Despite the energy of the Big Blue Nation, John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats still have the same goals as the beginning of the season. The loss to Florida, while disappointing, seemed to prove to Calipari that his Cats can play with anyone in the country. Eventually, the big wins will start to come.
“That’s as good as we’ve played all year,” said Calipari, who admits his team still must “shore up” its end-game execution after the Gators scored on their final 13 possessions to win. “It showed me our goals do not need to change at all, and I told the team that. What that game showed me: We’re as good as anybody in the country. We can play with anybody.”
One goal likely is out the window, however, as Florida appears to be closing in on the Southeastern Conference regular-season title. That doesn’t faze Calipari.
“I’ve never been big on conference championships,” he said. “Every game we play is to prepare us for March.”
Tuesday’s trip to Mississippi, then, will be telling. How will the 18th-ranked Cats (19-6, 9-3 SEC) bounce back on the road? The Rebels (16-9, 9-3) have struggled lately, losing two in a row and four of six, but all those losses were away from Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss is 5-0 at home in conference play and has star Marshall Henderson, who “at any time can make five straight shots,” as Calipari noted. “Can you keep your head about you if he does?”
To be honest, I’m not a fan of the not worrying about conference play attitude that Calipari has. But I will wait until March to pass my judgement on this team.
For Kentucky to take the next level, certain players have to step up. John Clay gives us three players that need to get back on track. Willie Cauley – Stein tops the list.
Willie Cauley-Stein: UK’s first meeting with the Rebels, the sophomore center scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked six shots, prompting the Big Blue Nation to believe Cauley-Stein had climbed back on track.
Fool’s gold, it turned out. In the three games since, Cauley-Stein has managed 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. In 27 minutes on the floor Saturday night against the Gators, he produced all of two points and two rebounds. His lone basket came with 13:46 remaining in the first half.
Despite the assertions that Willie Cauley – Stein must step it up, he is still a borderline lottery pick in some mock drafte. Alex Kennedy has Julius Randle at #4 and Willie Cauley-Stein at #12. To be honest, I think that no matter what happens, WCS will be attractive to some NBA teams. Let’s remember that the NBA drafts on potential and WCS has shown glimpses of brilliance that some teams may take a flyer on him.