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Derek Willis has played the part of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky in practice this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Derek Willis has played the part of Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky in practice this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Derek Willis has had two personalities in practice this week.

In addition to his normal sweet-shooting 6-foot-9 self, Willis has been assigned to impersonate Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, the 7-footer who has been one of the breakout stars of the NCAA Tournament.

But if you ask Marcus Lee -- one of the UK big men assigned to chase him -- the result is merely one Willis-Kaminsky hybrid that makes life difficult for anyone unfortunate enough to try to guard him.

"He's playing the part of the destroyer," Lee said. "That's what I call Derek: Derek the Destroyer."

Informed early in the week by John Calipari that Willis would be channeling Kaminsky, Lee had a pretty good idea what was about to happen.

"Once it started happening we all kind of stopped and were like, 'Really, Derek?' " Lee said. "Once Coach told us he was going to be (Kaminsky) I was like 'Oh my god. This is gonna happen.' But it's great. I love that Derek's being able to do what he knows he can do."

With the freedom to terrorize Lee, Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle and Alex Poythress as the Cats (28-10) prepare to shadow Kaminsky on Saturday at approximately 8:49 p.m. ET, Willis has indeed enjoyed himself.

"Oh, it's fun," Willis said. "I play similar kind of to Frank Kaminsky. I just like to stay out on the perimeter more, but his game is really cool. It's definitely been fun playing him. You run under screens and come out to the 3-point line, play in the post a lot, so it's been good."

Willis, asked for a closest comparison for Kaminsky, invoked the name of Dirk Nowitzki, the former NBA MVP who plays his games just a few miles away from AT&T Stadium. That's a scary thought for the Wildcats.

"He's a better ball handler than you think," Calipari said. "He bounces it better than you think.  Obviously he's their best 3-point shooter. He's playing with a swagger right now, like, 'None of you can guard me.' "

Over the last three games, Kaminsky has been right to feel that way. In wins over Oregon, Baylor and Arizona, Kaminsky is averaging 22 points and 6.2 rebounds, capped by a dominant 28-point, 11-rebound performance against the top-seeded Wildcats in the Elite Eight.

"We've watched a lot of tape on him," Johnson said. "He's a good inside-out player. We know that it's not going to take one individual to kind of slow him down; it's going to take the whole team."

On the season, Kaminsky is averaging a team-best 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds to go with 64 blocks, but don't let those less-than-eye-popping numbers fool you. Kaminsky plays on a Badger team known for its deliberate pace, so he has fewer possessions with which to work than most players of his caliber.

Accordingly, he is currently eighth in kenpom.com's tempo-free player of the year standings.

"You can't give him too many easy shots," Randle said. "You can't give him any easy shots, open looks. He can really shoot the ball and he's skilled in the post so whatever you do you gotta try to make it tough for him and play without fouling."

He does his damage all over the floor, hitting 37 3-pointers at a 37.8-percent clip and 58.3 percent from inside the arc. Kaminsky is a 76.5-percent foul shooter, right on his career average, but that's about the only area in which the junior hasn't improved by leaps and bounds over his three college seasons.

"It was difficult growing so much so fast," Kaminsky said. "My biggest battle was with doorways. I used to hit my head on everything. Learning to duck was my first big battle. But I knew once I conquered that, that I would be good going forward."

Clearly, he hasn't lost his sense of humor along the way.

In his first season, Kaminsky scored just 63 points in playing 1.8 minutes per game. A year later, he averaged 4.2 points in an expanded role. Four games into the 2013-14 season, he dropped 43 points on North Dakota, serving notice he was the best player on one of the nation's best teams.

"I'm just trying to make myself effective at this level," Kaminsky said. "I came in as kind of an immature, skinny, weak kid to Wisconsin and have taken steps mentally and physically to try to make myself effective at this level."

How effective Kaminsky is against a Kentucky team likely to be missing the defender best-suited to chase him will go a long way toward deciding who will play for the national championship on Monday.

Willie Cauley-Stein, battling an undisclosed ankle injury, is doubtful for the national semifinal. As engaged as the sophomore 7-footer has been this week, the task of guarding Kaminsky becomes that much tougher with Cauley-Stein on the bench carrying a camera instead of on the floor blocking shots and switching screens.

"If I could tell you Willie were playing, I would feel a little more comfortable because he's a 7-footer that can guard inside and outside and all that," Calipari said. "We don't have that guy if he doesn't play."

Instead, UK is left with four options for primary defenders on Kaminsky, none of which is ideal.

Johnson has improved his conditioning and quickness through the season, but remains a 265-pounder unaccustomed to guarding on the perimeter. Lee has the bounce and length to give Kaminsky problems, but lacks experience even after a breakout performance against Michigan. Finally, Randle and Poythress are athletic enough, but will be at a significant height disadvantage.

"We just have to keep a high hand the whole time," Lee said. "You can't really have hands down because he is a really great shooter and we'll just have to be as big--we have to move our feet a whole lot more."

Given his role this week, Willis would know better than anyone how the Cats are doing with all that. After some natural hiccups in the early going, he likes what he's seen.

"You know, they all really did a good job," Willis said. "We would run through the plays and stuff and they had trouble with it at first because it's a different offense than what we've been seeing. After a couple times going through it, they started to get used to it."

Try as he might -- and Lee reports Willis has gone for as many as 50 points in practice this week -- Willis can't produce a perfect Kaminsky facsimile. The Cats will have to wait until Saturday to see the real thing in action.

"It's a great battle to get through, whoever's going with him," Lee said. "We're just trying to see who's going to be the one to step up and do it."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Willie Cauley-Stein is doubtful for UK's Final Four matchup with Wisconsin due to an ankle injury. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein is doubtful for UK's Final Four matchup with Wisconsin due to an ankle injury. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas - Willie Cauley-Stein is out of the boot he had been wearing on his injured left ankle, but the chances he plays Saturday vs. Wisconsin in the Final Four still look slim. 

"Don't count me out yet," Cauley-Stein said Friday during Kentucky's open locker room media availability. "I don't know yet. I'm still figuring out if I want to give it a try or not."

Cauley-Stein, who took some shots during UK's open practice but still had a noticeable limp walking to and from the locker room, said his ankle is doing better and said "there's always a possibility" he could play. But he also realizes the long-term implications of rushing back if his ankle isn't healed.

"It could get worse or it could, you know, stay the same, but that's kind of the unknown is could it get worse and then have to do something worse than I thought I was going to have to," said Cauley-Stein, who left the game at the 13:05 mark of the Louisville game and hasn't returned since.

As for what the actual ankle injury is, Cauley-Stein isn't shedding much light. Asked if it was a possible stress fracture, Cauley-Stein said "it could be that," but that he wasn't listening when the team doctor was doing an X-ray on it.

He said he was "checked out" at the time.

"They thought it was a really bad sprain," Cauley-Stein said. "There's just so many different things. It was swollen when they took an X-ray on it so you really couldn't tell anything."

Cauley-Stein believes the injury is actually a pre-existing one that finally gave out.

"I think I injured it during the K-State game in the second half and I just played for the rest of that weekend and then practiced on it," he said. "And then I went into the Louisville game still hurting and I honestly, the whole week, was just babying it. Like if I had to turn around real quick I would hop on one foot and not really turn around on that foot. And then in the game I just forgot about it and then I just tried to do it normal and I just heard this pop. That's when you see me limping and stuff."

Cauley-Stein said the ankle feels better than it did the day before and the day before that.

"When I was first on crutches and in a boot I probably really needed the crutches and the boot," he said. "Now when I try to walk on it and run a little bit--pretty much just scooted around and dragged it (before); I didn't really walk on it. Now I can walk heel to toe a little bit. It's just feeling better all around."

Does that mean we could see a Willis Reed-like emergence Saturday against Wisconsin? Reed, in game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals, played through a torn muscle and started against the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed made the New York Knicks' first two baskets before leaving the game and not returning, but he's long been credited with inspiring his teammates to victory and an NBA championship.

Cauley-Stein wasn't sure who Reed was when he was asked about him Friday but he pointed out the circumstances of his injury are completely different.

"It being in my foot and my ankle, like you really can't move laterally or anything like that," Cauley-Stein said. "You can just limp or kind of hobble around. If it was on my like thigh or my hip or something like that it would be easier and I would feel like all that weight's not directly on that spot that's hurting."

Cauley-Stein admitted it's hurt to watch from the bench the last two games.

"This is what you work so hard for and then to have it taken away from you is really heartbreaking," he said. "You just kind of have to lose yourself in your teammates and be happy for what they're accomplishing and just enjoy the ride with them."

He plans on doing exactly that regardless of whether he plays this weekend.

"I want them to get to Monday and do something special," Cauley-Stein said.

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Dezerea Bryant (Spencer Allen, Sports Image Wire) Dezerea Bryant (Spencer Allen, Sports Image Wire)
Entering this the third weekend of the outdoor track and field season, members of the team will have perhaps their best chance this year to perform at their best,

A select group of Wildcats produced times/marks in the first two weeks of the year that will be good enough to rank in the top-32 of the Region and qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary Championships.

The rest of the Wildcats have but one goal this regular season: to record a qualifying time/mark.

Pretty much nothing else matters until that mark is recorded. Only after getting a mark does the focus shift toward tapering training in preparation for the championship season.

And almost all of the Wildcats who got their qualifying times early are now in search of qualifying in other events.

Should the forecast hold, this weekend could be as good a time as ever to get those so-far elusive times and marks.

The majority of the top Wildcats will compete at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Fla., where the weather on Friday is expected to be in the 80s and sunny. Three of UK's top distance runners have traveled to Stanford, Calif., to run against the nation's elite when it comes to multi-lap races.

Head coach Edrick Floreal chose those two meet locales for this weekend quite consciously. During the spring months in the United States, the time of year upon which the heart of the collegiate track and field season resides, weather is unpredictable.

At least of Friday in Florida it will be sunny and warm. In Northern California Floreal knows as well as anyone that sunshine seems to be a permanent condition, even if it may be a bit cool.

"You don't know what the weather is going to be the rest of the year," Floreal told the team on Thursday. "Everything else could be rained out. The rest of the regular season, our meets are mostly in and around Kentucky and we have the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and Triton Invitational in San Diego for throwers.

"You never know what the weather is going to be like. It could be really cold and rainy the rest of the year. This weekend we're going to have good weather so my suggestion is to take advantage."

Indeed bad weather will not be an excuse for the Wildcats competing on Friday. Similarly, competition level will not be a category worthy of complaint.

Both the Florida Relays and Stanford Invitational boast fields that rival any meet all season. Both are littered with national champions and All-Americans.

The Florida Relays has a strong reputation as one of the best early-season meets for the top sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers.

The Stanford Invitational, in contrast, is widely considered the nation's top early-season meet for elite distance runners. Many of those distance standouts will make their outdoor debuts there.

Floreal is all too aware of this. After all, he was largely responsible for building and enhancing the Invitational's reputation when he was director of track and field at Stanford for six seasons between 2006-2012.

Both the ideal weather and competitiveness of the Florida Relays and Stanford Invitational could mean the UK track and field teams are in for some eye-catching results this weekend.

At least that's the plan.

What to Watch
Kendra Harrison's 400m hurdles debut

Kendra Harrison ran the fastest 100m hurdles time by any American this season last weekend at the Texas Relays. She will follow that up this weekend by debuting in the 400m hurdles at Florida Relays.

After hurdling only over 60 meters throughout the indoor season, the UK coaching staff has now determined she has developed the stamina needed for what many consider track and field's most grueling event: 400 meters over hurdles.

Harrison's debut will be eagerly anticipated across the country. She is the top returner from the 2013 NCAA Championships in the event. She placed fourth; the top-three finishers were seniors.

Bryant's first 200 meters outside

Dezerea Bryant, the 2014 NCAA Indoor 200m Champion, will compete at the distance for the first time outdoors this year.

The 200m at Florida Relays will provide Bryant with a nice early test. The field's other headliner is Kyra Jefferson of Florida, who was runner-up to Bryant at the NCAA Championships.

Bryant certainly showed she's still in strong form last weekend at Texas Relays. She ran the fourth fastest all-conditions 100m dash in the world this year, a wind-assisted 11.13 (+2.7).

Kayla Parker's Florida homecoming
The Florida Relays will provide a homecoming of sorts for team captain and All-American hurdler Kayla Parker.

Parker is a native of Port Saint Joe on the Panhandle. She is scheduled to compete in the 100m hurdles, in her home state for the first time in a few years, certainly since she emerged as one of the SEC's best.

Throwers look to continue progression
Kentucky boasts a strong group of throwers littered with All-Americans.

But for the first few weeks this year, few of those Wildcats have performed at their best so far this outdoor campaign. That's not something to panic about, it's still quite early and even below their best, some have already posted qualifying marks.

Still UK's throwers are a competitive group. They want to win. This weekend will provide such an opportunity.

Distance outlook
Matt Hillenbrand and Adam Kahleifeh finished 1-2 in the SEC Indoor 3,000m Championship. They'll make their 5k debut at the Stanford Invitational looking to take advantage of a fast field.

Mackay Wilson will look to do the same in the 3k steeplechase as he races that event for the first time since the 2013 NCAA East Regional.

Those three traveled to Stanford separate from the rest of UK's elite runners, who journeyed to Florida. for one basic reason: to run fast against other fast runners.

Aaron Harrison has scored 15 points combined in the final five minutes of UK's last three games. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Aaron Harrison has scored 15 points combined in the final five minutes of UK's last three games. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Anyone who's watched Kentucky's last three games needs not be told the Wildcats have been clutch in advancing to the Final Four.

When UK needs a big 3-pointer, there's Aaron Harrison or James Young. When the Cats need an important free throw, Andrew Harrison calmly steps to the line.

You surely remember many of the big plays UK used to take down three 2013 Final Four teams. But until you look back on the collection of them all, it's not entirely clear just how good the Cats have been when it mattered most.

UK has had 22 total possessions that started in the final five minutes of wins over Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan and scored a ridiculous average of two points per possession. Only twice has UK come up empty on a possession during the stretch, and never when trailing.

It began against Wichita State with the Cats down five and on the brink of a round-of-32 exit. With no room for error, UK scored on its final seven possessions -- 14 points and two points per possession -- and survived a last-second 3-point attempt by Fred VanVleet to advance. The Cats hit 9 of 12 free throws, 2 of 3 from the field and grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.

Against U of L, the Cats were down 64-57 when they took over with 4:48 to go. Aaron Harrison snared a defensive rebound, raced the length of the floor, drew a foul and hit two free throws to get his team going for the game's final nine possessions. Including Aaron Harrison's free throws, UK would score on eight of those possessions, racking up 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, 7 of 8 from the line and another two offensive rebounds.

To clinch a spot in the Final Four, the Cats just didn't miss at all. Protecting a one-point lead against Michigan, UK made its final five shots, including three 3s by Aaron Harrison. The only empty possession came on a shot-clock violation, UK's only turnover in the final five minutes of any of their last three games.

Here are the composite offensive stats for all three games:

  • 22 possessions
  • 44 points
  • Two points per possession
  • 11 of 15 (73.3 percent) from the field
  • 5 of 6 (83.3 percent) from 3
  • 17 of 21 (80.1 percent) from the free-throw line
  • One turnover
  • Four rebounds on seven free misses (offensive-rebounding percentage of .571)

And believe it or not, UK has even better when trailing:

  • Nine possessions
  • 21 points
  • 2.33 points per possession
  • 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the field
  • 2 of 2 from 3
  • 6 of 8 (75 percent) from the line
  • Zero turnovers
  • Four rebounds on five free misses (offensive-rebounding percentage of .800)

In playing three straight instant classics, UK has likely raised the collective blood pressure of the Big Blue Nation. The Cats, however, hardly seem to register a pulse when it comes to crunch time.

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- With everything going on in Orlando Antigua's head these days, if he can sleep it's from pure exhaustion.

As Kentucky prepares for Wisconsin in the Final Four, Antigua's not only worrying about how to slow down Frank Kaminsky and the highly efficient Badger offense, he's also got a new program to build, players to recruit and a foundation to set at South Florida, where he took the head-coaching job on Monday.

Fortunately for Antigua and the Cats, USF gave Antigua permission to stay through UK's Final Four run this weekend, allowing Antigua to focus on finishing Kentucky's late-season run.

"You try to take one thing at a time right now," Antigua said. "Mark (Harlan) has been gracious to obviously allow me to finish out this run that we have going. I try to text message with the kids back at South Florida just to make sure that they're watching and taking care of their academics while we're here."

His kids right now, though, still wear blue and white and they've still got an objective to complete at the Final Four in Arlington, Texas. Antigua said those kids "look great" heading into Saturday's national semifinals.

"They're working hard," Antigua said. "Crazy enough, still got room to grow. That's exciting us. We're trying to push them every day."

Antigua got emotional at Monday's USF press conference in Tampa, Fla., when he started to think about and thank everyone who helped him earn the head-coaching opportunity. Those people included the players, who were "ecstatic" for their coach.

"When I got back from the press conference they all started busting my chops," Antigua said. "But it's great. They're a great group of kids and I'm really happy for the experience that I got a chance to have by being at Kentucky and being with the staff. The administration has been phenomenal and the relationships that I've built there will be relationships that I think I'll have for the rest of my career."

Of course, one of the most important and most influential relationships he had was with John Calipari, whom Antigua has served under for the last six seasons (five at Kentucky and one at Memphis).

Antigua said he's always wanted to become a head coach since getting into the business, but it took some mentoring and experience from working under Coach Cal and Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh to prepare him to run his own program.

"(Calipari) taught me how to adjust to the personnel that you have, how to keep challenging kids, how to keep raising the bar," Antigua said.

In the coming months and years we'll see if Calipari taught him how to schedule. Asked Thursday if he'd get a home-and-home series with UK given the connections, Antigua smiled knowing full well that negotiating a deal like that with Coach Cal won't be so easy.

"I hope so," he said. "I hope to eventually maybe work something out, but haven't even gotten that far down the line."

Capture the flag


By now you are probably well aware of the type of historic path Kentucky has had to conquer to make it to the Final Four.

Among the most notable achievements:

  • UK is the first school even to knock off three of the four Final Four teams from the previous season
  • According to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, the Cats' path, seeding-wise, is the toughest any team has had to navigate since LSU in 1986.

Thursday, at the first of two Final Four media appearances, Coach Cal said he didn't even know what to call what the Cats just went through.

"We got here through an absolute mine field and happened to not step on a mine," he said.

Now that they can see the flag they're trying to capture, Calipari is trying to make sure his guys don't wander off their path and step on one of those mines.

"Now my whole mission is to make sure we're not satisfied, that this team is still striving," he said.

Still freshmen

There's a notion among some coaches that when you get to this stage in the year, freshmen are no longer freshmen. Some like to say they have the experience of a sophomore and can play like veterans.

Last Calipari checked, his freshmen hadn't been granted any type of waiver to skip a year in college.

"They're still freshmen," Calipari said.

But there is some truth that these freshmen are more experienced than any other ones in college. UK's freshmen have accounted for 75.3 percent of the Cats' minutes this year.

It took nearly every second for them to finally capitalize on that experience.

"It took us four months," Calipari said. "So now they got it. They're young. It takes time. You cannot skip steps. We all want to skip steps. We all want freshmen to be sophomores and juniors."

It's Kentucky - what do you expect?


It didn't take long for Calipari to answer a reporter's question on Thursday as to why his program can sometimes be a magnet for criticism.

"It's Kentucky," Coach Cal quickly shot back.

The reporter, a little surprised by such a quick answer, then wondered if he had a sense that some people enjoyed when UK was struggling in the regular season. Again, Calipari had the same answer.

"It's Kentucky," he said. "It's what you buy into if you want to coach at Kentucky or play at Kentucky. You got some guys with agendas. You got some guys that, you know, it's that program. It's part of it."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

UK, Wisconsin not so different after all

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Julius Randle and Ben Brust share the podium on Thursday at AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle and Ben Brust share the podium on Thursday at AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kentucky and Wisconsin are being cast as a study in contrasting styles.

In one corner there are the Wildcats, the crew of super-talented youngsters, and the other the Badgers, the veterans who rely on cohesiveness and half-court execution.

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, however, doesn't exactly see things that way.

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole," Ryan said on Monday. "We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

There's certainly some truth to Ryan's words, but it's also a bit of an oversimplification.

UK and Wisconsin, of course, are teams that get the job done on both ends of the floor in different ways. Let's explore kenpom.com's advanced statistics to explore those differences.

When Kentucky is on offense

Julius Randle has always been a basketball fan, so he was familiar with Wisconsin before UK even began scouting the Badgers for the Final Four.

"Just growing up I've always known Wisconsin just to be a hard-nosed, tough team," Randle said. "They play really good defense."

That's true again this year, as Wisconsin ranks 45th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Badgers are sound defensively on the strength of their ability to play without fouling and close out possessions with defensive rebounds.

Wisconsin is third nationally in defensive free-throw rate, yielding just 15.1 free-throw attempts per game. By contrast, UK is ninth nationally in offensive free-throw rate. Don't think, however, that the Cats can't get the job done when they aren't getting to the line. Against Michigan, UK scored 1.26 points per possession -- its highest total of the tournament -- in spite of hitting just six free throws in 11 attempts.

The Badgers are also tireless workers on the defensive glass, ranking 13th in rebounding rate, but they haven't faced Kentucky yet. The Cats lead the nation in offensive-rebounding rate, claiming 42.5 percent of their own misses. And less than two weeks ago, UK faced off against an even better defensive rebounding team in Wichita State and still snagged 10 of its 29 misses.

Wisconsin relies on sound positioning in its man defense, not often gambling to force turnovers. The Badgers' opponents have committed turnovers on just 15.6 percent of possessions (322nd nationally) while UK is middle of the pack (174th nationally) taking care of the ball.

Just because the Badgers don't force many turnovers, don't think passing the ball against them is easy. Wisconsin allows assists on just 40.1 percent of opponents' made field goals, the third-lowest rate in the nation.

Also of note is that just 25.8 percent of field goals attempted against Wisconsin come from 3-point range, the eighth-lowest rate in the nation. Though UK is shooting the ball remarkably well, this isn't necessarily bad news for UK. The Cats are at their best when they attack the basket.

When Kentucky is on defense


As good as Randle has always known Wisconsin to be on defense, he's not oblivious to the fact that the Badgers are among the best offensive teams in the country even though they score just 73.5 points per game.

"Of course, our team's already been informed that this is one of the better offensive teams that they have had, and they really can score the ball, move the ball," Randle said.

Thanks to that ball movement, the Badgers almost never turn the ball over. Wisconsin has committed single-digit turnovers in 26 of 37 games, including two remarkable two-turnover performances, en route to ranking second in turnover rate. Considering UK is 301st in defensive turnover rate, don't expect many Wisconsin mistakes on Saturday evening.

With UK's size advantage and Wisconsin's preference for getting back on defense over crashing the glass, don't expect many Badger offensive rebounds either. Wisconsin is 274th nationally in offensive-rebounding rate.

The Badgers get by on offense without many rebounds because they shoot the ball so well to begin with. Wisconsin is 32nd nationally in effective field-goal percentage (.533) and UK 35th in effective field-goal percentage defense (.458). The team that wins this battle could well be playing for the national championship on Monday.

Bottom line

Tempo has a lot to do with the supposed contrast between Kentucky and Wisconsin, but a look at the numbers reveals two teams more similar than you might think.

Wisconsin ranks 287th nationally in adjusted tempo, playing just 63.4 possessions per game. UK, meanwhile, is 226th in adjusted tempo, playing just 66.2 possessions per game and 61 in the NCAA Tournament.

As friends John Calipari and Ryan match wits for the first time, be prepared for a grind-it-out affair. The pace might not be frenetic and the final score might be in the 60s, but these are two teams playing their best offense of the season.

"You're playing for either one of these teams, I mean, there's no such thing as an underdog," Randle said. "It's just going to be a hard-fought game, and I think that's what both teams are looking forward to."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Calipari hopes to rebrand one-and-done

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John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari and Bo Ryan at their Final Four press conference on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ever since a record-setting five Kentucky players went in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, the "one-and-done" label has been pinned on John Calipari and his program like a tail on a donkey.

For better or worse, Kentucky has become, reputation-wise, the place to go to play for a year and then head to the NBA after one season.

Calipari, who has long maintained that he's against the one-and-done rule but is playing by the rules, doesn't understand why kids are criticized for pursuing their dreams if the opportunity presents itself.

"Until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are," Coach Cal said on Monday on his weekly radio show. " 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

Greg Anthony, a former UNLV star and analyst for CBS, spoke on a Final Four teleconference earlier in the week and said he is sick of hearing about the one-and-done rule altogether. After all, UK isn't the only program that went after the John Walls and the Anthony Davises in high school; it just so happens to be the one that landed the most.

"I'm so tired of everyone talking about the one-and-done from this standpoint: Every one of those damn kids for Kentucky, everyone else would have signed them if they decided to go there," Anthony said. "Every high-school kid coming in as a freshman would go one-and-done if they had ability for the most part."

It's worth noting that one-and-done talent like Andrew Wiggins went to Kansas, Aaron Gordon went to Arizona and Jabari Parker went to Duke.

But the one-and-done rule is a hot subject again at this week's Final Four because of the unprecedented youth and potential NBA players Calipari has brought to Arlington, Texas. On its road to the Final Four - a path Coach Cal called a "mine field" - UK has relied heavily on its youth, starting five freshmen throughout the tournament and getting 89.8 percent of its points from freshmen.

As a point of reference, the famous Fab Five accounted for 75.3 percent of Michigan's scoring during the 1991-92 season. The Cats' freshmen, many of whom will have an NBA decision to make after the NCAA Tournament run ends, have accounted for 81.8 percent on the season.

With all that said, a young player helping a team to the Final Four and then weighing his pro aspirations at the end of the season is still perceived negatively among the masses.

"One-and-done has now become a bad connotation," Coach Cal said.

And until the rules change, the negative perception is here to say, Calipari realizes. No matter how many times he says they don't talk about turning pro until after the season, it's going to be viewed in a dim light.

So Coach Cal has a solution: a new name.

"We're going to break out something new this week to get you guys off this one-and-done so that we can think about (it) in another term, which is trying to help these kids do what they're trying to do as college students, as where they want their careers to go," Calipari said.

The idea behind the rebranding is to change the idea that just because a player may turn pro early that he isn't a college athlete.

"Does a player have to be here four years to be a terrific college player?" Calipari said. "The last four years, our grade-point average has been a 3.0. Our (NCAA Academic Progress Rate) is as high as anybody in the country. They're college students; they're just not college students for four years in most cases, but in some they are."

So, Calipari hopes to unveil something this weekend - perhaps during the next media availability on Friday - that will get that message across. What it is remains to be seen, but Coach Cal did ask for answers on his radio show earlier in the week and actually received some via social media.

Among the best were "Succeed then Proceed," "Learn then Earn" "Learn and Turn."

They're all better than the one-and-done label in the eyes of Calipari.

"All I got to say to Cal is when somebody asks me about one-and-done, all I remember is when my mom would give me a pork chop or a piece of meatloaf and I would ask for another piece and she would say, 'No, one-and-done,' " Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said.

Ryan is confident that if the name isn't going to change, the rules will soon. Perhaps the bad connotation will die with it.

"We're (Calipari and Ryan) both on the board of directors with the NABC and we have talked about this quite a bit," Ryan said. "I'm sure there's something coming down the road that's going to alter that. But all we know is we just want our players to get the most out of the experience and I think we both are coaching guys that understand what that's all about."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Kelsey Nunley pitched a complete-game shutout in UK's win over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Kelsey Nunley pitched a complete-game shutout in UK's win over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
The No. 12 Kentucky softball team used a complete performance in all facets of the game Wednesday night in its 5-0 win over Louisville.
 
After a 1-2 weekend against then-No. 21 Auburn, a complete, well-played game against their in-state rivals was just what the Wildcats needed.
 
Head coach Rachel Lawson got just the turnaround performance that she was hoping for.
 
"I thought it was big," Lawson said. "Auburn was a tough weekend. I know we took one from them, Auburn is a very good team, but I felt like we really didn't play our best game against Auburn. 
 
"Some things were exposed that we needed to work on, and the fact that we were able to work on them and turn around so quickly really shows that the girls have their minds in the right spot and they want to get it done and go deep in the postseason."
 
UK out-hit the Cardinals 7-3, and was able to take advantage of two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. The first five batters in the Kentucky lineup all reached base at least once.
 
While the run production was a highlight, the well-rounded game started in the circle for the Wildcats. After Kelsey Nunley allowed one run and five hits in seven innings of work Sunday, she came back even better on Wednesday. The sophomore hurled a complete game shutout and allowed just three hits and two walks.
 
"I thought Nunley was incredible," Lawson said. "I thought she was great on Sunday. The fact that she was able to turn around four days later and do it again says a lot about how strong she is as a pitcher. The fact that she was able to change her game a little bit and keep them off balance, they're an awesome hitting team. The fact that she didn't let very many of them square up on the ball really says how much stuff she has and how she's able to put the team on her back and carry them."
 
Defense was a point of emphasis the last few days, and it showed Wednesday night. 
 
In the field, the Wildcats didn't commit a single error and turned several dazzling defensive plays to extinguish any Louisville scoring opportunities.
 
"We really worked on hustling," Nikki Sagermann said.. "Making every play, not giving up. Just keeping on running hard and competing on every play."
 
The team worked on it, and Lawson noticed.
 
"I was really impressed with them," Lawson said of the defensive effort. "Overall I'm really pleased with our defense, and I thought that was the difference early."
 
Without senior captain Lauren Cumbess, who is day-to-day with an ankle injury, the offense didn't miss a beat.
 
"I think the best part about it was the last few days we had really been working on our approach, getting more aggressive," Lawson said. "It was so nice to see the team step up. I think they knew because Lauren wasn't in the lineup, that each person was going to have to chip in a little extra, and I thought they really responded and we put up five runs against a really good Louisville team."
 
The win marked the first time UK had beaten U of L in back-to-back games in Lawson's seven-year tenure. The Wildcats will have a chance to go for three consecutive wins at the end of the month on April 30 in Louisville.
 
In the meantime, the Wildcats will look to build on Wednesday's win when they host SEC-foe and 18th-ranked Texas A&M at John Cropp Stadium this weekend. First pitch Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, while Sunday's contest will commence at 1 p.m.

Julius Randle will return to his hometown of Dallas for the Final Four this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle will return to his hometown of Dallas for the Final Four this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Julius Randle was a high-school junior sitting in study hall when he first found out.

His schoolwork done, Randle came across the news that the Final Four would be coming to AT&T Stadium in 2014. Thinking two years in his future, Randle pictured himself a college freshman playing for a national championship mere miles from where he grew up.

He hasn't stopped thinking about it since.

"It's been my screensaver for about two years," Randle said.

A year after he first found out North Texas would host the Final Four, Randle was in AT&T Stadium. Watching Florida and Michigan play in the Elite Eight just weeks after committing to Kentucky, Randle's focus only intensified.

"I just wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to get back there," Randle said. "It's just added motivation that it's in Dallas, but any kid wants to play in the Final Four. I don't care if it's on the moon. You want to play in the Final Four. But for it to be in my hometown, it's special as well."

It became even more special last weekend when playing in the Final Four went from dream to reality for Randle.

Randle's mother, Carolyn Kyles, was in Indianapolis as her only son played in the Midwest Regional semifinals and finals. She saw all of UK's comeback victory over Louisville on Friday, but had to leave Randle's Elite Eight game against Michigan early to catch a flight home so she could work first thing on Monday morning.

"I knew she was going to have to leave so I just wanted to make sure we won so I could see her again," Randle said.

Randle -- the Midwest Region's Most Outstanding Player -- delivered. Now, he gets to go home and play on college basketball's biggest stage in front of his mother.

"She's really excited," Randle said. "I don't know much she's going to be around because I know she wants me to focus and stuff, but she's really excited and so is the rest of my family."

To Randle, that kind of unselfishness is what defines his mother above all else.

"Just seeing her every day get up, go to work and just take care of me and my sister and for her to do it by herself and for her not to have much and to make sure me and my sister felt like we had everything we needed and wanted just goes to show how strong of a woman she is," Randle said. "She did it all by herself."

Of course, paying his mother back for all she's done helps drive Randle to be the tireless worker he is on and off the floor. But Kyles has refused to let that overwhelm her son.

"She's always telling me just to enjoy being a college student, not to worry about her, not to worry about taking care of her," Randle said. "She says to enjoy being a college student because she doesn't want to put that type of pressure on me and there's no need to. I'm just blessed to be here, play basketball at Kentucky and that's all I can really focus on."

It's that kind of perspective, character and strong family background John Calipari saw early in Randle's recruiting process.

"The best thing that has happened for him is that he surrounded by good people, and they all tell him the truth," Calipari said. "They tell him the truth. ... His mother is solid; she left the game early because she had to go to work."

The same goes for the Harrison twins, who will also be returning to their home state for UK's Saturday national semifinal matchup with Wisconsin. Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Randle give Coach Cal three players from the Lone Star State, which was unthinkable 20 years ago.

"When I was back at UMass and went into Texas, the coaches asked if we were Division I or Division II, so we didn't do real well then," Calipari said.

Doing well in Texas has become more and more important over the years. Though the state is still known for the bright lights of football, basketball has come a long way.

"Where Texas was always just about football, it still is, Friday nights and all that stuff," Calipari said. "But the coaching in Texas, the high-school coaching, has gone from the (football) line coach coaching the basketball team, to basketball coaches, basketball junkies, coaching basketball now. So now all of a sudden you're getting skilled players."

UK's Texas trio certainly fits that bill, benefitting from solid coaching on both their high school and AAU teams. The Harrisons, however, did dabble in football before switching to basketball full time. Andrew Harrison was a running back but was too lanky at the time to continue into high school.

"If it's not during the season, you have to do 7-on-7 or something like that," Andrew Harrison said. "We wanted to play basketball."

Based on the volume of ticket requests the Harrison twins are receiving for this weekend, they might have converted some football lovers with that choice. Aaron Harrison reported around 50 friends and family have asked for tickets and his brother the same, while Randle is forwarding all such requests to his mother.

"You can call my mom," Randle said. "I'm not dealing with it. I changed my number."

But not his screensaver

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

John Calipari will coach in his third Final Four in four seasons on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari will coach in his third Final Four in four seasons on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There are two in-game situations that will almost always divide fans and coaches alike.

One is the debate over whether to call a timeout when you have the ball to win the game. The other is whether to foul when your team is up three to prevent a game-tying 3-pointer.

Coach Cal found himself in both those situations against Michigan.

First was when the Wolverines tied the game with 27 seconds to go and the Cats got the ball with a chance to win on the final possession. Under normal circumstances, Calipari would have let his guys play so the other team couldn't set up defensively, but like he did against Florida in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, he called timeout.

Calipari said after that game that he wanted to kick himself for calling timeout, but not this time around.

"There was so much at stake here, we had to know what we were doing," Calipari said on his weekly radio show Monday night. "And part of the reason is they had a foul to give, so I figured we had to start a little bit earlier so they would foul earlier so that we would still have a lot of time to get a shot off, which they did."

The timeout allowed him to call up a similar play to the one in the SEC Tournament finals, which was a handoff for James Young to take it to the basket; only this time it called for Aaron Harrison to get the ball.

"I wanted it to be Aaron because he wouldn't be afraid to miss," Calipari said. "Not that James is, but Aaron now in the last five games has been an assassin."

Aaron Harrison had the option to dribble it or pull up. When he fumbled the handoff and the shot clock started winding down, he elected to go up with it.

Once Michigan had called timeout and the officials reset the clock to show 2.6 seconds left, Calipari decided not to foul because there wasn't enough time left on the clock. With only seconds left, he didn't want one of his players fouling the shooter in the act.

He also put Marcus Lee on the inbounds pass in hopes of tipping the pass and taking the shot out of the equation altogether.

Bigger isn't always better

Dominique Hawkins doesn't have the look of a lockdown defender - at 6 feet, he looks to be at a size disadvantage - but the Kentucky reserve re-emerged from the bench during UK's two games in Indianapolis to help contain Louisville and Michigan's best scorers.

Against U of L, Hawkins locked down and limited Russ Smith in the second half, and against Michigan, Hawkins slowed down Nik Stauskas after his fast start.

"We weren't going to win that game until he guarded that kid," Calipari said Monday of the Hawkins-Stauskas matchup. "And he was a pit bull."

Stauskas, who at 6-6 had torched his competition all year long because of an ability to shoot over most defenders, had six inches on Hawkins.

"A lot of times, putting a little smaller guy on a bigger guy bothers 'em," Calipari said. "I don't know why. Just does."

Hawkins knows why. It's the competition he goes against every day in practice. Matching up with players like Andrew and Aaron Harrison and James Young, he's learned a few tricks to neutralize the length.

"Those three, I feel like they could be the best player on any other team if they went on another team," Hawkins said. "They help me out on my defense in practice a lot, so I feel like when I was guarding him that it was just like guarding James or Aaron or Andrew off the ball in practice."

One and done with

Fed up with the label that gets thrown on his program for allowing players to go to the NBA, Coach Cal said on the radio show Monday that he wished someone could come up with a new term that doesn't have the negative connotation that "one and done" does.

The Big Blue Nation listened and responded. Among some of the best responses from fans on Twitter:

  • Succeed then proceed
  • Learn and turn
  • Learn before you earn
  • Progressive freshmen

Of course, Coach Cal has not wavered in his stance on the current one-and-done rule. He has said he does not believe in it and wishes it would go to at least two years, but he's also not going to hold kids back if they have an opportunity to leave.

He just wishes the negative connotation of letting players pursue their dreams would go away.

"I know some people can't get their mind wrapped around anything other than a four-year program," Calipari said. "Well, you also can't get your mind wrapped around social media. And until this rule changes to two years, which I seem be one of the guys working real hard on it, we are where we are. 'Well, you should care more about the programs than the kids.' What about if it's your kid? 'That would be different then? Then I want you to care about my kid than the program.' These are someone's children."

An all-time run

It's already been well-documented that UK's road to the Final Four has been one of the all-time runs.

Not only have the Cats knocked off the defending national champion, last year's runner-up and an undefeated No. 1 seed, they've become the first team ever to knock off three of last year's Final Four teams.  

But according to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, UK's run may be the all-time run.

Eisenberg's research says that the seeding tally of UK's opponents (16) is only outdone by LSU in 1986, when the 11th-seeded Tigers beat the top three seeds in their region to reach the Final Four - the only team to ever accomplish such a feat.

Eisenberg points out that LSU caught a break by playing its opening-weekend games in its backyard in Baton Rouge, La.

Did Bo Ryan take a dig at BBN? Cal doesn't think so

On Monday's Final Four teleconference, some thought Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was taking a dig at Kentucky fans when he answered a question about what basketball means to the Cheese State.

"The people here in this state are crazy about basketball," Ryan said. "They realize that they didn't invent it like some other states believe."

Did he mean Kentucky when he said that? It goes without saying that UK fans are known throughout the country for their passion for basketball.

Told Tuesday of Ryan's comments, Calipari, who has a good relationship with Ryan, brushed it off.

"Our people don't think they invented it; they just made it better," Coach Cal said. "And our fans do have all the answers to every issue concerning basketball. They're crazy. They're nuts. They watch the tapes more than I do. I bet you there are fans out there that have watched more Wisconsin tape than I have. There's no question."

Bo knows

Some other notable gems from Ryan on Monday's Final Four teleconference:

On Kentucky ...
"For me to say Kentucky is good, I'd be slighting them. They are very good."

On the contrast in styles between UK and Wisconsin ...

"Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying to keep them from doing it. They're trying to keep us from doing it. I didn't know there were that many styles."

On why he doesn't use a coaching board ...
"Have you ever watched a huddle, where the players' eyes are while the coach is making 15 lines? You look at that thing and you swear it was your 4-year-old granddaughter who just made a drawing for you."

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you'll enjoy even more coverage than normal.

Recent Comments

  • Guy Ramsey: The song is "The Mighty Rio Grande" by the band This Will Destroy You. read more
  • Griffin: What's the name of the song that this video starts playing when describing Cal getting ejected and Aaron talking about read more
  • Quinn : It was an amazing run! I hope you all return and make another stab at it. read more
  • Sandy Spears: I completely with the person's comment above. So proud of all the young men and their accomplishments. They have everything read more
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  • chattyone: Congratulations to our Wildcats! They are terrific. All of us just like these young men are disappointed in the loss, read more
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  • Andrea Boyd: you guys are AMAZING! as individuals and as a team. thank you for your tremendous playing and work and attitudes. read more
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  • Amy Carnes: Very proud of you cats you have really grow as a team .You proved all the doubters wrong. And have read more