The Kentucky Wildcats have been ravaged by injuries this season, most notably to Nerlens Noel, one of the top players in the country before he went out. Thus, the Wildcats find themselves on the NCAA tournament bubble less than a week before the field is announced. Head coach John Calipari thinks his team has accomplished plenty this season and trusts the committee will make the right decision this weekend, but says his team wouldn’t make it if that decision was up to the media.
John Calipari joined The Dan Patrick Show to discuss him downplaying preseason rankings before the start of this year, Kentucky being on the NCAA tournament bubble, if he thinks his team should get in, what he learned about himself this season, if Nerlens Noel should go pro and Brandon Knight getting dunked on.
Remember in the preseason when you warned prognosticators that they were ranking your team too high?:
“Yeah, well, because I was coaching them and I watched them in practice. And I said, ‘Unless the rest of the country absolutely stinks, we’re not that kind of team.’ The leadership, too young, not skilled, but I looked around the country and said, ‘If we’ll compete, we’re going to be all right.’ Look, here’s what I would tell you, the only thing that disappoints me in all the talking heads, we won without Willie (Cauley-Stein), we’re winning now without Nerlens … and they want to talk about, ‘Well, he doesn’t have Nerlens.’ What about the other players I have and what they have accomplished? … We’ve done a lot, and obviously let’s take it out of their hands and win a couple more games and all that stuff, but I’m proud of what this team has been able to accomplish.”
If you’re looking at the national media coverage, is it a bigger story if Kentucky gets in the NCAA tournament or doesn’t get in?:
“I wouldn’t know. You’d have to tell me. What do you think they’re hoping for? … How about I don’t like one-and-done and I’m trying to do everything to change it? … I’m trying to engage the NCAA, why don’t we do something about this. I talked to Mark Emmert about it. It’s not good for college basketball, pro basketball, high school basketball, it’s not good. But you’re right, ‘Well, he shouldn’t be able to get all these good kids.’ It’s not a rule I like, but I’m not going to hold a kid back.”
Should you be in the tournament as it stands right now today?:
“I don’t know, because I don’t know the other teams. You’re going to have probably 12-15 teams and you’re going to have to be better than four. It’s kind of like the bear’s chasing us, we’ve just got to be faster than those other 10. … I trust the committee. Again, if it was the media, we probably wouldn’t get in. Even if we won our tournament, they’d try to keep us out. But that’s fine, it’s not them.”
What did you learn about yourself this season?:
“Great experience for me, humbling experience, because you start winning 30 every year, you think just ’cause you’re coaching you’re going to win 30. It’s not the case. This stretched me more than I’ve ever been stretched as a coach, to keep this team going and keep them learning and keep them growing, especially when they were looking for every excuse imaginable to step and let go of the rope.”
Should Nerlens Noel go pro?:
“He’s having surgery. He’s going to have two months of rehab, and I think at that point he can make a decision and we’ll figure it out. I told him, the greatest thing for him is, because he has the insurance, he’s fine if they said he can never play again. He’d be an instant millionaire. If he goes, I think he’d still be one of the top three picks. And if he wants to come back, he’s academically eligible. … Other players have all come back from this injury, but the rehab is the key. If he’s slow in the rehab, he should come back. If he’s attacking the rehab, then he’ll have options.”
On former player of his Brandon Knight getting posterized on Sunday:
“What did you want him to do? Just give him a layup? … It makes me mad [that people say] it’s embarrassing. Yeah, you know why, because you would just let him go score and not try something.”