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Calipari talks Mississippi State on SEC teleconference

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With games coming up this week against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, John Calipari joined the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference to talk about his team. Here's what he and a couple other league coaches had to say.

Calipari

On this week's games...
"We've got two tough games. Obviously the game at Mississippi State's going to be a hard game and we're going to face a talented team that'll be at their best and it will be a hard game for us to win and we know it. Vandy is one of the better teams in the country I believe and a veteran team. Went to Mississippi and just went nuts. I watched that tape because I was getting ready for Mississippi and I saw a team that was a top-five team the way they played that night. The two games we have coming up are very difficult for us but in February you need tests and you need to find out where you are at this point. This isn't football. You can drop games in February and still be fine. We're worried about us. Let's play our best and see if that's good enough."

On Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie...

 "He's a double-double, very long and active, skilled offensively, can block shots. He's going to be a handful and it's not going to be one guy guarding him whether it's Anthony or Terrence or Eloy or Kyle or Darius. It's going to be our team having to guard him. The stuff that I've watched, he's as good as anyone in our league. He's that talented so it'll be a challenge for us."

On whether Mississippi State is UK's toughest frontcourt challenge of the season...

"The guards are good too though. Dee Bost is good. You've got guys that could go for 30, you've got five of them that could go for 30 so all of a sudden it's let's stop this guy. You can't do it that way. You've got to play basketball and try to make it difficult for them but they're at home. It's going to be sold out and white out and blue out, black out, whatever they've got going down there. It's the game so we're going to walk in and they're going to play their best. Let me just tell you, we just got done with Mississippi who had a tough game against Vandy and a lot of it was how Vandy played. They played great against us. Mississippi played great. If we didn't make shots the way we did, that game could have gone the other way. Matter of fact, did to us offensively what really no team has done to us this year. I would expect Mississippi State will do the same. They're going to play great and we're going to have to play a good ballgame to have a chance."

On which Mississippi State player presents the most difficult matchup...
"They all do because of how they play. The talent on the team, no one's questioning it and I'm not. I watched them. I think they've got a bunch of really good players and any of them can go off at any point. They run a lot of pick and rolls, they run a lot of diagonal screens, screen the screener, they're not afraid to shoot 3s, they're not afraid to let loose, that's how they play. What if they come in and they make 15 3s, which they're capable of doing? Well then we go on to the game Saturday. Arnett could go for 35 or 40, it could happen just like (Vanderbilt's Jeffery) Taylor went for whatever he went for against Mississippi. What you're doing is you just try to make that stuff difficult but they may do it anyway. Then you go on to your next game. They're a really good team. They've got great size. They're big too. And they're skilled. That's what makes them what they are. I know they've dropped a couple games but it doesn't matter. I don't even like watching those game tapes because they won't play that way against us. They're going to have their best effort."

On UK's maturity...

"Michael Gilchrist may be one of the youngest freshmen in the country. He's the youngest player on our team. We start three freshmen and we bring another freshman off the bench in Kyle Wiltjer, who played great last game. We have two sophomores that start with those guys in (Terrence Jones) and Doron (Lamb). We've got Darius Miller and Eloy (Vargas), basically that's who we're playing so we're a very young team. The reason we appear to be mature is because early in the season it was like mugging, grabbing, pushing, shoving and having to play through guys trying to throw you into the cheerleaders. You couldn't fight, you couldn't swing, you just had to play and figure out how do I combat this. If the officials are going to let this go, I've got to play basketball. That's what we had to get by. We're still trying to be able to physically combat teams that come in and say, 'Hey, you've got to go right after these guys physically, body-to-body, hard screens, get up in them, put two hands on them.' We've got to be able to negate that but we're getting better. That's made us grow up. That's what we understood, like these dudes are trying to kick sand in our face. Are you going to let them or are you going to battle back? And you can't battle back punching and elbowing in the face. You can't do that. You battle back by playing and understanding leverage and angles. They've gotten better with that."

On what is different about Vandy this year in terms of a longer NCAA Tournament run...
"I didn't see the Georgia game. I know they went on the road and won. But I did see their Mississippi game and that was right after our game. Again now, I think they're playing like a top-10 team. I grabbed (Jeffery) Taylor after our game and I told him - you understand last year he was a really good player in our league, really good. I grabbed him after our game and said, 'I've watched tape. You're 10 times better than you were a year ago.' Think about that. And I meant it because he makes shots, he's physically now going around the rim, he's not shying away, he's passing the ball better, his skills have improved. You still have (John) Jenkins, you still have a veteran team. They've got size. They've got four or five 6-9 guys. And again, it doesn't matter how they've played to this point. It's just like us last year. We kicked it in at the end of the year - our last three league games and our league tournament and then we went to the Final Four. We had the talent to do it or we wouldn't have done it. But we had to get together as a team. So I think what you're looking at in Vandy is a team that, let's just watch them these next three or four games. They come down here this weekend. Going to be a hard game for us. You see what they do in the next three four games going into the tournament. I think that starts telling the tale of where they're going at the end."

On how many bids the league has at this point...
"I think we've got five teams that'll be in. I think that if somebody crazy, one of those other teams wins our tournament, we may have six in. Now people have to finish the year. They have to play it out. People could fall flat on their face these last two weeks and then you've got no one to blame but yourself. But what our league has done nonconference and what we've done within playing each other, we've got five teams in. And then I would tell you, does someone win the tournament and get us a sixth team in? Where I hope this league goes is that we're a seven-, eight-team league. Adding the teams we're adding, (Texas) A&M and Missouri, I think we start saying, 'OK, we're going after eight or nine bids.' Our league is as strong as any. You're talking about whether it's the ACC or the Big East or us, the Big 12 at the top of their league, but they've got some teams faltering. The Big 10 has got some teams faltering. We're all the same. Now you can hype them different, but the reality of it is when you look at the teams, look at who's played who. I think Marquette lost at LSU. Michigan lost to Arkansas. All teams that are top 10. Those teams lost to people in our league. So you're looking at a league that's just got to keep promoting each other. We've got to keep promoting all of our coaches and the jobs they're doing so people get the right picture of this league. But I think we've got five in unless someone falls on their face, and I hope none of us do. And I'd say if someone goes in the tournament and goes on a crazy run - and let me tell you something, the other teams can do that. We played Tennessee. Ask Florida about Tennessee. Ask them. Now Arkansas loses a tough game to Florida. They hadn't lost at home. What if one of those two teams goes on a crazy run and wins the tournament. They're capable. Now all of a sudden we've got six teams in. And let me say this: six teams that are able to advance, not putting in seven teams and only two teams win after the first round. I'm talking about teams that can get in this thing and advance."

Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury

On the upcoming week...
"We have a couple tough games for sure at home against Kentucky and on the road against Alabama. There's no question (Kentucky) is the best team in the country so we'll have our hands full, that's for sure."
 
On Renardo Sidney status with back spasms...
"It's day to day with him. He wasn't able to do much yesterday at all so it's still day to day. I'll probably know at game time."
 
On whether Sidney will be a game-time decision...
"That's kind of where it will be right now, see what he's able to do."
 
On the importance of Sidney...
"I think it's very obvious we need his big body out there, especially our lack of depth. That's the thing. We missed him over there Saturday just giving us another guy you can throw it in the block to and score. We need that depth in there defensively and that body. It's very obvious against a Kentucky team as talented as they are. You need every body you can possibly get and we don't just need his body, we need his body to play well for us to have any kind of chance at all."
 
On the league standings with four teams at 6-6 in conference play...

"What if I told you I don't really look at that a whole lot? We know there's Kentucky and Florida separated themselves and Vandy. Those are the three teams that separated themselves from everybody else. After that, I guess there are maybe six or seven teams there close but there's two weeks left. Probably a lot of those teams in there are playing some so there will be a lot of shuffling going on here. It won't be decided until that last game on next Saturday if that's the last game. Maybe Sunday. Whenever that last game is, that last game will probably decide where everybody's at."

On whether the situation is unique...
"It's a little different I guess. We're used to look at that in divisions so much. I guess there's one team in the other division you're not used to seeing over here and that's Tennessee. There's been many years we've had that western conference thing. There's four teams bunched up going down to the final week. Like I said, the only difference is you got one eastern conference team in there so it makes it a little bit different."

On where his is at after three close losses...
"It's very obvious you'd rather come into these games winning those games. Whether you get drubbed or not, you either put a W or an L. It doesn't say an L but not a drubbing. It just says a W or an L. That's where that is. We lost two of those games in overtime and didn't have Sidney against Auburn. Coming into this game, you're not coming into where you'd like to, but again, all that's done and over. The only thing you've got to focus on is that next game, and that's your challenge as a team is to not let what you've done, whether you've been good or bad, cost you that next game. But against Kentucky, you can have the best frame of mind in the world and that's (still) a very difficult challenge. I've seen a lot of Kentucky teams and this may be as good as I've seen. It's amazing how, and something I don't think that gets talked about enough, is how good they are defensively. I think that kind of separates them. Offensively they've got lots of pieces, but defensively it gives you the opportunity to go on the road and win. There isn't no question they have an opportunity to do something not many teams have done in a long time, is go undefeated in this league on that road. That's quite a challenge, and to do that you've got to build to defend."

On how important the 3 is if Sidney is not himself or can't go...
"When you're playing Kentucky, you've got to hit on all cylinders. You've got to do some things maybe better than you're capable of doing or darn sure better than you've done them to have any type of chance at all, and then maybe hope Kentucky doesn't play their best because if Kentucky plays their best, I'm not sure there is anyone anywhere that has a chance against them. We know it will be a huge challenge for us in here."

On whether Moultrie will try to prove himself against a team like Kentucky and shot blocker like Anthony Davis ...
"I wouldn't hope so. I hope he's got the same frame of mind every game you play and what you're trying to prove is how to help your team win. That's how you prove things. I don't think it's a Moultrie, Davis or (Terrence) Jones situation at all. Now kids look at things and are seeing things, and naturally it's Kentucky. That's why anywhere Kentucky goes, most of those teams play at a different level because of who they are. That's tradition. That's not this year's team. That's the way it's always been. So I don't think any coach, through the years, have any problems when they start talking about motivation, worrying about what their mindset is getting ready to play Kentucky. Kentucky does two things: They bring out the best in you or they bring out the worst in you. That's what you've got to be ready for. To have any chance at all, you've got to be at your best to have any kind of chance against this Kentucky team for sure. Out of all the Kentucky teams I've seen through the years, this may be as good of a team as I've seen."

Florida head coach Billy Donovan


On Kentucky's maturity...

"I made some comments when we played against them that I like their disposition. I think John probably has a lot to do with that as well but you've got to have a presence and a maturity about you. With those guys being young, a lot of them do.

"I know on the court, they've got great presence. I think they play the game the right way. They defend you, they're very, very focused, to me, on making winning plays whether it's a loose ball, a deflection, an offensive rebound, getting a stop. They have a presence and a focus there to me that is very good."

On how difficult it is to coach a team with multiple players with NBA futures...

"I think when you've got really, really good guys that winning is very important to them. It makes the job a lot easier. I think a lot of times guys have an illusion of what it takes to be an NBA player. It's not so much about being an NBA player in my opinion, it's about having a long career in the NBA and being able to stay there and get a second and third contract and be somebody that can play 10 years because it's certainly very difficult to do. When you've got guys that are focused on maybe thinking that they have to score or certain things that they have to show if they have a weakness if someone says that they don't shoot the ball well enough. They don't play to their strengths; they play to their weaknesses. I think all these guys are consumed by that. They all want to play at the next level. I don't think any team in the country is any different. They want to have the opportunity to play at the highest level. I think when you've got guys that are really focused on winning and understanding that certain things in the NBA are all statistically driven. If you're a frontcourt player, they're going to watch how many rebounds you grab per minute that you're on the floor. If you're a point guard, they're going to look at your assist to turnover ratio. A lot of the things guys looking or in my opinion are ultimately going to help your team in the end. The one thing that really never ever has anything to do with these guys getting drafted is their point. With (Joakim) Noah, (Al) Horford and (Corey) Brewer, we had three guys go in the lottery and I don't know if any of them averaged more than 13 points a game. Taurean Green was our leading scorer and he was a second-round draft pick. I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions for a lot of these kids. They watch TV and 80 percent of the NBA, guys are filling a role. The other 20 percent are guys that their offense is being run through and they're taking a majority of the shots. I think, for a lot of these guys, understanding that they have to fit into a role, because when you get to the next level, you have to fit into a role and probably the least concerning statistic for NBA people is how many points a guy scores per game."

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