Coming off a win against Providence and Louisville, both the men and women’s basketball teams are packing up and heading for Dallas to play in a double header against Baylor’s teams. All four teams facing off in AT&T (formerly Cowboys Stadium) are ranked: UK men are #3 and #4 via AP and USA Today, Baylor men are #20 on both, UK women are #5 and #6, and Baylor women are #9.
This is a type of homecoming for three UK players, as Julius Randle and the Harrison’s are all from Texas. Calipari said that he hasn’t discussed the return to the Lone Star state with the players, but is sure they are excited to have friends and family watching them. Dominique Hawkins said today in media he gave up his allotted four tickets, along with other teammates to give to the Texas-natives on the team.
Also in interviews today, Julius Randle was asked how long he’s looked forward to this game. He told us “I would say it’s a dream of mine just to be able to come back to my home state and be able to play in front of friends and fans in the city too, so I’m looking forward to it.” He was also asked if he knew whether this game was on Kentucky’s schedule when he committed; “Yeah, I already knew. Plus I knew the Final Four and National Championship was there.” Foreshadowing? Possibly. Randle was also asked how important it was to him to get back to Dallas a second time, this time at the end of the season. He said, “Very important. It’s the most important thing this year.”
Head women’s coach, Matthew Mitchell said Calipari came up with the idea to schedule a double header. Cal jokingly said they invited Stoops to join in a triple header with possibly Notre Dame- Stoops replied, “What about U Conn?” The idea of a Louisville triple-header was also thrown out but Cal again jokingly said, “I think that’s a little early in the season”.
“We have a great opportunity to play an outstanding team but just the overall experience is a great opportunity, I want to thank John Calipari,” Matthew Mitchell said. Mitchell said after about a 15 second pitch from the guy across the hall he was in.
Senior women’s player, DeNesha Stallworth said, “It’s definitely exciting and we’re grateful for the opportunity to be in this position…but we just know we have to play Kentucky basketball to get the job done.”
Calipari concluded the rounds of coaches and players today (we also spoke to volleyball coach Craig Skinner). He said, “This (double header) is not just about the basketball program, it’s about the athletic department. It’s about a lot of athletes from all the different sports and anywhere we can come together and help each other is good. Listen, you are talking about two highly ranked women’s programs.”
Calipari was asked if this game would have a Final Four-type of feel. “We aren’t going to have 80,000 there but my hope is that because of the games that are being played there, everyone is ranked, it’s going to be a terrific environment. I haven’t been in the building but everybody tells me it is just ridiculous/ they are moving the court to one side, but the court will be raised, so it will be like that kind of environment. I am excited. Look we need to play another ranked team to find out where we are at this point. Its not about winning or losing, you want to win every game. Its about lets just keep learning where we need to go with this team.”
Both teams play Friday; women first at 7:30 on ESPN3 and men at 10:00 on ESPN. The teams will travel together, eat together, stay in the same hotel and watch each others games.