Calipari: Cats in good mindset going into NCAA Tournament
Published 2:28 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Kentucky coach John Calipari likes his team’s chances going into the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats (21-11) have lost two of their last three games — two against Vanderbilt — but will look to win their first game in the Big Dance. Kentucky, the No.6 seed in the East Region, will take on 11th-seeded Providence at 7:10 p.m. Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I think they’re going to be fine,” the Kentucky coach said. “I will tell you that we have played well when everybody said, ‘They’re done. Stick a fork in them.’ This is a team that, if we’re focused and we’re gritty, and we’re prepared physically, and in the mindset, we need to be in, you know…but teams have played out of their minds against us.
“They seem to figure out it’s Kentucky and they make shots. You don’t know where this goes. But all I can tell you is if we’re in the right mindset, and we’re ready to go, I’m coaching a team I want to coach.”
Calipari said the team’s biggest issue this season has been inconsistency. He added that injuries also have hindered Kentucky. Point guard Sahvir Wheeler hasn’t played since Feb. 4, while CJ Fredrick has been hit and miss with a rib injury.
“The inconsistency is what’s gotten us (and) being a little bit beat up and all that stuff has affected us, but we’ve overcome that,” the Kentucky coach said. “I just would like to have a full team going into this thing.”
Bryce is back
Former Kentucky forward Bryce Hopkins is averaging 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds a game for the Friars. Calipari and the Wildcats are glad to be seeing their former teammate again Friday night in Greensboro.
“Bryce is such a great kid and he’s a terrific basketball player,” he said. “He had an unbelievable year (at Providence). The guys smiled. The guys know. We all like him. It’s, you know, a player out there that we enjoyed being around, and he is a wonderful person and so is his family.”
Hopkins added he is ready to face his former team.
“I can’t wait to prepare for them and play them,” he said. “I’ll say, ‘Hello’ after the game but, before the game, I’m gonna be locked in.”
In an effort to obtain more accountability going into the NCAA tournament, Calipari named Jacob Toppin and Lance Ware as the team captains.
Prior to the Southeastern Conference Tournament, four players, including Toppin, didn’t practice during four days and one of those players was Toppin, Calipari said.
“This week, I told them, ‘You will either practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or you will not start and you will come off the bench if you’re a starter,” Calipari said. “If you’re on the bench, you’re going to be deeper on the bench. When you’re just doing scripting, and you’re not competing, it takes an edge away. We have to compete before we go in.”
All-American honors for Oscar
Oscar Tshiebwe was named a second-team AP All-American on Tuesday. The senior averaged 16.5 points and 13.1 rebounds. He was a consensus National Player of the Year last season.