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From the Pressbox with Tom Leach (Jan. 25)

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Some of the rival coaches in the Southeastern Conference have suggested that this year's Kentucky team is harder to guard than the one that stormed through league play with only two losses last season. 
 
ESPN analyst and former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried doesn't buy it.

"When you're coaching, even if you're playing a team that's 0-20, they look like the Lakers, but I don't think so (that Kentucky is harder to guard)," Gottfried said last week on "The Leach Report" radio show. "I think this is a tough team to guard because they shoot it better. But you talk about trying to stop penetration from (John) Wall and (Eric) Bledsoe, with (DeMarcus) Cousins inside, and the bench they had last year, this is a different deal."

Gottfried said that group didn't play like freshmen, especially away from home.

"Those freshmen last year were phenomenal (on the road)," Gottfried said. "You're walking into environments where you're scouted well, and this (Kentucky) team has got some weaknesses. Those freshmen have to learn how to play well for 40 minutes on the road. That's the next step for them. There's not going to be a lot of easy wins for Kentucky."

So to compare the two teams would be unfair.

"I don't think this is a great team and I don't think the talent level is near where it was a year ago, and that's what people need to remember," Gottfried said. "They'll have nights when they're sensational and they'll have nights when they play like freshmen. When you look at what they lost and you look at the fact that they're back in the top 20, that's amazing what John (Calipari) has done."

By missing out on getting Enes Kanter onto the roster, Gottfried said the Cats are a little "shorthanded" in the paint. That can happen when players leave after one year, but the coach believes Calipari's teams will have balance in early departures and three- or four-year players the longer Cal is at UK.

Gottfried said he's "having fun for now" as a TV analyst and that he enjoys watching how other coaches run their practices, including Calipari.

"What he does so well, I think, is he gets players to play a high level," Gottfried said. "In practice, he's in control. He's demanding but positive at the same time; very organized and they play hard. I have enjoyed watching his teams practice."

As for the mini-controversy that arose when Calipari was caught on TV using expletives to criticize Terrence Jones in the Alabama loss, Gottfried believes it was much ado about very little. He said if a player believes his coach sincerely cares about him or her as a person, then the player is much more likely to take any kind of criticism the right way.

"Without question, players want a coach to help them be good," Gottfried said, noting it's a matter of "trust" for the players. "He (Jones) trusts (Calipari's) motives. He knows John Calipari is not trying to embarrass him. He knows John Calipari wants him to play a high level, and if I've got to stick my foot up your fanny (figuratively), one way or another I'm going to do it because the goal here is to help you, the player. That's what players want.

"(Salty language) happens a lot and you catch it on television. It's a little bigger deal (when the TV catches it), but players want to be good and they want to be coached -- the good ones do -- and that's what Terrence Jones wants."

Given Calipari's skill at getting players ready to succeed at the NBA level, a few expletives along the way seems like a small price to pay for success.

"There's confidence as a player with Cal's track record," Calipari said. "I may not like how this guy is getting after me, but I understand at the end of the day, if I can be like those guys, I'm all in."

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