gracious to obviously allow me to finish out this run that we have going. I try to text message with the kids down in South Florida just to make sure that they’re watching and taking care of their academics while we’re here.

 

On if he’ll have his brother on the bench with him:

It’s something that I got to look at. I know there are maybe some particular laws that we have to look at. Would love to have that opportunity if it works, because he’s an incredible coach and has had a great career, high school career as well as now on the college level.

 

On how long he’s been waiting to be a head coach:

That’s a great question. I think when you get into the business of coaching, you go into ultimately trying to grow and develop to put yourself in a position to become a head coach and lead your own program. I’ve been fortunate to be around some great coaches that coached me and that I worked alongside. I think probably two of the best and Hall of Fame coaches in Jamie Dixon and Cal.

 

On why Calipari told him USF is a sleeping giant:

I think just all those things that I mentioned earlier. Being able to recruit to a city like Tampa and with the commitment that the administration has put into the program, all those variables lead to a program that can have success.

 

On how this group has looked:

They look great. They look great. They’re working hard. They, crazy enough, still got room to grow. And that’s exciting us. We’re trying to push them every day.

 

On Willie Cauley-Stein walking out of the locker room without crutches or a walking boot and if that is a sign there is still a chance he could play Saturday:

That’s a question that I would refer to Coach Cal.

 

You’re a head coach now:

Not yet. Not in this setting. (Laughs)

 

On how physically draining this year has been for Calipari:

It’s part of getting older. He’s had I think another hip done early in his career, and it was just a matter of time before he had to get the other one, from my understanding.

 

On if the hip problem has made it hard on Calipari to go through practices and such:

Not that I notice. I think he’s been the same energetic Cal that we’ve gotten to know.

 

On what advantage his Latin roots could have at South Florida:

The community — obviously they’ve got a big Latin community down there in South Florida. And then being able to recruit to the South American countries. Hopefully we can try to attract some of those kids that are high-level players that can play at South Florida.

 

On if he will need a guy on the bench to hold him back at times:

I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I can get pretty fired up myself. So I don’t know. I think, try to find an even balance in my coaching style. Having this past summer with the Dominican National Team allowed me to go through that experience. I knew when I needed to get fired up and when I needed to just go ahead and let things simmer down. So, I’ll be trying to keep a balance.

 

On if he rethinks the final seconds against Florida in SEC Tournament when he told Calipari about the available timeout and Calipari seemed to react poorly to deciding to call one:

My role is to remind him when we have timeouts and taking care of fouls, so that’s what I was trying to do.

 

On the difference in players he will recruit at South Florida after recruiting NBA-ready guys at Kentucky:

Well I also recruited kids at Pittsburgh and at Memphis that weren’t always top-five picks or McDonald’s All-Americans like that. So being able to recruit and identify the talent, I think that’s stills going to continue. I’d like to hopefully be able to have the problem that we have here at Kentucky. That means we’re winning a lot of we’re doing that.

 

On if he views Latin America as an untapped source of prospects:

Absolutely, absolutely. Getting a chance to see the talent in a couple of the tournaments that I’ve been (to), there is — and basketball in general in the world, it’s catching up with all the success and the world is getting a lot smaller in terms of basketball.

 

On if there is anyone at UK he will consider bringing with him to South Florida:

Maybe, maybe. Just haven’t dove into all the particulars of that right now. Something I’ll sit down once we settle down from this current position.

 

On if he feels like he has something to prove since South Florida offered the job to other guys before him:

No, not really. I think I was my wife’s second choice too, but it worked out. We’ve been together for over 20-something years.

 

On if there will be a home-and-home series with Kentucky now:

I hope so. I hope to eventually maybe work something out, but haven’t even got that far down the line.

 

On if the ‘and-home’ part of that equation is the tougher side for South Florida:

It’s always. Yeah, you guys know better than I do.

The SEC isn’t as terrible as we thought

A lot of space over various media was given to the downfall of the SEC this season. The league was going to get just a few teams into the NCAA Tournament, coaches were going to be rightfully fired and rebuilding processes would begin, further delaying those teams’ emergence in league relevance. Yet somehow, in just 10 days since Selection Sunday, three teams are now in the Sweet 16 and Bruce Pearl is back in the league.

This isn’t about Pearl; it’s about those three teams in the regional semifinals: Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. It’s possible up to two of those teams could make the Final Four (Kentucky and Tennessee are in the same region, so it’s impossible for both to make it).

Andy Hutchins at SB Nation talked his way through it this afternoon, how we’re to this point that one of the worst BCS conferences now is tied with the Pac-12 for having the most teams make it to this point in the tournament. It’s recommended reading, because it doesn’t inflate the league to what it isn’t (which many on The Twitters are doing now: THE SEC IS THE BEST, YEAH!!), but it doesn’t discredit these three teams for their accomplishments, either.

Florida plays UCLA on Thursday at about 9:45 p.m. ET. Tennessee plays Michigan on Friday in Indianapolis at 7:15 p.m. ET, and Kentucky plays Louisville half an hour after that game ends. All three games are on CBS.

John Calipari and Bruce Weber teleconferences from Monday morning

JOHN CALIPARI

On KSU matchup:

I watched some tape and I’ll tell you what, they’re a veteran, physical, great defensively, motion offense, really different kinds of motion. They try to beat you on the dribble and they’re physical. A lot like the teams – LSU, Georgia and Florida – like the teams we just played. We had to give our kids a day off today after the week we went through Monday, Tuesday,Wednesday to get ready for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the wars we played in. But it seems like they’re in a great frame of mind right now.

On Kansas State guard Marcus Foster:

Oh, he’s been outstanding. Again, they have perimeter guys that can really play and shoot it and have the freedom to go do their thing. They have big guys – now their big isn’t 7-foot, but he’s that wide. I mean, he’s a big body, angles to the rim, puts his body on you on drives, just put hands up and put a chest on you. You know, they’re good. And their perimeter guys are good. Foster’s outstanding. Makes big shots, not afraid to score. They’re good. They’re really – for a first-round game, I’m not sure a team with a strength of schedule of two, an RPI of 15 or 16, that’s a tough first game. For both of us, Kansas State and us.

On whether he’s looked ahead to Wichita State at all:

No, no, no. Hahahahaha. No. I’ve done this 20 years. You worry about what’s in front of you.

On what he thinks of UK and Tennessee’s seeds and what the next step is for the SEC to get more teams in the NCAA Tournament:

First of all, you got to figure out why in the world did this happen? And now that it’s happened, I’m not worried about it. But someone’s got to find out when you have a strength of schedule of 2—and that’s all they keep talking about—what did you use to make that team an 8? What did you use? And they can use anything. ‘Well, it was a cloudy day that day, and we decided they were an 8.’ And that’s what it is and you go, and as a coach, that’s fine. Put me where you want. Let’s go.

But as a league, we got to figure out—Tennessee played as well as any team in the country down the stretch. So you’re taking how teams are playing at the end or how we were playing at the end? ‘Not in your case.’ Well, what did you take in our case? And you really got to go down and find out what it was. ‘Well, you didn’t beat enough people.’ Did everybody else? Compared to who? And so that’s the kind of stuff that our league—not me, not the ADs—our league needs to find out what in the room, who in that room, what were we basing this on? Because you can’t keep moving the goalpost. ‘It’s strength of schedule.’ Really? Then move the goalpost ‘It’s how you finish.’ Really? ‘No, it’s you didn’t beat enough people.’ Really? Which one? And moving the goalpost makes it easy.

But you know what, at the end of the day in this thing, you just got to go play now. And I’m just happy my team’s in a great frame of mind. We have another opponent just like the SEC. You’re going from LSU to Georgia to Florida to Kansas State. They’re all the same. You’re playing the same kind of team.

On what they can take from how they played at the SEC Tournament into the NCAAs:

Well, it’s what we’ve been — we’re still not all the way there, now. I thought Willie Cauley (Stein) was ridiculous, how well he played. I thought our guard play — you’re talking three freshmen. Our guard play was as good as any in the country during this tournament. And again, against quality teams. And so, again, now we go to the next step, and just like those other teams, this team is gonna be as physical as anybody we play. Again, we’re gonna prepare for it. What we’ve been told is we’re not gonna allow that kind of physical play from either us, Kansas State, Wichita State or anybody. But we can’t plan on that. We just got to be ready to play a physical basketball game. And the whole thing is, again, teams that are jacked that, when adversity hits can keep that emotion high, and that’s what we’ll be looking for, and I thought we did it. It was great, because every game we played, the other teams made runs at us, and we withstood. Florida had us down 16 ready to go to 30, and all the sudden we have the ball with 10 seconds to go and ready to win the game. So that’s what I was looking for from my team, and we got it.

BRUCE WEBER

On the difficulty of the region:
To be honest, I just really am focused on Kentucky. Watched a couple of games of their’s last night and watched a little bit today. Start kind of formulating what we need to do. We’ve talked to as many people as we can. I don’t get into who is in your bracket and all that stuff. We’ve got to win the first one, and the assistant coaches, they can divide up the scout for who else we’re playing and what we need to do as far as preparation in case you keep moving on. I don’t turn on TV. I really focus on what we have to do, and that’s for us to get ready for the Kentucky Wildcats.
On Kentucky and the strength of that team as a No. 8 seed:
Well, you know, it’s hard to tell. Obviously they have a lot of talent. I saw them earlier against Baylor. You watch them as a fan periodically throughout the year, and they fought some games. They had a little bit of a tough stretch near the end of the season. We watched the South Carolina game last night. I saw where Coach Calipari got ejected, and they made a nice comeback against them. They’ve got players. They’re young. When they’re playing as a team and going good and playing well, I think they could beat anybody in the country. But a number of times, they get a little stagnant. Our league, I hope, has prepared us for this, a talented team. They’ve got athletes. I think they get to the boards. They’ve got some inside presence. It’s a tough matchup, there’s no doubt that every team in this tournament, especially if you’re an 8-9, it seems like everyone could be a tough matchup in this first round.
On exploiting Kentucky’s youth:
I guess we’ve got a little bit of experience. We play a lot of freshmen, but we have some experience with the few older guys that have been through the tournament. Our senior group has been four straight years. Our juniors, obviously, have had three opportunities, so I hope maybe that experience helps a little bit. As I said, our league—seven of those teams are in the tournament and one in the NIT. So we’ve played 16 games against tournament teams, plus we played Gonzaga, George Washington. We’ve played some people, and I hope that helps this team prepare. We have to—if we post up and we guard and we play hard, we’ve proven we can beat any team in the country. That’s got to be our though process: Come in and just really compete. If you make shots, obviously, that helps too. But we’ve got to compete, guard and play hard, and you see what happens. Lay it all on the line Friday night.
On a danger in playing Kentucky because they’ve been playing better as late:
I think they’ve had a couple of lows and highs, just like a lot of teams do, especially with young guys. We went through it with our freshmen, some ups and downs. I guess he got their attention. Maybe getting ejected at South Carolina maybe brought them all back together and got focus on the right page. They played well this weekend, there’s no doubt. They had the ball at the end to beat Florida, definitely one of the best or the best team in the country. I think people are saying they could win it. We’ve got our hands full, but we’ve played good teams. We’ve played Kansas twice. We’ve played Oklahoma. We’ve played Iowa State, we’ve competed with them. Again, I’m not sure they should be an eight. That’s what the committee decided because of their resume, and we’ve just got to deal with what the cards have put out there for us.

Willie Cauley-Stein has never won anything

Those are his words, by the way, that headline: He’s never really won anything of significance at any level. The UK sophomore lost in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament last year and the first round of the NIT immediately thereafter. Cauley-Stein on Friday after beating LSU in the quarterfinal:

You know, I’ve been thinking about that for, like, the past week leading up into—actually, after the Florida game, leading up to where we’re at now. I really haven’t won anything but, like, little tournaments or something when I was younger. I’ll feel something special if we had a chance to play in the championship game and be able to win it.

He said he hadn’t really talked to his teammates about that. “I’ve got to save that,” he said. And so I saved it as well Friday and Saturday, posting it one hour before the SEC championship. You may press Apple+P now to print this post.

Orlando Antigua comments: UK-LSU III set for Friday

Orlando Antigua watched LSU top Alabama 68-56 in the second round of the SEC tournament on Thursday, meaning the Tigers will play Kentucky in Friday evening’s quarterfinal. LSU was 11 of 22 from three and held the Crimson Tide to 36 percent from the field.

Antigua then took questions from assembled media in the basement of the media hotel here in Atlanta, and here’s what he had to say. Questions are in italics and paraphrased for clarity.

**

On what he expects from a third game against LSU:

Another good game. I think they’re playing really good basketball. Obviously shot the ball really well tonight, and just think that we’re gonna have another great challenge ahead of us.

 

On LSU making 11 threes against Alabama and how daunting that is:

It’s pretty daunting when anybody shoots that well. You know, the three obviously can be a really big game-changer. We’re gonna have to try to see if we can use our length to make it a little more difficult for them so they’re not as comfortable, match up quickly in transition and find the shooters and try to play to our strengths.

 

On why LSU seems to be a tough matchup for UK:

They’re a good team. They got good size, they got athleticism, they got veteran guards, they got some guys coming off the bench that are also really talented. It’s gonna be fun and exciting.

 

On what he saw from Anthony Hickey as a recruit and what he’s done since then:

Quite honestly — I mean, he’s had a tremendous career — didn’t take a look at him as much because of our scholarship situation. But I know he’s done an incredible job there at LSU. And I would imagine that he’d be excited to play us again.

 

On how much more difficult LSU is to stop when Shavon Coleman and Tim Quarterman hit shots:

Uh, a lot, a lot more difficult, particularly cause you’re going to get the production from Johnny (O’Bryant) and Jordan (Mickey), then those guards that are finding guys. You get those other guys contributing it makes it really difficult. You’ve got to pick your poison and hope they’re not on top of their game.

 

On the level of confidence of UK players after two difficult games vs. LSU:

I think our confidence is going to be pretty good. I think that we can control our own emotions and what we do, and that’s what we’re going try to come out and do. Play hard, play together and try to make things difficult for them.

 

On if the physical practices will help prepare for a physical team like LSU:

Well, we’ll see where we’re at with that. (Laughs). They are a physical team, and we have been trying to increase a little bit more in practice, how physical we play with each other and against each other. And we’ll see how that translates.

 

On LSU having extra motivation, playing for their postseason lives:

I don’t know about their motivation. I know for our motivation we want to try to come out and play well and see if we can take care of business in the game that we have ahead of us and see where that can take us. At this point in the year, you’re playing any game and you’re done in your tournament, so you want to try to get some momentum going.

 

On UK players’ demeanor coming out of practice this week:

Really good, really confident, really excited. So the staff is excited to see how we respond.

 

On if ‘the tweak’ is in place:

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

 

You did that really well.

It goes back to my Globetrotter days.

 

On if the tweak will be a Globetrotter move:

That’s really good. No, no. I have no idea what you guys are talking about, seriously, this tweak.

 

On what kind of challenge Johnny O’Bryant brings:

He’s really, really talented. Big, physical and skilled. He can shoot the ball out to 17 feet, catch and shoot. Rebounds and is athletic. He’s a man. He’s a challenge.

 

On if he saves his best efforts against UK:

Yeah, that seems to be the case. He plays really well against us for whatever reason and has in the past.

 

On if he’s pointed that out to Cauley-Stein:

No, because we didn’t know who we were going to play. I just think Willie’s got to concentrate on being the best version of Willie, and that’ll make—that’ll serve us and our team if we get the best version of Willie.

 

On if Willie has shared with his teammates that he knows what can happen in a tournament if you aren’t sharp out of the gate:

I’m sure he has shared it with them. He’s doing a great job, both he and Alex, of trying to communicate what a tournament like this is about.

KenPom’s top 100 by apparel provider

After Auburn coach Tony Barbee was fired Wednesday night, Tigers outgoing senior Allen Payne tweeted that Auburn would struggle as long as Under Armour served as its official apparel provider. Auburn legend Charles Barkley said in an interview with Brandon Marcello of AL.com that Auburn should switch from Under Armour to Nike, that Under Armour is a microscopic player in the AAU circuit that is so important to recruiting.

Below is a quick-and-dirty look at the KenPom.com top 100 teams, sorted by apparel company. For the companies, it’s huge marketing because of how visible logos are. To determine the apparel provider for each of the top 100 schools, I Googled “(school) basketball” to take me to the school’s official page for men’s basketball. Of the 100 websites, 98 immediately had a logo visible either on a jersey, shoe, pair of shorts or a basketball. Often times, it was more than one item visible on the main page before having to even scroll down, let alone click on another page. (The two schools that required clicking to a second page: St. John’s and Butler).

Apparel providers with schools in the KenPom.com top 100

Nike: 72

Adidas: 19

Under Armour: 5

Russell Athletic: 2

Jordan (a division of Nike): 2

**

The five Under Armour schools: Utah (No. 32), St. John’s (No. 37), Maryland (No. 46), Stephen F. Austin (No. 66) and Texas Tech (No. 84).

Without looking at the rest of Division I, I would guess Nike has this many in the top 100 because of a similar ratio in the entire Division I population. I don’t think it’s worth it to take a look there, though. Under Armour does not have a school in the top 30, and of those five schools in the top 100, none have had any recent success to speak of (though Stephen F. Austin is undefeated in conference play headed into the Southland tournament).

Take this for what it’s worth: It’s something, not worth much but probably not worth zero. Here’s the chart of top-100 schools. Click to embiggen.top 100 apparel

 

John Calipari, Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein on ‘The Tweak’

It’s become A Thing. John Calipari made a tweak to his offense in practice Monday, and he went on his radio show and lauded it. With a media availability Tuesday, players and Calipari were asked about it and what it meant to Friday’s SEC Tournament opener against either LSU or Alabama.

Questions are in italics and are paraphrased for clarity.

**

JOHN CALIPARI

On the “tweak” he made in practice Monday:

What we did yesterday, first thing was defensively it was physical. ‘Put your arms up, let me see your hands and then foul with your body then do it on every drive and every post up.’ For two reasons, one we can play against it cause that’s how everybody’s playing now. And I’m not just talking our league. I’m watching around the country. Then the second thing is if we get in the game and we’ve got to play that way then we’ve got to play that way cause you can’t…You know we went for a season saying, ‘Hands off, you can’t touch the body.’ You know, obviously as each month and week went on it got more and more physical. So basically we’re back to where we were a year ago when everybody said, ‘You foul on every possession to win.’ So we just had to practice that way.

 

And offense, you know, one tweak, which was not anything—like I said, it’s something that changed how they thought, and that’s what we’re trying to do. The issue becomes for us, when adversity hits how do we respond? Do we come together? And what we’re looking for is they make a three, they bank a shot, we miss two free throws or three, we turn it over and you look out and you see a team that just comes together. We just played a team that went—they were on an 0-and-15 run. We were 15-0 run, 15-0 run, it’s a six point game. And what did they do? (Clasps hands together). Just went like that, and they made play after play at that point. They’re a veteran team, they understand it. We’re still learning it. That’s what we want to get to. And that will tell the tale of what this thing is about.

 

Now, I think what you’ll do is you’ll see a different team when you watch Friday. If you know anything about basketball, you’ll know exactly what I did. If you don’t know anything about basketball, you’ll get everybody else’s tweets and read their blogs and say, ‘What is he saying they did? Because I don’t know basketball, so I hope somebody knows so I can write like I know.’

 

On if he’s going to quiz reporters after the game:

No. I’m not going to talk about it. They’ll say, ‘Well, what was it?’

 

On James Young saying the tweak improved their passing:

To each other, to each other. Yeah, a little bit. It did. All I can tell you is there was a different feel in the building. It was not just the tweaking of what we did. It was the physical play brought something out of them that I wanted to see. And we went two and a half hours now, it wasn’t like an hour and 30, 40. It was two and a half hours.

 

On what the tweak changed about the way players thought:

Yeah. It changed how they thought from where they were to where I wanted them to be.

 

But this, you know, again, all that we’re doing carried over, and I believe it will. Now, adversity is going to hit and come together and show us what you’re capable of doing together, looking and leaning on one another.

 

So, and again, this tournament is, I mean, Tennessee is playing as well as anybody in the country. They are beating people by 30. Thirty. Now, Arkansas on the road is not the same team they are at home but, you know, they’re still playing well. They were beating people by 30. You have Georgia, who’s done their thing. And then you have South Carolina and Auburn. Now they’re kicking it in. One goes to Texas A&M (and wins); one beats us and Missouri. And so you have a lot of teams—and obviously Florida is like we were a couple years ago; they’re in the same position. And, you know, it looks like one of those teams—they’re going to have a tough first opponent just like the rest of us.

 

On how often he’s apologized to a team for a coaching mistake he’s made:

I do it a lot. I mean, I’ll do, ‘Hey this isn’t on you; this is on me.’ I’m not afraid to do it, even if it’s an individual thing I’ve said or done to some individual player.

 

On why apologize yesterday:

Because it was very clear when you saw it. You run a business and do something for real, and all the sudden you have this business and something’s not working right—and you can’t put your finger on it. And you do a couple things and you try this and, ‘Eh, Ok …’ and then something happens and you look and say, ‘That was it!’ And I think they all kind of got it. And like I said, I’m just disappointed in me that I didn’t do it earlier. Why didn’t I catch this and why wasn’t I thinking in those terms? I think a lot of things this year, there were so many things we were having to do to get individual players right and then get them together and then get them to fight through things. There were a lot of things.  And now it’s: Let’s go. Let’s do this.

 

On what made him figure it out now:

I have no idea. I just was sitting at home on Sunday and it just popped in my mind and just said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s do this.’ When you’re coaching, your whole mindset is: How do you help individual players improve and how do you help your team improve? It’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, how do I look as a coach? My ego is bruised! My pride!’ You don’t. You just: How do I continue to help the team? That’s my job. These are 18- and 19-year-olds. What do I do to help them? And so you just keep thinking of ways. And we’ll see. Again, you gotta carry it over to the court. And it isn’t just that. When adversity hits—you know, teams from here on are fighting for their lives, so adversity will hit. What do you do now? How do you deal with it? Let’s just keep coming together. And that’s what we’re hoping to see. As much as what we did in the physical play and the tweaking and all, it’ll still come back to that. My hope is they have a little better bounce in their step and that they know when things don’t go right, we’re still go. That’s what we haven’t had for the last three weeks. We had it for a while and it kind of slipped away.

 

On if he’s made a change this late in the season before:

Usually it was earlier, ’cause I caught it earlier. I really—I think it was the drugs I was taking for a while that got me where I wasn’t thinking right. But normally I would catch it and try something earlier, because this isn’t the first time I’ve tweaked it this way. But we will see.

 

JULIUS RANDLE

On if the players like the idea of returning to a physical style of play:

It’s because we’re a big, strong, athletic team. Being physical is kind of part of our game, and, you know, it just kind of—taking away from our physicality kind of takes away from our aggression. I think it will be a return to that.

 

On if they have any reaction to being taken out of the top 25:

No, I don’t pay attention to rankings. Our biggest focus is, are we getting better as a team or not? That’s Coach’s biggest focus and everyone on the team’s biggest focus. I don’t look at top 25 or whatever it is.

 

On if Calipari has apologized to the team many times as he did yesterday at practice:

I wasn’t supposed to answer that.

 

On the confidence level:

I think we’re all pretty confident, especially after yesterday’s practice. We’re all really excited to get back on the court again.

 

On what the tweak is that Calipari said he made:

You’re not getting it from me.

 

On why they’re so excited after the tweak, without revealing details of said tweak:

Because it was a tweak.

 

On if it felt like a breakthrough, whatever it was:

You’re not getting it from me. You’ll see it on Friday.

 

On if the tweak is him playing point forward:

You’re not getting it from me. You’ll see it on Friday. (laughs)

 

On if it’s a complete departure from what the team had done before:

You’re not getting it from me. You’ll see it on Friday. (laughs)

 

On if Kentucky was wearing pads in practice:

I think, I don’t know. I’m not sure. It was just a long, hard, physical practice. A lot of scrimmaging and kind of a different style of play.

 

On if it was the toughest practice they’ve had all year:

It’s the toughest one we’ve had in a while. I don’t know about all year. I don’t really rank how tough practices are, but it was a pretty hard practice.

 

On how important physicality would be if the first game in the SEC tournament is against LSU:

It would be good. I think we’ll be prepared for it, ready to play. It’ll be a fun game to play in no matter who we play. It doesn’t matter, we’re just ready to go out there and play.

 

On what he remembers about LSU:

Long, athletic team. Very talented team. I think their team is better than what their record shows. They’re just a really good team. They match up with us well.

 

On what SEC Freshman of the Year means to him:

It’s an honor, very humbling. I have great teammates, great coaches. It just goes to show what hard work can get you.

 

On who he’d vote for, for Player of the Year:

I heard something about Scottie Wilbekin. He’s a great player. Very good leader. He just kind of took charge as the leader of that team. He’s very deserving of the award. I didn’t really get to see him in many other games other than ours, but playing against him, I can honestly see why he’d get SEC Player of the Year.

 

On how much postseason feels like a reboot for them:

It’s good. We’ve got a couple of days to get ready to play again, to kind of reestablish ourself, our confidence and swagger, heading into this postseason play. I think it’ll be good for us.

 

On how he defines ‘mojo,’ which Cal said he wants UK to get back:

Swagger, confidence.

 

On if ‘mojo’ is what an old guy says instead of ‘swagger’:

I’m not calling Cal old.

 

On what happened to that swagger:

I don’t think anything really happened to it. Over the course of the season, it’s a grind. It can wear you down. Bodies get beat up. You kind of forget the little things, the intangibles and extra work, all that stuff. It’s just a grind. But I don’t think anything really happened to our swagger. It just what happens during the course of a season.

 

WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN

On Calipari’s mystery “tweak”:

Tweak? I mean, we just made practice more physical. He was talking about, like, from here on out, we’re only guaranteed two more games and those games is gonna be a full-out war and it’s gonna be really physical. So we just made practice extremely physical and really competitive.

 

On if they changed anything:

No. Just mentality, maybe.

 

On if they passed the ball more in practice:

I mean, yeah. We shared the ball and had a little more fun on the offensive side just by sharing the ball more.

 

On how big a confidence-builder practice was yesterday:

It felt normal. Like, it felt like we was back in our groove before we had lost the Arkansas game. We kind of had that that feel almost like that swagger was coming back to our team.

 

On what happened to that swagger:

Couldn’t even tell you. It just happens, I guess. I don’t know.

 

On how practices have changed:

Since we still had games, practice was a lot shorter. Couldn’t do a lot of different drills that we’re doing now because we didn’t have the time off to do it. Now that we have these four days we can kind of go back to kind of a preseason practice where practice is longer and we can do more drills instead of just concepts of the game. Now we can really just break down stuff that we need to work on.

 

On what made practice more physical:

Just the drills that we did. That’s basically it. We did a lot more defensive-oriented drills.

 

On Calipari saying he apologized to the team yesterday and if that surprised him:

Nah. The thing about Cal is, he’s gonna admit when he’s wrong. And if he’s wrong about something, he’s gonna say that he’s wrong, and then he’s gonna fix it. That’s just being a man. And when you get to that point where you know you’re wrong and you can admit it, that’s powerful. You get a rally from your team after that.

 

On it’s accurate to say Calipari thinks he was wrong to emphasize the rules change and assume this season would be more of a finesse game:

That’s real accurate. Yesterday we worked a lot on bodying up in the post on drives, just using your body more and keeping your arms still up but using your body. After going back and watching the film and actually looking at that piece — because before, you don’t really look at it — and now that they had said that, we go back and look at that piece and you can just see everybody else bodying us on drives and post-ups. And you wonder why we weren’t doing that the whole time neither.

John Calipari on the SEC teleconference: Monday, March 10

Opening statement:

We’re, again, trying to get into practice today. Very important, our next few days, to get our mindset where we’ve got to be. I said it after the last game: We’ve got to get our mojo back. We played an outstanding Florida team. You’re talking about a team that’s No. 1 in the country on Senior Night in their building, and they played well. And what I’m trying to get our kids is to understand: Let’s get back to where we were two weeks ago. Let’s get back to the kind of competitiveness and how we were playing, and some different things we’re going to do in practice to try to get our mindset back to where we were. Young kids, you can get rattled on a game like that. But I think these kids, they understand that they’re going to have to do this together. They’re going to have to come together as a group. It’s time to do it.

 

On how the one-and-done rule has affected college basketball:

Well, I’ve said for years it should be two years. If you’re going to let them go out of high school, then let them go whenever. The baseball rule won’t work in this environment because there’s no minor-league stuff. So my belief is, it should be two years. If the NBA and the players’ association, who would make that decision, come together and say, OK, you take a year off their rookie contract—instead of having four years, make them three years—make them stay in school an extra year, then you get with the NCAA and say, hey, ‘Now NCAA, how do you take  better care of these kids? How do you pay for their insurance so they don’t have to pay themselves? How do you do the stipends and all the other things?’ Maybe the opportunity for every one of the kids on our team to get a loan if they choose to, to be able to do stuff to make a normal college student, yet also understand they’re unique in what we’re trying to do with them. So there are things that can happen. What’s happened with the one-year rule, I don’t think it’s good for high school players who all think that—the top 150 players think they’re going to leave in a year.

 

I think it’s hard on the college players because by the end of the year—you know, this isn’t five, eight years ago. Right now they’re on the Internet, all the things that are going on. I think it’s a tough deal. So hopefully cooler heads come together between the NBA and the players’ association, and if that happens and the NCAA does their part to make this so that it all works.

 

On how difficult the one-year rule has made his job:

Well, it is hard, but again, if you’re about these kids you’ve got to do what’s right for them. So at the end of the year I’m not going to convince a kid who’s in the draft or even DeAndre Liggins, who wanted to go in the second round or a Jodie Meeks, who, ‘I’m good if I’m in the second round.’ I’m not holding kids back. So, at the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s right for them, and I would tell you that one year, I don’t think these kids are ready. Now, I’m not going to hold anybody back, but I think it would be better two years, that they’d be better pros, they’d be more mature, they’d be more ready to walk in and have success. But it’s been hard, but I, you know—I’m not complaining. I mean, I think we’ve done right by these kids. You have, whatever it is, 17, 18 in the NBA and doing well. It’s not like they’re not doing well. But, they would even be doing better, I think, if they had another year. But I’ll say this again, if they’re insurance isn’t paid for by the NCAA or by the schools, all the things you’re seeing, kids in the draft—You’re seeing the Mitch McGarys who got hurt. What happens to a kid who was a top 10 pick that stays in school and now all of the sudden is injured? I mean, how do we deal with that because we’re asking them to stay? And it’s not us. It’s the players’ association and the NBA, but how do we do our part to protect these kids? You know, it’s harder, but, you know, you deal with it if it’s about these kids.

 

On Kentucky’s tradition of playing well in Atlanta and if it’s particularly important to play well this year, and if there’s anybody besides Florida who stands out with a chance to win:

Here’s what I would tell you about us. Tournaments, conference tournaments—a couple years ago, we beat Florida in the finals, and we beat ‘em really good, and it made no bearing on our seeding. That’s why I’m saying, ‘OK, what are we doing? What is the conference tournament for?’ Some teams are trying to play in it. But I’m saying whether it’s play in it or improve your seed, that’s why you’re playing in the tournament. That’s my opinion. My teams historically over the years have done pretty well in (conference) tournament play, but it’s not been the end-all. The end-all is that next tournament. So I would tell you that, important for my team this year? Yeah. We got to get our mojo back. Two weeks ago, we were playing and we were looking pretty good, and right now we’re not, so we got to get it back. We got four days of practice and then we’re playing in that tournament.

 

I will tell you there are probably teams that are playing (as) well as they’ve played all year. Now Arkansas, the game at Alabama kind of surprised me. But they had been playing well. Tennessee is playing as well as anybody in our league. Georgia’s playing as well as anybody in our league. What do you think about how Auburn goes to Texas A&M and wins? South Carolina beats us and Missouri at the end of the year. I mean, you got a lot of teams playing that could go on a run. You got other teams who have played well during different spells of the season, whether it be us or Missouri or some of the other teams—Texas A&M has fought to stay in games—that are saying, ‘All right, let’s just get this back to where we were.’ And Mississippi another team that won the tournament last year, probably coming in saying they’re gonna win it again this year.

 

On if he could fix one thing about this team in the next four days, basketball-wise, what it would be:

Well, there’s two things. I can’t give you one—there’s a lot of different things—but the two things in the bigger picture:  You gotta sustain your defensive effort; you gotta be scrappier. In other words, we all gotta be playing the ball and we all gotta do it for the entire shot clock. We’ve all gotta have discipline, because at the end of the day, we are a defensive team that’s a good offensive post-up team. And then on offense, we just gotta share the ball more. And very simple stuff to talk about, but we’ve got four days to really in ingrain: Let’s get back to these things that we have done at different points in the year that we now say, ‘Let’s do it for 40 minutes.’ If you do, you will have a ball playing. Scrappy as heck, diving, crashing. We’re going to be more physical in practice. The games have gotten more and more physical. Hands up and be physical. Put your hands up in the air on a drive and be physical. Put your hands up in the air in the post and be physical. We’re going four days of that. Teams that have played that way have had a big advantage, so we’re going back to that. But the other side of it is: Look, we gotta share the ball. We gotta share the ball and create good shots for each other. I said it: We got the (Florida) game to six and took two of the worst shots with people open that I could’ve told you throughout the year, the last game. So those are the couple things that we’re zeroed in on.

 

On Georgia’s recent run in the SEC:

I think it’s been outstanding. I think Mark (Fox)—and understand, we beat them when they didn’t have their guard; they were one guard short, they had foul trouble and all the sudden they didn’t have a guard on the court. But I’ll tell you, what he’s done and how they’ve played and to go on the road and win a game that matters—that game mattered—it just tells a lot. And again, they struggled early, but it’s a sign of a coach that keeps his team together and keeps them moving in the right direction. And right now, they believe as much as anybody in our league that they have a chance to win this thing.

 

On what he means by ‘mojo’:

Just playing off of one another more, more into each other, more emotion for the good stuff that’s happening in the game.”

John Calipari transcript, pre-Florida

On where this team’s confidence in its shot is right now:

We’ll see. I mean, they shot the ball well yesterday, had a great practice. Got to do it in the games, got to have a fire, a passion to play. If we’ve got to get them excited about this game—You know, I think they’ll be ready to play, but we’re playing an outstanding team, plays well at home, haven’t lost in the league, haven’t lost a home game in a long time. It’s a tough challenge.

 

On James Young saying Calipari is looking for ‘unleashed offense’:

Want them to fly up and down the court. You know, I want them to be aggressive, create for each other more than us having to run stuff. Now, against them you do have to do things because they do a great job of getting back in transition defense. They’re not going to give you easy baskets, so you do have to really be strong with the ball and create for each other. You know, our numbers, whether they’re defense or offensive numbers, are fine versus their numbers. It’s just going to be OK, let’s go, let’s go do this. Let’s go compete and see what happens. You know, you’re not gonna—it’s not going to be easy. There’s nothing going to be easy about it.

 

On what lessons he takes from first 30 minutes and last 10 minutes of first Florida game:

Well, we lost the game because of two offensive rebounds. Now, we could have made more shots and it wouldn’t have come down to that, and all this and that and that and that. Two offensive rebounds. The Smith kid going to the baseline, kicking it out. That’s a basket. Then the other one: grabbing it in the middle, throwing it out, three. That’s five points, that was the ball game. Two offensive rebounds. We fouled late in the clock two or three times down the stretch, just didn’t have enough defensive discipline, but we gave ourselves a chance. So there was a lot of good stuff that came out of it. We didn’t play fearful. Went to Mississippi, didn’t play fearful. Then we just hit a stretch of games where we got a little rattled.

 

On whether UK hit a wall physically late against Florida:

Possibly. Possibly.

 

On whether the team is in the kind of shape he wants it to be at this point:

Well, it’s in the kind of shape you want it to be, but these kids all played high school basketball and their season ended about two weeks ago, three weeks ago. Their high school seasons have ended. And now you’re into the gut-check of your season. So, yeah, it could have been—some of it could be that.

 

On if there are one or two areas the Cats have to be good to win at UF:

You gotta negate the press. They’re going to come after (you); they press more there than they do on the road. And they’ll bring four guys and they’ll try to steal. You’ve gotta be strong with the ball and be aggressive. And you’ve gotta be able to play their pick-and-roll offense, because a lot of it is pick-and-roll. Offensively, they do a great job of crowding, so you gotta make some jump shots.

 

This is not a game you can go 2 for 22 from the three. Not this game. Because they will give you—their field-goal percentage against the three is like 34 percent. Well why is that? Well, they crowd. They make sure if they’re going to give up something, it’s going to be a three. Obviously we play a little bit differently than that. So this is a game they force you to make some jumpers.

 

On players subbing themselves out, and if previous young players did it better:

Again, you know, we even got guys arguing that—I’m putting a couple of assistants on individual players and telling them, ‘You sub. If they don’t want to come out, just take them out.’ So we’re doing whatever we can to get guys off the floor. Now, the guys like Jarrod, this game he’s got to go in and perform. He can’t play timid at all. Just go play. Shoot balls. If you’re open, just let them go, because we’re going to have to get minutes out of him.

 

On which assistant is assigned to Julius:

Kenny Payne is watching him, and he was getting him in and out, doing a great job.

 

On if he can see a difference in Julius when he’s playing fresh:

Julius in the last three weeks has done everything we’ve asked him to do. We just want him to take more jump shots, but he’s doing everything else. He’s rebounding the ball. Because he’s not playing as many minutes, he’s not breaking down defensively as much. We’ve got to get Alex playing back to how—an aggressive, ‘We need you to do two or three things on offense. Rebound and defend and go block shots. If you’re open, shoot the ball. One-dribble pull-ups. Don’t try to pass cross-court scoop pass. Don’t. Just give it to the guard. It’s not your game.’ We’re trying to narrow in guys so they can play in a confident way. You’re competent at these things, and it’s going to make you confident. Just do those things, and—what’s amazing to me is the team that has this much ability and size, and the numbers speak that we’re pretty good. If you look at our numbers, and I’m not talking the RPI, which is good, strength of schedule, which is good. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking defense, shot blocking, rebounding, three-point field-goal percentage, offensive field-goal percentage—we have some numbers that aren’t great.

 

But when you look at all that, to have people say this team’s done, I just don’t believe it. I mean, a team that has this kind of skill and ability? And other teams have lost four out of five and go on the road and lose, lose a home game to somebody, somebody else has lost, this team has lost. And, ‘OK, wait ’til they get ready for the tournament.’ That’s what this team is. So let’s hope the light goes on. If it goes on this game, fine. If it takes another game, fine. We just need the light to go on. And I’ve had teams come around at all different times. I believe in this team. I believe in the individual players. I really do. These are great kids. I love coaching them. I had a ball in practice yesterday. And I did tell them this: I said, ‘I’ve had friends of mine say, “One, you look tired.”‘ I am tired! It’s March, I’m exhausted! ‘You look tired.’ How stupid is that? Do you look at any coach that doesn’t look tired? I’m the only one that looks tired? Oh my gosh. The second thing is, they say, ‘You know, I’m watching, you don’t have as much fun as you usually have with your teams.’ And I said to my team, ‘You guys must be rubbing off on me now, ’cause that’s never said about me when I’m coaching.’ So, you know, again, great kids. They’re trying. The weight of the world, overhyped, over-this, set up for failure, all that, all of us, including me. Bang. None of that matters. Now go play. Let’s go have some fun and ball and see where we are against the best team in the country on the road on Senior Night. Let’s see where we are. Let’s see where we are.