The national media got an upclose look at John Calipari's talent-laden Kentucky team Tuesday night in the 75-65 win over Kansas in Madison Square Garden. They're gushing about UK's talent but the coach is tempering that enthusiasm for now.
"Talent doesn't win. Great 'teams' win," Calipari said on his postgame radio show on the UK-IMG sports network. "If you want to win them all, be a talented team that becomes a great 'team'. Last year's team (did that). Low turnovers, created shots for each other, absolutely ground it out defensively and offensively. Not as talented as this team, but we're not a 'team' yet. We're seven parts trying to get their own. We've got to convince them that they've got to do this together and everybody has to do their job."
Both Calipari and Kansas coach Bill Self come out of the Larry Brown coaching tree, with Calipari having first worked for Brown at KU in the mid 80's.
What are the common traits among the Larry Brown disciples?
"I hope one of the things he taught you is to really care about your team," said Calipari. "You have to have a feeling for your players. If you care about them, they'll always fight like crazy for you. They don't care about what you know until they know you care and I think that's probably the biggest message that we got (from coach Brown)."
Kentucky's games in Connecticut this weekend are part of the annual Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic and last week, the organizers got all of the coaches together for a media teleconference. And the moderator noted to Calipari that the coaches were voicing a shared respect for each other through their comments.
"We all know how hard a job we have. How expectations, in a lot of cases, are beyond the resources or opportunities those coaches have. And we may have young kids we're trying to get together or the players' aspirations are bigger than the team's aspirations. And we're all battling a media, a lot of them are agenda-driven. And you have the social networks now and anybody can say anything," Calipari explained. "If a coach doesn't have respect for another coach, it's beyond me."
Calipari has said the key element early for his team is simply playing hard. If they'll do that, they can have success while they're trying to grasp the various concepts he's teaching them on offense and defense.
And from listening to freshman Anthony Davis, that won't be a problem.
"We love playing," he said of this four-man freshman class. "We come out everday and tell each other 'we're finally here. We wanted to be here so let's go here and play aggressive'. We're always screaming and hugging each other and giving each other high five's. We're excited to be here."
Georgia's run defense ranks fourth nationally, allowing only 87 yards per game, but finding a way to have success on the ground is surely the key to any chance of a Kentucky upset tomorrow.
First, it would shorten the game and keep the Dogs' high-powered offense off the field. Secondly, in the Mark Richt era, Georgia has a losing record (14-16) when the opponent has a 100-yard rusher. And you know Hiram, GA native Coshik Williams will be motivated to be at his best in his home state.
A Georgia high school product, Moe Williams, holds the record for the most rushing yards for a Kentucky runner against the Dogs (159 yards in 1993). Williams is one of only three UK runners to go over 100 yards against Georgia.
Winning the turnover battle is always a key for Kentucky but that's easier said that done against this team. Georgia is plus-9 for the season but UGA has committed 12 turnovers in the last four games. And their defense has not surrendered a single point after a turnover in the last five games.