Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: John Calipari vs Tom Izzo is fun from opening jabs to final buzzer

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Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow night’s State Farm Champions Classic is the first big event of the 2013-14 basketball season and could be a preview of the 2014 Final Four. But that is not the real reason, I am excited. The real reason is Izzo vs Calipari. If there is any coach that has dealt heartbreak to the Big Blue Nation, it is Tom Izzo and now John Calipari will face him for the first time as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.  In a #1 versus #2 showdown, no less.

Izzo and Calipari have sparred on the recruiting trail lately. Izzo took the early lead with Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, but Calipari has dealt a serious blow to the Spartans 2014 class, grabbing Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. And while Cal and Izzo are not tradition rivals, they seem to have a very fun thing going on in the press, taking playful jabs and playing the who respect card to the max.

The Calipari vs Izzo sparring seems different from the usual media bickering between Calipari/Pitino and Calipari/Crean. There is no bloodlust and cheap shots taken. The two seem to genuinely like and respect each other.

Calipari started the respect train last week when in typical Calipari fashion, he suggested that his number one ranked Wildcats were not ready for the prime time matchup:


“The issue becomes playing teams (like Michigan State) this early is not fair for my team,” Calipari said Thursday. “It may be fair for everybody else. But it’s no fair for my team. …It’s just not traditional in the sense everybody stays four years. So it’s not fair when we walk in and everybody else is more experienced.”


Tongue in cheek, Izzo did not buy into Calipari’s pity party and offered a solution for Coach Cal’s lament.




You have to like when the coaches get the other coaches tactics and respond with cleverness and jabs rather than the simple whining Kentucky fans have heard from opposing coaches since Calipari arrived.

And in Izzo, Calipari will face a coach that has had great success against Kentucky and dealt the BBN some tremendous heartbreak as Izzo has prevented two more UK Final Fours.

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