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Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood are in their third Final Four with Kentucky. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood are in their third Final Four with Kentucky. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- To have something and to lose it, to taste something so good and then have it snatched away, that's what makes this Final Four run even sweeter for Kentucky's graybeards.

UK's freshmen have stolen the show at this weekend's Final Four, and deservedly so with the historic productivity they've accounted for in a nearly unprecedented run. But for the Wildcats' "old" guys - veterans like Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein - Kentucky's run to the Final Four has greater significance.

"This is what I stayed for," said Jon Hood, a fifth-year senior who is at his third Final Four in four seasons. "I stayed to get better, I stayed to have fun and I stayed to come back here, the opportunity to win another title."

Hood, along with Polson, could have left after last season and not come back. With degrees in hand and the option to transfer to another school and play right away under the NCAA's new graduate transfer waiver, the two opted to return to Kentucky knowing full well that their playing time would likely be limited.

Hood has played just 47 minutes this season, fewer than he registered in any of his previous seasons, and Polson has played 278 after logging 457 last year, but they don't regret - not even for a second - their decisions to come back.

In fact, they've relished it.

For all the memories they've collected over the years - a national championship, two previous Final Four appearances, and for Hood, playing with 17 players who are now in the NBA - this, to them, is their finest memory.

"I feel like this is probably the most exciting run we've been on so far ... just because the title year we were expected to win every game and this year everyone had us losing almost every game we played," Polson said.

It's the criticism they faced during the regular season when they lost 10 games and the second thoughts they may have had about coming back when adversity hit that have made this whole run all so worth it.

"What made it sweeter is everybody was counting us out," Hood said. "Everybody wanted us to lose from the second all these guys signed. That's just the way it works. To be back here in the Final Four is sweet and is always going to be sweet no matter if you come with us or Norfolk State or some random team, but to go through what we've gone through, the rollercoaster, up-and-down season, it just makes it all the better."

That, at its very essence, is why this Final Four run, even more so than in 2012 and regardless of the final outcome, is already being hailed as one of the all-time best at a school so embarrassingly rich with iconic moments.

After the way the season began, consumed with undefeated talk and with the Cats atop the polls; to the way it went, riddled with youth, losses and a failure to meet expectations; to the out-of-nowhere turnaround these last couple of weeks have produced, it's been a run that the veterans will forever savor.

"This is what you come here to do," said Alex Poythress, a veteran by UK standards. "Kentucky's got a great track record of getting here. You just want to be a part of it and make some history. (Growing) up, you want to make it to the Final Four and try to get to the championship."

But that dream seemed so distant and so unlikely just a year ago when Poythress and Co. were bounced in the first round of the NIT.

It's easy to point to UK's seven McDonald's All-Americans and future NBA players and predict a Final Four is a realistic possibility, but try telling that to last year's stable of McDonald's All-Americans like Poythress who sat in that locker room at Robert Morris and were so far away from this year's run.

"It's just incredible," Poythress said of what a year can do. "It's night and day really. Big difference. I'm just glad we're here and we can actually make some noise."

For Hood and Polson, who had experienced two previous Final Four trips, coming back the game's greatest stage is even sweeter because they now realize just how tough it is to get here.

"You definitely appreciate the Final Four the first time you come, but after last year going straight to the NIT and then losing in the first round and then having to watch and sit through this tournament the entire way without being able to be in, it really tears you apart," Hood said.

Hood and Polson didn't take the first two trips for granted, but to be at the top and get knocked down from it, it's made the climb back oh-so satisfying.

"I wasn't as grateful as I could have been," Polson said. "Just being back here is really cool for me and I'm really grateful for it."

The two seniors have tried relay their perspective to the freshmen who are all experiencing this for the first time and don't know any better.

"The biggest thing that I try to tell the guys is just to be positive with the whole thing and just really experience it because some of the best players in the world have not even experienced a Final Four," Polson said. "This is one of the biggest stages in any sport, so just being able to experience it and have fun with it is the biggest thing."

Because as last year proved, there's no guarantee they'll be back.

"You have to cherish the moment," Hood said. "You have to have fun. You have to live in the moment."

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.

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.

Interviews with Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, James Young


Interviews with Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein


John Robic hits the half-court shot at open practice


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.

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.

Video: Antigua on taking USF job, time at UK

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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.

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
  • clint bailes: Such a great season! You guys fought hard til the end. Loved watchin the season! Can't wait til next season. read more
  • Andrea Boyd: you guys are AMAZING! as individuals and as a team. thank you for your tremendous playing and work and attitudes. read more
  • laura n: What an honor and privledge to watch all of you grow into incredible young men. Never enjoyed a season more. read more
  • Amy Carnes: Very proud of you cats you have really grow as a team .You proved all the doubters wrong. And have read more