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John Calipari will lead UK into a Sweet 16 matchup with Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari will lead UK into a Sweet 16 matchup with Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
INDIANAPOLIS -- To hear John Calipari and Rick Pitino tell their side of story, their relationship is the same as it ever was: They're friends.

Yes, friends.

That was Coach Cal's description of the relationship of the two coaches tasked with guiding the most heated rivalry in college basketball - sorry, Duke-North Carolina -- on Thursday prior to their teams' meeting in the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis.

"The stuff that they're at each others' throats, it's just not accurate," Calipari said.

Not only were they not lobbing grenades at each other Thursday, Calipari said they've bounced information off each other during this season.

"We were in touch throughout the year, back and forth," Coach Cal said. "He'd throw something at me, I'd throw something at him. Different things about our teams."

Take that for what's it's worth, but it's certain the two won't be sharing information this week.

When Kentucky-Louisville meet at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday, the "friendship" will cease to exist for the night. At stake will be the chance to advance to the Elite Eight. For the other coach, the losing one, the season will end.

So, to a degree, there is a rivalry between the two coaches. The nature of their jobs creates it.

Whether there is a genuine friendship, a behind-the-scenes dislike for one another or just mutual indifference, the two must compete on a regular basis for the crown of one of the most competitive basketball states in America.

It just so happens that in two of the last three seasons, the two Bluegrass titans have collided in the NCAA Tournament, only further intensifying the rivalry and spotlight on the relationship between the two coaches.

"You know, I think that hurts a little because you all (the media) bait and try to get certain answers out of us," Pitino said. "And if John says, 'I like a certain thing,' some people think he's taking a shot at me, vice versa. ... We understand what takes place between the lines. We understand the fans' intensity, but we don't personalize our battles. We understand what's it's all about."

Pitino said the two first met when Calipari was just a teenage camper at the Five-Star Basketball Camp. Since then, both of their careers have taken similar paths, crossing each other at turns along the way.

Both made meteoric rises at schools that had relatively little success before their arrivals (Calipari at UMass, Pitino at Providence), both coached at Kentucky, both left college to try their luck in the NBA (Coach Cal with the Nets, Pitino with the Celtics), and both have taken three different schools to the Final Four - coincidently (and ironically), the only coaches to do so.

During their brilliant careers, they've coached across from each other as heated competitors. Calipari's UMass team lost to Pitino's UK group in the 1996 Final Four after beating Cats earlier that season. Then the two wound up across from each other as Conference USA rivals when Pitino took the Louisville job and Calipari went to Memphis.

Now, they're the two biggest figures in the biggest rivalry in college basketball.

And so, on Thursday, knowing full well where the two came from and how intertwined their history and success has actually been, the two heaped praise at one another.

"I know that he's a great coach," Calipari said. "He's done it at different programs. His kids play with great energy and they play with confidence, and it's every year."

Was some of the praise an attempt to take the microscope off their relationship and, to a greater degree, the rivalry game on Friday? Maybe. But we'll never know.

And without knowing, all anyone can report is the two coaches had nothing but sunshine and roses for each other Thursday. Pitino went as far as to defend the "one-and-done" criticism Calipari gets blasted with so often for developing kids into NBA-ready prospects.

"He's one of the premier coaches in our game," Pitino said. "Has always been. The thing that I remember most about John, because I've known him since he was 15, is he always didn't have one-and-dones. He had a team at Massachusetts, and I knew where he took them from to today.

"He had the least amount of talent on the court when he went out there (and still won). And he didn't play an easy schedule. He had to take a lot of people on to get Massachusetts in the limelight. I've seen all stage of John's career, and so it doesn't surprise me that they're well at this time."

Perception is the two coaches are heated rivals whose friendship deteriorated long ago. The two say they remain friends.

"I don't care about perception because perception is not reality. We're friends," Pitino said. "We respect each others' programs very much and we're friends in the business. And I certainly have great respect for what they're accomplishing right now."

Whatever the case really is, they're both in each others' path to the Elite Eight.

"We're getting older, both of us, and I think I'm not on his mind and he's not on my mind, so to speak," Coach Cal said. "We all got tough jobs, what we're doing."

UK-U of L: Breaking down the matchups

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Andrew Harrison had 18 points in UK's win over Louisville on Dec. 28. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Andrew Harrison had 18 points in UK's win over Louisville on Dec. 28. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kentucky-Louisville. No matter who's wearing the uniforms, those two words capture the Commonwealth's attention.

But on Friday at 9:45 p.m., it will be the players and coaches who decide the outcome. Here are some of the matchups that will determine bragging rights.

1. Andrew and Aaron Harrison vs. Russ Smith and Chris Jones

You won't find two backcourts that contrast much more than these two do.

On the Louisville side you have two lightning-quick water bugs in Russ Smith and Chris Jones, neither measuring taller than 6-foot or weighing more than 175 pounds. Both can score in bunches and shoot at least 38 percent from 3. They are also defensive pests, ranking fifth and 29th nationally in steal percentage, respectively.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has two big, physical guards in Andrew and Aaron Harrison. The two twins, especially late in the season, use their 6-6 frames to outmuscle opponents and get to the free-throw line.

Of the four, Jones (18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, two turnovers) was most efficient in the first UK-U of L matchup back on Dec. 28 at Rupp Arena. Smith had an off day, needing 20 shots to score 19 points while committing four turnovers. Aaron Harrison was also relatively quiet, scoring 10 points on 5-of-12 shooting with four turnovers and just one assist.

Though he shot just 6 of 16 and 6 of 12 at the line, Andrew Harrison played an important role in UK's 73-66 win. Serving as the primary ball handler for 34 minutes against relentless U of L pressure, Andrew Harrison committed just three turnovers and helped limit the Wildcats to just 11 turnovers as a team.

The twins, however, are different players than three months ago. Andrew Harrison has benefitted from a much-ballyhooed late-season tweak and evolved into a floor general for his team. Aaron Harrison, meanwhile, is operating at peak efficiency. In five postseason games, he is averaging 17.8 points on 50.8 percent shooting, including 48.4 percent from 3-point range.

Smith and Jones -- as well as freshman sparkplug Terry Rozier -- will present a different kind of challenge entirely. Will the Harrisons use their size to overwhelm the smaller counterparts? Or will Louisville's guards use their quickness to flummox the twins on both ends?

2. Julius Randle vs. Montrezl Harrell


As a treat for impartial viewers, the two best NBA prospects who will be on the floor in Lucas Oil Stadium happen to play the same position. UK's Julius Randle (6-9, 250) and U of L's Montrezl Harrell (6-8, 235) are close in size, motor and athleticism, which makes the idea of the two power forwards guarding one another for the better part of 40 minutes quite intriguing.

Statistically speaking, Randle has the edge as a rebounder, ranking in the top 50 nationally in both offensive- and defensive-rebounding rate. Harrell, meanwhile, is a stronger defender on paper, coming close to doubling Randle in both steal and block rate. Offensively, Randle bears a heavier load. He is called on to create his shot much more frequently, while Harrell thrives as a finisher in shooting 60.5 percent from the field.

The first time around, we were largely deprived of watching Randle and Harrell do battle. Randle was limited to just four minutes in the second half by leg cramps after a dominant 17-point first half, while Harrell played just six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and finished with an uncharacteristic six points and four rebounds.

Since then, Randle's cramping issues have disappeared and Harrell has become one of the best big men in the country. For those reasons and, Randle-Harrell II will be very much worth watching.

3. James Young vs. Luke Hancock

Luke Hancock, after earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors a year ago, hasn't had the senior season many expected because of an offseason injury, averaging 12.1 points and shooting 33.9 percent from 3-point range. But once again, he's been a force in the NCAA Tournament. Hancock has scored 37 points combined in two U of L wins during March Madness, including two huge 3-pointers as the Cardinals survived a round-of-64 upset bid by Manhattan.

Young, on the other hand, has been quiet during the tournament. He hit some big shots in the upset of Wichita State, but he's averaging just 10 points per game and shooting 8 of 22 from the field.

These two, who each play the lion's share of minutes at the 3 position for their teams, are known first as scorers and it's certainly possible one or both could swing the Sweet 16 showdown with a scoring outburst. However, look no further than the regular-season matchup for proof that the impact they make in other areas could be just as meaningful.

Young had one of his only two double-doubles against Louisville, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with his 18 points. He also had just two turnovers in serving as a secondary ball handler, an important role against the Cardinal defense.

Using his athletic advantage, Young significantly outplayed Hancock on Dec. 28. If he can duplicate that effort against the clutch seniors, it bodes very well for the Cats.

4. X-factors

It's easy to get caught up in matching up starters vs. starters when looking at UK-U of L, but John Calipari and Rick Pitino both manage their rotations well to create favorable scenarios for their teams. Here are a few examples:

Dakari Johnson -- Back in December, the big center was largely an afterthought. He played just eight minutes against U of L, missing his only shot. Now, he's a key presence as a rebounder, energy guy and scorer inside. Against an already outsized Cardinal team, he could make a big difference. Coach Cal has also turned to a twin-tower lineup with Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein much more frequently in the postseason, which be trouble for the Cards.

Wayne Blackshear -- More and more as the season has worn on, especially without the departed Chane Behanan, Pitino has turned to Wayne Blackshear at the 4 position. Three of U of L's four most-used lineups over the last five games, according to kenpom.com, feature Blackshear in the frontcourt, including the Smith-Jones-Hancock-Blackshear-Harrell grouping that has been Pitino's second favorite in the postseason. Playing a 6-5, 230-pounder inside creates advantages with Blackshear's skill and athleticism, but also challenges. Accordingly, UK will need to be ready.

Alex Poythress --
Poythress has become a versatile weapon for Coach Cal. Moving freely between the two forward positions, he can guard at least three positions and terrorize opponents on the offensive glass. Considering the smaller lineups U of L could use, he could be very valuable. Also, don't forget UK outscored Louisville by 20 points in the first matchup with Poythress on the floor. You can be sure Calipari won't.

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.

Darius Miller scored 13 points in UK's Final Four victory over Louisville in 2012. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Darius Miller scored 13 points in UK's Final Four victory over Louisville in 2012. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Darius Miller remembers the epic buildup for the Kentucky-Louisville game in New Orleans two years ago with a bid to the national championship game on the line. He remembers the unprecedented hype and attention the game received, not only within the state but across the country.

Two years later, he's just glad he gets to watch the rivalry and enjoy it from a different point of view.

"I'm like a fan now so I get to sit back and watch and enjoy it," Miller said. "I know what (the players are) going through and I know they're having a good time. It's exciting. I'm just watching like everybody else now."

The anticipation for the 2012 Final Four game was unlike anything the rivalry had ever experienced, which is saying something for a series that spans all the way back to 1913, includes a number of classics and features the original Dream Game in 1983.

But given the stage in 2012 in the Final Four, the unquenchable thirst for a national championship of both teams at the time (UK hadn't won a title since 1998 and Louisville's drought went all the way back to 1986) and the backdrop (Kentucky was trying to the unthinkable and win with freshmen while U of L made a surprise run), the 2012 buildup was gargantuan.

It was a state divided like never before, and Miller can certainly remember the tension and anxiety when he was a part of the team that week despite everyone's best efforts to shield those distractions away.

"We were aware, especially with all the social media and stuff like that," Miller said. "On campus, it was a huge rivalry in the state, so people would come up to us on campus and ask us to win the game and tell us to have a great game and just be excited about the game. We really just tried to block all that out."

Believe it or not, Miller said they did.

"The main thing we had to focus on - everybody that was on the staff, that was on the team, the whole family that we built there - we just tried to keep it amongst each other and stay focused on the game and what we needed to do," Miller said.

As cliche as the "one game at a time" mentality can sound and as hard as it is to believe that the players actually shut out all the distractions in 2012, Miller said they were able to because that's what they had done all year.

With the type of season the Wildcats were having and the goals that were attainable for that group, hype had been built long before the kings of the Commonwealth met in New Orleans. Sure, the matchup in the Final Four only intensified things tenfold, but Miller said they were able to stay focused because they had fallen into the routine of taking everything one game at a time.

"Honestly, it was pretty much the same," Miller said. "That whole year we did a good job of just preparing for one game at a time and treating every game the same. By that time we had already built that mindset that every game was the same. We were going to treat it just like any other game."

Miller said the team took a "step back" on social media during the entire NCAA Tournament run to avoid any temptation, and he said John Calipari never even brought up the magnitude of the rivalry or what was at stake.

"He just treated it the same way he had all year," Miller said. "He never really approached any game differently. He was consistent throughout the whole year and I think that helped us to be the same and do it the same way."

The approach worked for Miller, who scored 13 points and hit a key 3-pointer near the five-minute mark to give UK a seven-point lead after a furious Cardinal run.

In that regard, Calipari will try to take the same approach with this year's team as it gets ready to meet Louisville in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

The buildup this time around doesn't feel the same as 2012, probably due in large part to the stage in the tournament (Sweet 16). But when one factors in the location of this year's game in Indianapolis and the proximity to both fan bases, not to mention the fact that the teams have won the last two national titles, don't think for a second that UK-Louisville in the NCAA Tournament isn't still an enormous deal.

"Anytime you play Louisville, it's a rivalry game, but when you're playing the tournament, take all that that you did in the regular season and everything you have in the rivalry and multiple that by 10 when you get to the tournament," former Wildcat Kenny "Sky" Walker said. "When you think it can't go up or the rivalry can't get any higher, I think that the last couple of years that we see it absolutely can."

If there is anyone who can identify with what Miller went through in 2012 and what the current UK players are going through now, it's Walker.

Walker was a freshman on the 1982-83 team that played in the original Dream Game in the 1983 NCAA Tournament. After going more than two decades without playing each other, the two rivals finally met in the NCAA Tournament in a game so hyped that only the 2012 one can rival it.

"I don't think anything, even if you grew up in Kentucky, could prepare for the hype because everybody had been anticipating that matchup for so long," Walker said.

Walker still paints a vivid picture of the Dream Game from his memories. He remembers a perfectly divided Stokely Center in Knoxville, Tenn., with fans dressed in blue on one side and fans in red on the other. He even remembers Kentucky's governor at the time, John Y. Brown, showing up to the game in a blazer that was half red, half blue.

"That kind of summed it for me that, yeah, this state is divided," Walker said.

Walker said they faced a similar buildup to that NCAA 1983 NCAA regional, but the hype was actually for a different team and a different rival: Indiana. Before they met Louisville in the regional finals, Walker's Wildcats had to get through the Hoosiers first.

Indiana had beaten UK in the regular season, so Walker said the focus that week was centered on getting revenge. Only once the Cats had beaten the Hoosiers did the attention - and the hype - turn to Louisville, and even then, only a day separated the two games.

"Not only were we fighting to beat Louisville, we were fighting to get to the Final Four," Walker said. "So you know, we had a lot of things we could accomplish and we were only 40 minutes away - actually, in the original Dream Game it was 45 minutes because it went into overtime. It was a great day until overtime."

UK lost the Dream Game 80-68 in overtime, but not because the anticipation or pressure got to the Cats' heads, Walker said. Like Calipari is trying to do with this year's team, Walker said his head coach at the time, Joe B. Hall, kept the team's attention focused only on what it could control.

"He's a disciple of Adolph Rupp," Walker said of Hall. "I remember him being very business-like during the week. Nothing really changed out of the ordinary, and even when the game happened he said, 'Guys, just go out, play the game like you would any other game. We're just going to go out here and win. We've got a game plan and we're going to go out and fight.' "

UK will try to do the same this week in Indianapolis, but Walker doesn't envy this year's group in that it has to put up with an entire week of buildup instead of the quick turnaround like he experienced for the Cardinals.

"Look, the coach can tell you whatever he wants," Walker said. "Don't read the paper, don't look at the news, don't watch sports - all that stuff. But when you're walking around campus, you go to the car wash, you go to the grocery store, you're out at the mall, whatever you do, you're constantly reminded of that game and how important it is to people and the fans."

Throw in today's modern age of social media, sensationalized media coverage, and the thirst to instantly and overly analyze everything and Walker said it's an entirely different buildup than the one he went through in 1983.

"I cannot imagine the compression and the microscope that these kids are under now with camera phones and pictures and Instagram and all that stuff," Walker said. "It's probably more demanding on them today than it was on us because there are so many distractions. You can't get away from them. So God bless them."

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.

Cal has another tweak for another big week

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John Calipari has coached UK to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Calipari has coached UK to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Between the time Fred VanVleet's shot bounced off the rim, the backboard and onto the floor to the time John Calipari did his postgame press conference and finally got on the bus, Coach Cal's phone didn't stop buzzing.

When Calipari checked his phone, he said he had 100-plus text messages, more than half of them from friends telling him they had just watched the best college game they had ever seen. (There's no telling how many more voicemails he got.)

After reading about 30 of them, Calipari stopped, stood up on the bus and asked his players if they were getting the same thing. Unanimously, they said yes.

"I said, 'Did you, like, realize that when we were playing?' " Calipari recounted on his weekly radio show on Tuesday. "And they're like, 'No.' And the rest of us didn't either. We were just trying to play the game."

Time will ultimately decide just how good Sunday's game really was -- though there's little disputing that it was a classic and the best of this year's NCAA Tournament thus far - but the Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats (26-10) will have little time to revel in their best and most thrilling victory of the year.

With archrival Louisville (31-5) next in line on the hopeful journey to the Final Four, UK, believe it or not, has an even bigger stage to tackle.

"Wichita was probably playing as well anyone in the field," Calipari told radio show host Tom Leach. "Now, with us, who's left, who do you think I would tell you I would tell you is playing as anyone in the field?"

Rhetorically, the answer is Louisville.

"That's just the truth," Coach Cal said. "When you watch them, they're being aggressive, their physical play, the bump and grind of it, they're pressing, they're up in you. It's all the stuff that makes them aggressive, and they're playing well."

Louisville actually struggled in its two NCAA Tournament victories, coming back from a late deficit against Manhattan to avoid an opening-round upset before grinding out an ugly win against a strong St. Louis group.

But great teams pull out good wins even when they don't play well, and Louisville certainly fits the criteria of a great, if not elite, team.

The defending national champions have won seven in a row and 14 of their last 15. During that streak, which dates all the way back to Feb. 1, the Cardinals have won by an average margin of 22.9 points per game, including victories over NCAA Tournament teams UConn (once by 33 points and the other by 14 in the American Athletic Conference championship game) and Cincinnati.

UK won the regular-season meeting vs. Louisville, 73-66, at Rupp Arena, but both teams are far different than the ones that met on Dec. 28.

U of L no longer has Chane Behanan down low, who was dismissed from the team just days after the loss to UK, but Montrezl Harrell has stepped up his absence, transforming into one of the premier big men in the country. Luke Hancock was still coming back from an offseason injury during the team's first meeting and has just recently returned to his Final Four Most Outstanding Player form of a year ago, while Russ Smith has continued to score at a high rate.

Throw in the fact that the Cardinals have rounded their defense into their typically stifling postseason form - they lead the country in turnover margin thanks to 10.1 steals per game - and UK, just as anyone would expect, has its hands full with fourth-seeded Louisville.

"Do you really think you're not going to play against somebody who's not good (at this point)?" Calipari said Tuesday. "Every team's good."

UK is also significantly better.

Though the Wildcats won the first meeting behind James Young's 18 points and 10 rebounds and Andrew Harrison's solid point-guard play, they played nearly the entire second half without leading scorer and rebounder Julius Randle, who spent most of the final 20 minutes in the bowels of Rupp Arena receiving treatment for leg cramps.

Since then, UK has taken several lumps - seven more losses, to be exact - but the Cats have obviously turned things around in recent weeks, punctuated by Sunday's victory over the previous undefeated Wichita State Shockers.

"Why were we ready for all this adversity? Because we went through a gauntlet this year," Calipari said, noting UK's second-ranked strength of schedule. "As we struggled, oh, the onslaught of criticism, oh, the personal attacks, oh, the agendas came out. ... And these kids never broke up. They stayed together, they kept believing, they kept believing our staff. So which team in this tournament has been through that like us?"

Not many.

Calipari was able to turn things around in recent weeks by taking blame for his failure to coach his players in the way they needed to be guided. Once he realized he needed to change, he made the celebrated and unsolved "tweak" before the Southeastern Conference Tournament and then another tweak before NCAA Tournament play.

Now - you guessed it - there's one more tweak. Calipari's calling it the "three-tweak," and it's being made just in time for Louisville.

"All these have been based on us, but this one's also based a little bit about how that other team plays -- some things that they do that we're tweaking some of our stuff," Coach Cal said on the radio show. "Because you know what? You've got to keep people on their heels a little bit, and so we're going to go with the three-tweak and see what happens."

Calipari planned to institute the third tweak with his team on Tuesday night in the first practice since Sunday's game. The Cats will leave for Indianapolis on Wednesday and practice in the evening while they're there to get their bodies and minds acclimated to the approximate 9:45 p.m. start.

"What time do you think it will start?" Calipari said, hinting at the fact that the game will tip even later because of the preceding Michigan-Tennessee game. "I mean, we're going to be playing until 1 in the morning."

Practices will continue to be physical this week, Calipari said, because that's what's worked so well recently.

"We're going to stay with what we've been doing: physical practices," Calipari said. "Grab. Hold. Guy tries to get open, put two hands around his hip. The guy drives, put your hands up in the air and hip check him. That's what we've been doing. So we're doing it this week."

There's a notion that the pressure is now off UK and squarely on Louisville this week because of the disappointment the Cats endured in the regular season and the subsequent breakthrough against Wichita State. Coach Cal doesn't want his team to have that mindset of relief.

"Losing stinks," he said. "Like, really stinks."

So Calipari wants to win on Friday and keep the turnaround going, but he also doesn't want to lose sight of what this experience is all about, and that's to have fun. Calipari said that goes for both fan bases and told listeners on Tuesday to enjoy this week and not be nasty with rival fans.

"I'm proud of them," Calipari said of his team. "You got a lot of guys with smiles on their faces. And you guys that have listened to me every year, you know I say we have to have more fun than the other team. Bottom line, you've got to have more fun. The last game I kept saying, don't make the game bigger than it is. It's just a basketball game."

Try telling that to the people that will text Calipari if Kentucky wins again.

"This is a time to enjoy all this," he said. "Don't be anxious, don't be uptight, don't--just enjoy the ride and what's going on. A lot of you are going to Indianapolis. Well, have fun."

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.

Andrew Harrison had 18 points in UK's 73-66 win over Louisville on Dec. 28. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Andrew Harrison had 18 points in UK's 73-66 win over Louisville on Dec. 28. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Kentucky and Louisville went nearly three decades without running into each other in the NCAA Tournament before a Final Four matchup in 2012 that essentially shut down the state.

Two years later and two rounds earlier, it's happening all over again in the Sweet 16.

For the second time in five days, the eyes of the college basketball world will be on the Wildcats when they square off with the Cardinals at 9:45 p.m. on Friday. Before then, you'll surely read countless stories about the rivalry and what it means to fans, and the relationship between John Calipari and Rick Pitino will be dissected yet again.

But there's time for all that later. For now, we're going to stick to the stats that could decide the winner of the latest Dream Game.

As we have done for each of UK's two NCAA Tournament wins, we're going to use kenpom.com's advanced data to evaluate the two teams. First, let's take a look at the stats that decided the December matchup between the two teams when the Cats scored their signature regular-season win in Rupp Arena, 73-66.

1. Turnovers -- And really, it's not even close.

Like most Pitino-coached teams, Louisville thrives on turnovers forced with their pressure, both full- and half-court. In spite of a freshmen-laden backcourt, the Cats were exceptional taking care of the ball against the Cardinals.

UK committed turnovers on just 15.7 percent of its possessions and 11 for the game. On defense, the Cats exceeded their season average and forced turnovers on 18.6 percent of the Cards' possessions and 13 for the game.

As a result, UK was the only opponent to have a positive turnover margin against U of L in the regular season. Saint Louis matched the feat in the round of 32, winning the turnover battle, 19-18.

2. Rebounding -- As the Cats have done so often this season, they exerted their will on the glass and won the rebounding battle, 44-36, even though leading rebounder Julius Randle had just three as he battled second-half leg cramps.

UK was solid on the defensive glass, grabbing 69.2 percent of Louisville's misses (27 of 39), but even better on the offensive boards. There, the Cats rebounded 41.5 percent of their own misses (17 of 41). That's a big part of the reason why UK was just one of five U of L opponents this season to score more than one point per possession against the Cardinals.

3. 3-point shooting -- Given that UK shot just 3 of 14 (21.4 percent), this might make you do a double-take.

However, U of L shot just 6 of 26 (23.1 percent) from deep to counteract 53.1 percent shooting from 2-point range. The Cardinals are shooting 37 percent from 3 to UK's 32.7 percent, so treading water from deep was a win for the Cats.

With that behind us, let's take a look at the rematch.

When Kentucky is on offense

It's always interesting to see an offense and defense so efficient match up. UK currently ranks 17th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, while U of L is third on the defensive end.

It's even more interesting that matchup play out when the two units are good for completely contrasting reasons.

The Cats are good on offense thanks to their superb rebounding (second nationally) and free-throw rate (seventh). The Cardinals, meanwhile, are average or below average in the two corresponding defensive categories, ranking 231st in rebounding percentage on the defensive end and 124th in defensive free-throw-rate.

U of L makes up for its deficits by contesting shots and forcing turnovers at an exceptionally high level, ranking sixth in effective field-goal percentage defense (.438) and second in turnover percentage (.252). The Cardinals are the only team in the country to rank in the top 10 in both categories. On the flip side, UK is 158th in effective field-goal percentage (.498) and 167th in turnover percentage (.183).

In December, it was UK that most effectively capitalized on its offensive strengths. If the Cats can duplicate that performance -- and maybe even do a little better than shoot 16 of 30 from the foul line -- they could be on the way to a fourth Elite Eight in five seasons. U of L will have other ideas.

When Kentucky is on defense

This matchup is a bit more straightforward, matching strength vs. strength.

UK and U of L are an identical 29th nationally in effective field-goal percentage on offense and defense, respectively. Both are also solid rebounding units. The Cats (167th in turnover percentage) should not expect many Louisville mistakes, as the Cardinals are 25th nationally in turnover percentage behind sure-handed point guards Terry Rozier and Chris Jones.

To limit the Cardinals again, UK will need to protect its defensive glass and force Russ Smith to take contested looks once more. The All-American scored 19 points in the first matchup, but did so on just 7-of-20 shooting.

Bottom line

The pace of Friday's game will be worth paying attention to. On the season, UK is averaging 2.6 fewer possessions per game than U of L.

In the postseason, the difference is even starker. In playing their best basketball over the last five games, the Cats are averaging just 62.4 possessions per game. By contrast, U of L is speeding it up in the postseason and averaging 69.4 possessions in the American Athletic Conference and NCAA tournaments.

UK will likely try to grind it out against the Cardinals, but don't think the Cats can't win a fast-paced game. The regular-season matchup featured 70 possessions.

Regardless of tempo, the outcome is going to come down to which of these two teams playing at their peak executes in a high-pressure environment.

UK and U of L fans each have reason to be confident. Every national champion in the history of kenpom.com's ratings has ranked in the top 25 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Cardinals are currently 15th on offense and third on defense. UK is 17th on offense and 26th on defense, one solid performance away from meeting the criteria.

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 advanced to a third Sweet 16 in as many seasons with a 64-59 win over Syracuse on Monday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) UK advanced to a third Sweet 16 in as many seasons with a 64-59 win over Syracuse on Monday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Matthew Mitchell had a hard time containing himself at various points on Monday night.

Coping with the 2-3 zone defense Syracuse mixed with full-court pressure and myriad traps, his Kentucky Wildcats did things that made him scratch his head. Frankly, it was a wonder he didn't do more than that.

"There were times where I wanted to run out to half-court and scream and go nuts or sometimes I wanted to leave the building a couple times with some of the decisions that we were making," Mitchell said. "But what we had to do tonight was keep our wits about us."

Two days after the Cats piled up the points, the Orange made them work for the Sweet 16 berth they so badly wanted. Even though the scoreboard had a much easier time of it than in a record-setting 106-60 win over Wright State on Saturday, UK moved on with a 64-59 victory in spite of shooting just 36.2 percent from the field.

"It still was just very, very difficult to make it happen," Mitchell said. "And I'm so proud of the players on a night where clearly the ball didn't go in the basket for us and we didn't always make the best decisions, being able to create and force 23 turnovers and getting them at crucial times down the stretch and answering every run that Syracuse made today."

The Orange made plenty of them.

When UK (25-8) built a nine-point lead with less than 13 minutes left, Syracuse (23-9) charged back with seven straight to make it 46-44. When the Cats built the cushion back to 10, the Orange wouldn't go away either.

It wasn't until Bria Goss buried five of six free throws over the final 3:52 to salt away the win and clinch a third Sweet 16 berth in as many seasons. For the game, Goss scored led all players with 17 points, 11 of which came at the line.

"I'm really confident going to the line and it's almost like an automatic two and I think that my team knows that and they know my abilities," Goss said. "That always helps."

Goss was valuable as much more than just a free-throw shooter on Monday, making hustle plays on both ends in grabbing six rebounds and snagging two steals.

"On a night where it was difficult to score because the opponent played really, really well and worked real hard to keep them from scoring and confused in so many ways, to have a player that would fight for loose balls, would hang onto the ball when she got fouled, attack the basket when we were struggling to score and no fear going up through three people and getting to the rim and getting to the foul line, it was huge," Mitchell said.

While Goss was drilling shots at the line to salt away the victory, Janee Thompson was coming up with clutch defensive plays.

The sophomore point guard, in many ways, perfectly represented her team on this night. Thompson couldn't make a shot, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting, and was responsible for many of the decisions that left Mitchell wanting to exit the premises in committing five turnovers, but she hung in with the help of an individual talk from her coach at the five-minute mark.

"He basically pulled me aside and just told me to stay ready and he wanted me to come in and play tough defense and try to get some stops down the stretch," Thompson said. "That's just basically what I was trying to do when I got back in the game."

She did just that, coming up with a key steal from Brianna Butler, who led Syracuse with 15 points in the absence of leading scorer Brittney Sykes. The play came when the outcome was still in doubt with 44 seconds left, short-circuiting a possession when the Orange trailed 63-57.

Eleven seconds and two missed free throws by Jennifer O'Neill later, Thompson did it again. This time, it was a blocked shot on a 3-point attempt than killed crucial seconds.

"That's what you like to see, a player bounce back from a real disappointing 35 minutes or up to that point in the game and she got it together and contributed to the victory," Mitchell said.

It's a victory that propels UK into a Sweet 16 rematch with Baylor at noon ET on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Regardless how it looked, Mitchell is just glad the Cats got it.

"We were not very explosive offensively and we were able to get it done on the defense," Mitchell said. "So I love them and I just want to keep coaching them and I'm real, real excited about the upcoming week."

The Kentucky Wildcats celebrate their 64-59 win over Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) The Kentucky Wildcats celebrate their 64-59 win over Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
At the biggest moments in Monday's win, the impact of the crowd at Memorial Coliseum can't be understated. With every big shot from the Kentucky women's basketball team, the Big Blue Nation answered with a big cheer of their own.

Kentucky had to give everything it had in the 64-59 win, and the fans were there every step of the way.

The Big Blue Nation made up nearly all of the nearly 5,000 fans witnessing UK make the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. Combined with a small, but vocal, contingent of Orange fans, band and cheer squad, it made for an entertaining atmosphere. There was a lot on the line on the court, and the fans answered.

"The crowd really responded two days in a row," UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We had an unbelievable environment so thank you to the fans."

It was the type of game that left you sitting on the edge of your seat. For the fans at Memorial Coliseum, most of them didn't bother using their seat at all in the last several minutes.

With each made basket, steal or defensive stop, the energy was there both on and off the court. It had an impact, on both sides.

"It's a great team, a bunch of athletes in a great environment for women's basketball," Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said of Kentucky and the Memorial Coliseum crowd. "It's unique for women's basketball, to come to a place like this and they bring a great crowd, a very respectful crowd, too. It's just a very good venue for women's basketball."

When Syracuse got within five in the second half, the Wildcats -- and the Big Blue Nation -- answered. When Syracuse cut UK's lead to two at 46-44, the Wildcats, and their fans, had an answer.

There was no giving up, and the Wildcats made it known, the fans had an impact.

"It helped being in our house where the fans were really helpful," Kastine Evans said of making shots down the stretch. "They made a lot of noise when we needed it. Especially when we made big plays.

The party continued well after the final buzzer. The team stuck around for several renditions of the fight song. Coach Mitchell pumped his fists to both sides of the blue-filled Coliseum stands. The players waved and showed their appreciation.

It was a fun night at Memorial Coliseum. Combined with Saturday's opening-round win, it was a fun weekend at the old arena. Whether it was at 11 a.m. Saturday or Monday evening, the noise was there.

Now, the Cats, and the ever-loyal Big Blue Nation, take the party to South Bend, Ind. The Wildcats will play either Cal or Baylor. No matter the color of the Bears, be it blue and gold or green and gold, it will be another tough test for UK.

Kentucky won't have the benefit of the home crowd, but knowing the Big Blue Nation, there will be a sizable number of fans cheering on the Wildcats on the road.



SEC backing up talk of disrespect

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Championship-game opponents UK and Florida are two of three SEC teams to reach the Sweet 16. (Chet White, UK Athletics) League championship-game opponents UK and Florida are two of three SEC teams to reach the Sweet 16. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
John Calipari has been tooting the Southeastern Conference horn all season.

"It amazes me when people beat each other in other leagues it shows how strong their league is," Coach Cal said back in February. "When we beat each other in our league, then the league is not very good. What?"

Reasonably, with the way the league performed against some lesser opponents out of conference, those words sounded hollow then. Now, in late March, with the SEC rolling through the NCAA Tournament, they're carrying a lot more weight.

The league only got three teams into the field of 68, but all three are still dancing in the Sweet 16. Combined, UK, Florida and Tennessee are 7-0, with the Volunteers forced to win three games because of a first-round draw.

Not only is the league the only unbeaten conference in the tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the SEC is the first conference to go 7-0 or better in the NCAA Tournament entering the Sweet 16 since the Big East went 8-0 in 2003.

The Big 10 and Pac-12 also have three teams in the Sweet 16, but they also had more teams in the field to begin with. The Big East is gone. The Atlantic Coast Conference has just one.

Maybe there's some truth to the belief that UK and Tennessee were under-seeded after all.

"Someone's got to find out when you have a strength of schedule of two and that's all they keep talking about, what did you use to make that team an eight?" Calipari said last week. "What did you use? And they can use anything. 'Well, it was a cloudy day that day and we decided they were an eight.' And that's what it is and you go and as coach that's fine. Put me where you want, let's go. But as a league, we got to figure (it) out."

UK finished the season with an RPI of 17 and the second-toughest schedule in the country and got a No. 8 seed (the Cats have played seven games against five of the 16 teams in the Sweet 16). Tennessee's RPI wasn't nearly as good as UK, but the Volunteers won five in a row before narrowly losing to top-ranked Florida just before the NCAA Tournament, and three of those victories were by 27 points or more. Tennessee was regarded as one of the best teams in the country in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, and that was before Selection Sunday and the Sweet 16 run.

LSU and Arkansas are also still alive in the NIT and both were on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Missouri and Georgia also won their opening-round games in the NIT.

"Tennessee played as well as any team in the country down the stretch," Coach Cal said last week. "Are you taking how teams are playing at the end or how we were playing at the end? 'Not in your case.' Well, what did you take in our case? And you really got to go down and find out what it was. 'Well, you didn't beat enough people.' Did everybody else? I mean, so compared to who? And so that's the kind of stuff that our league - not me, not the ADs -- our league needs to find out who in that room, what were we basing this on because you can't keep moving the goalposts. 'It's strength of schedule.' Really? Then move the goalposts. 'It's how you finish.' Really? 'No, it's you didn't beat enough people.' Really? I mean, which one (is it)? And moving the goalposts makes it easy. But you know what? At the end of the day in this thing, you just got to go play now."

The SEC has done just that and backed up the league's beliefs.

Nobody could hear -- or perhaps wanted to hear -- those "S-E-C, S-E-C" chants before, but they ringing as loud as ever.


Notes: Mutual respect defines UK-Wichita State

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UK bested Wichita State in a memorable round-of-32 matchup on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK bested Wichita State in a memorable round-of-32 matchup on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Story by Eric Lindsey and Guy Ramsey

ST. LOUIS -- Players for both Kentucky and Wichita State said all the right things in the lead-up to the most anticipated matchup of the NCAA Tournament so far.

The Wildcats praised the Shockers, saying their undefeated record was no mirage. The Shockers praised the Wildcats, saying their size, athleticism and talent were as advertised.

After the two teams went back and forth for 40 of the most intense minutes you're ever likely to see on a college basketball court, UK and Wichita State showed the pregame compliments weren't idle talk.

Once the Cats finished a brief celebration of their heart-stopping 78-76 win, the teams assembled for a handshake line that proved to be much more than just perfunctory.

"I told them I watched tape of you guys and it's amazing and I am happy for our guys," John Calipari said. "And I am just disappointed because they had a heck of a run going."

A matchup as hard-fought as Sunday's often leads to bad blood, but not this time.

"Coach Cal just told me we had a marvelous season," Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said. "And I congratulated each and every one of them and told them, you know, 'Congratulations and great game.' "

The only thing between UK and Wichita State was mutual respect.

"They played a great game," Marshall said. "They put on a wonderful show. And I just thought it was a great basketball game. And they deserved it tonight. They played -- they were one play better."

Even Ron Baker and Andrew Harrison -- two players who often guarded one another and scored 20 points apiece -- only had good things to say.

"At the end I shook hands with Andrew Harrison and he said, 'You're a bad, bad, bad boy,' " Baker said. "And I told him the same. He's a great player and I wish him the best."

Aaron Harrison had his turn guarding Baker too and had a similar reaction.

"It is a great team and they had a lot of great players on that team. And I was matched up with him and it was a joy just playing, playing the game," Aaron Harrison said. "And we had to play hard and battling is really fun and just going to work, really fun. And going against a great player like that was a good matchup and a great challenge."

Both teams thrived on the challenge and the 19,676 fans in the Scottrade Center got to watch the result.

"They have a few great players on that team, so we knew we were going to have to play every possession," Andrew Harrison said. "And it was just a joy."

Coach Cal can't put classic into perspective

Hyperbole was flying around during and after Kentucky's win over Wichita State.

Twitter was abuzz with attempts to put the game into perspective, while television analyst and hall of famer Charles Barkley immediately ranked it among the best he's ever seen.

Asked whether it's the best game he's ever coached in, Calipari let a little air out of the big-game balloon.

"I have been doing this so long, I don't want to say that," Calipari said. "I've been in wars."

That's not to say, however, that UK-Wichita State wasn't special.

"I would say this was an Elite Eight game that the winner should have gone to the Final Four," Calipari said. "That's how good they are and how good we're playing right now."

In Calipari's eyes, the Shockers didn't deserve to lose in the third round. But even so, the defeat that came too soon doesn't erase what Wichita State accomplished in coping with all that comes with carrying an unbeaten record into late March.

"I feel for their team and I feel for their coach," Calipari said. "And Gregg, understand what he did to keep these guys on point was nothing short of miraculous. I have done it where I had to coach teams that were 26-0, 20-0. I'm telling you, each game there is more and more pressure to win."

That pressure was only intensified by playing in the Missouri Valley Conference.

"I was also in a league where we could not afford to lose any league games," Calipari said. "If we did we became a seven seed. We would go from a one seed to a seven seed. You couldn't lose any games. I have been where he is. I know how hard they worked."

The buildup for U of L has already begun


The dust had barely settled from what will likely be one of the greatest games Julius Randle will ever play in, but given the next opponent and what lies ahead this week, the question about Louisville was inevitable.

"Julius," the reporter started, "your reward for winning a game like this is you get to play Louisville. Do you have any idea what this week will be like building up to that?"

"I have no idea," Randle said.

He really has no clue.

When Kentucky-Louisville played in the Final Four in 2012 for the right to go to the national championship game, it was like nothing the state of Kentucky had ever seen in the storied rivalry.

Sure, there have been some classics over the years, and maybe nothing can quite ever compare to the original Dream Game in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, but the buildup? It was unprecedented in 2012.

This year's meeting in the NCAA Tournament might take a slight step back from that game two seasons ago, but only slightly - and only because this one's a few games removed from the title game.

But when you take into account UK and Louisville have won the last two national titles and could easily win a third one as well, the buildup for Friday's game at 9:45 p.m. in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is going be insane.

Alex Poythress had already turned his attention from the postgame celebration on Sunday to Louisville by the time reporters met with him in the locker room.

"We have to," Poythress said. "We got to take it one game at a time, focus on your opponent. We got to come out and play strong, try to take their strengths away."

UK won the regular-season meeting 73-66 at Rupp Arena on Dec. 28. The Cats won that game without the services of Julius Randle for most of the second half because of cramps in his legs.

It was Coach Cal's fifth victory in six games against Louisville since coming to Kentucky.

Since then though, Louisville has returned to its national-championship form of a year ago, winning 14 of its last 15 games behind Russ Smith, Montrezl Harrell and a stifling defense.

"They press a lot, they got great guards (and) good bigs," Poythress said. "We just got to come out and try to take those points away and try to break the press and everything like that."

Head down

If someone would have told Calipari before the game that Wichita State would shoot 55.1 percent from the floor and 10 for 21 from behind the arc, he wouldn't have given his team much of a chance.

"I would have said it was a heck of a year," Coach Cal said.

As it turns out, Kentucky matched Wichita State in the shooting column, staying within reaching distance with strong shooting performances from the Harrison twins, James Young and Alex Poythress.

But the Cats didn't rely solely on their jump shots to win. When the game was on the line late, UK took the ball to the hoop.

While Cleanthony Early and Baker seemed to make anything and everything from all spots on the floor, UK made a concerted effort in crunch time to drive to the basket, get a layup or get fouled.

 "In the end they basically just lowered their head," Marshall said. "It seemed they were just driving it and we were having too much body contact. And for the first time this year, it seemed like the rules, the new rules, worked against us as opposed to in our favor. So credit them."

As a result, the Cats shot 14 free throws over the final 4:52 of game time, making 11 of them.

"That was a big key," Marshall said. "We couldn't defend the foul line at the end of the last eight or 10 minutes."

Play of the game

Aaron Harrison hit big shots. Andrew Harrison made clutch free throws. Julius Randle ignited the second-half rally. And James Young hit the biggest shot of the game.

The biggest play of the game in Calipari's eyes, however, was Dakari Johnson's unofficial offensive rebound after Aaron Harrison missed the second of two free throws with 4:11 to play.

Johnson didn't get credit for the rebound because he deflected it off a Wichita State player and out of bounds, but it gave UK the ball back. Andrew Harrison went to the line for two more free throws after the timeout, making both and getting UK within 69-67 with 3:54 left in the game.

"That was the play of the game," Coach Cal said. "If we don't get the ball and get it back to two, I don't think we win the game.

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.

Matthew Mitchell (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Matthew Mitchell (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Matthew Mitchell was bordering on surprised, not that his team won, but at how well the Wildcats played during Saturday's NCAA Tournament first-round victory over Wright State.

Even with all the momentum the Kentucky women's basketball team took into the NCAA Tournament coming off a nice run at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Mitchell just wasn't sure what to expect.

Hosting a NCAA Tournament game for the first time, having not played in two weeks and facing a relatively unfamiliar opponent with postseason pressure Mitchell had good reason to feel that.

He ended up witnessing -- and contributing to -- one of the better all-around performances Kentucky has put together all year.

"I certainly didn't come into today with this kind of expectation that we would play this sharp," Mitchell said. "We've historically kind of struggled in this game for whatever reason, because of the long layoff and so my mindset going into the game was just to let them know that they had clear advantages in the game."

Mitchell may not have anticipated his team would play as well as they did, but he certainly enjoyed the 106-60 victory. Much of the success may have been down to his simplified message before the game: to exploit Kentucky's physical advantages be them in terms of size and speed.

"I didn't go in thinking we were going to win by 20, or 40, or anything like that," Mitchell said. "I sort of showed up with the mindset (Saturday) of let me do my part for the victory, let me coach the best that I can and let's see what happens. Nothing that they did really surprised me, but I was extremely pleased and grateful to the players that they came out and executed the game plan."

And so Mitchell turned his attention to Syracuse, Kentucky's second-round opponent, and the challenges the Orange will pose to UK when the two tip off Monday at 6:40 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum.

But instead of focusing on the painstaking details of the matchup, Mitchell has been stressing a similarly simple approach to the one UK used going into Saturday's win. The Wildcats will need to continue to excel in every aspect of the game from here on out should they hope to advance.

Standing in the way will be Syracuse and the many variables that could affect how people play them.

"What I see with them is a team that is able to create some turnovers in a different way than we do," Mitchell said. "They full-court press you, three-quarter court press you, they've got some half-court traps that we're going to have to deal with and then the 2-3 zone, which we've had some success against, but it certainly hasn't been automatic this year. There have been times where we've struggled against the 2-3 zone."

The Orange -- in Mitchell's eyes -- match up far better with UK than Wright State. Thus Mitchell and his Wildcats will look to play even better than they did on Saturday morning. In other words the Wildcats are looking to improve on what was already arguably their best-played game of the season.

"We had a great day yesterday and we had a significant advantage in personnel," Mitchell said. "This game, the difference in personnel is not as great, the advantage is not as great and we have to be ready to play."

Arguably the biggest challenge for the Wildcats could be executing offensively against Syracuse's base 2-3 zone defense, which UK struggled against early in the SEC schedule. But the Wildcats have since shown they can make shots and get the ball to the paint no matter what defense they face.

And yet like their coach, the Wildcats themselves are embracing the challenge of facing a formidable zone defense in the high-pressure NCAA Tournament.

"I think it should be easier for us because it's just one thing we have to focus on, it's the 2-3 zone," UK guard Jennifer O'Neill said. "We don't have to worry about them playing man or trying to switch it to a 3-2 or stuff like that. We know what they're going to play and now we just have to go out and perform and execute."

Samarie Walker also doesn't seem to sweat the prospect of facing a 2-3 zone so long as UK can execute its offensive counterattack to the zone.

"It's a little frustrating for inside players because we don't know where were going to get the ball, we have to work just a little bit harder than (against) man (defense)," the senior forward said. We might not always get the ball on the block which is where we want to get the ball, it's a lot more movement for us but I think by now we should be used to it because that is what we got played most by in the SEC."

For his part, Mitchell seems more concerned with his team playing its best more than he focuses on specific opponent game planning. Although he likely watches plenty of opponents' game film and develops schemes to attack other teams too, Mitchell indicated he goes into big games keeping it simple, focusing more on his team positioning itself to play its best than preventing other teams from playing theirs.
 
Mitchell admitted as much when asked how he would prepare the Wildcats for playing Syracuse without knowing the injury status of one of the Orange's best players: Brittany Sykes.

"I don't know if this point in time with our team that we make it totally about the opponent," Mitchell said. "We really try and have a good plan that we can execute whether she's playing or not."

The Syracuse sophomore guard has since been ruled out for Monday's game, but the news likely won't change the broader theme for UK.

Mitchell is focused on his team playing its best as early and as often as possible as UK continues into the second round of the the NCAA Tournament.

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
  • BJ Rassam: The Cats came so close to winning another NCAA basketball championship. read more
  • 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