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Monday / June 5.
  • Calipari Downplays Undefeated Talk as Kentucky Readies For Louisville

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    NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Kansas vs KentuckyBy JOSH NEWMAN

    The notion that the University of Kentucky could go undefeated has been a topic of conversation for months.

    The Wildcats have gotten through Kansas, Texas, Providence, North Carolina, Texas and, most-recently, they bulldozed UCLA by 39 points at the CBS Sports Classic on Dec. 20 at the United Center.

    Saturday brings with it a completely different animal as Kentucky will travel to the KFC Yum! Center to take on fourth-ranked and fellow-unbeaten Louisville. The Cardinals are the final, not to mention toughest non-conference test for the Wildcats before they enter SEC-play next week. If Kentucky wins this one, it’s going to be much harder to tone down the undefeated talk, but that doesn’t mean John Calipari won’t continue to try.

    “When you have two groups, it’s just different,” Calipari said on Thursday afternoon during his day-before-game media availability. “When you’re trying to play against yourselves, you don’t worry about anybody else. We know how good teams are. We’re not the only good basketball team out there and sometimes you forget. We’re not the only team with good players. There are a bunch of other teams, including Louisville, who have terrific players. Let’s focus on us. That’s how I’ve always coached.”

    “I don’t know if you (the media) asked (our players) how much time we have watched video of Louisville to this point,” I showed a little bit of (it to) Dakari (Johnson) today – this morning. I’m worried about us. We know how good they are and we know they’re going to come after us. It should be a terrific ball game.”

    The assumption by some was that Kentucky would slip up at least once early because one, the Wildcats are breaking in so many new freshmen and two, the aforementioned non-conference slate was supposed be tough on paper. Instead, Kentucky has run the table with only Louisville to go before entering the SEC, which is currently the worst Power Five conference in terms of RPI (sixth) and W-L percentage (.629). The Big East, a non-Power Five conference, is well-ahead of the SEC in both categories.

    “I’m not making this bigger than it is because it’s not our season,” Calipari said. “We took a Christmas break, got our minds off

    basketball, came back, and started working. We didn’t have two weeks to work on what we’re doing and this, ‘Let’s go. Let’s play the game. Let’s see where we are.’ It’s winning or learning at this stage. There’s no winning and losing. Winning and learning.”

    “I know our fans will be happy to hear me say that, but that’s how I think. They should probably start, at this point in going on

    in my sixth year, to know that I think different.”

    Of course, there is also the small matter of Kentucky-Louisville generally being considered an in-state blood war and among the fiercest rivalries in all of sports. Calipari is 12-6 all-time against Louisville, and 6-1 against the Cardinals and head coach Rick Pitino since taking over at Kentucky in 2009. Among those six wins are last year’s Sweet 16 and a 2012 national semifinal.

    “They’re all rivalry games to me,” Calipari said. “It’s another game. We try not to take any team lightly. Columbia. You’re down 11‐0 like that. It could’ve been 15‐0. You have to take each game as they come.”

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