Kentucky, Cincinnati Clash for Sweet 16 Berth

March 20, 2015

Kentucky and Cincinnati meet on Saturday, March 21 with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Tip is set for 2:40 p.m. ET and the game will be carried by CBS.

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NCAA Tournament Central
Kentucky vs. Cincinnati
Saturday, March 21 - 2:40 p.m. ET
Louisville, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UC Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: CBS
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video
Live Audio (Westwood One)
Live Stats
Text Updates
UK Team Stats UC
75.0 Points 62.5
54.0 Opp. Points 55.6
.468 FG .451
.353 Opp. FG .389
.349 3-FG .335
.273 Opp. 3-FG .321
.722 FT .670
38.5 Rebs 34.3
30.7 Opp. Rebs. 29.9
14.7 Assists 11.8
10.7 Turnovers 12.7
6.8 Blocks 5.4
6.6 Steals 6.6

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Cat Scratches: UK expecting stiff challenge from motivated, tough Bearcats

Teams have run with Kentucky. Teams have tried to punch the Wildcats in the mouth.

Some have sunk into zone defenses and challenged the Cats to hit from the outside. Some have gone with full-court pressure against UK.

For what seems like every one of the Cats' wins, opponents have gone with a different approach to hand them their first loss.

"They gotta run out eventually," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "They try everything. You got to though. You can't get mad at it. I would do the same thing."

Of course, none of it's worked.

Top-seeded UK has charged through 35 games without a loss to tie the best start to a season in NCAA history. The Cats will look to take over the record on their own when they face eighth-seeded Cincinnati (23-10) at approximately 2:40 p.m. on Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.

When they do, they'll take on an opponent they expect to try a familiar game plan. ... read the full story

Cat Scratches: Cats say a 'different team' to appear Saturday

Fourteen words. That's all it took for Aaron Harrison to get his point across. They were simple words, nothing poetic, nothing to make you look deeper into their meaning. But they were powerful and they proved to be prophetic.

"We know what we can do and it's going to be a great story," he said.

At the time, the words fell on many a deaf ear. The Cats had dropped to 21-8 after losing at South Carolina and a once-promising 2013-14 season was looking more and more disappointing.

What followed, of course, was a trip to the national championship game. As for Harrison, he did his part, hitting two of the biggest shots in UK's illustrious postseason history, vaulting the Cats over Michigan and then Wisconsin on game-winning 3-pointers from the wing.

So why are those 14 words being brought up again now over one year later and with the Cats standing tall at 35-0? Well, because Harrison may be on to something again.

After a ho-hum 23-point opening game victory over 16th-seeded Hampton on Thursday, Harrison wasn't happy. The only one of UK's active rotation of players without a field goal, the second team All-Southeastern Conference selection said UK's next game Saturday against Cincinnati (23-10) would be different.

"I think everyone will see a different team on Saturday, definitely," he said. ... read the full story

This Week's News:

Kentucky's NCAA Tournament History

  • UK is making its nation-leading 54th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Kentucky is 116-47 (.712) all-time in NCAA Tournament games.
  • Since 1992, the Wildcats are 115-32 (.782) in postseason play (SEC, NIT and NCAA).
  • Kentucky is making its 12th appearance as a No. 1 seed. The Cats were a one seed in the 2012 tournament en route to its eighth national championship.
  • UK is 18-3 (.857) in tournament games under the direction of John Calipari.
  • Calipari is 43-14 (.754) as a head coach in NCAA Tournament games. That winning percentage ranks second among active coaches.
  • Calipari-coached teams have appeared in three of the last four Final Fours and is the first such school to achieve that feat since UCLA from 2006-08.
  • Calipari has led UK to three Final Fours in four years and leads the country with four Final Four appearances since 2008.

UK in the Second and Third Rounds

  • Kentucky is 43-10 in tournament openers and has won 21 of its last 22 second-round (previously firstround) tournament games.
  • The Wildcats have never played Hampton or Manhattan, while UK leads the all-time series vs. Purdue, 6-2. Kentucky is 27-10 vs. Cincinnati.
  • UK has only played Cincinnati once in the NCAA Tournament and owns a 1-0 mark vs. the Bearcats, with a 69-60 win in 2005's round of 32.

Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament in Louisville

  • The Wildcats are 5-1 in NCAA Tournament games held in Louisville.
  • The last time UK played in the NCAA Tournament in the Derby City was in 2012 to begin its NCAA championship run with wins over Western Kentucky and Iowa State.

Wildcats Lead in NCAA Tournament Wins

  • UK leads the nation in NCAA Tournament wins (116).
  • It also leads the country in wins in the tournament since 2010, when John Calipari first led Kentucky into the Big Dance:
    • 18 - Kentucky
    • 13 - Florida
    • 12 - Connecticut, Kansas, Louisville
    • 11 - Butler, Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Syracuse

UK Cruises in First NCAA Tournament Game

  • Kentucky played the part of the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament by rolling past No. 16 seed Hampton on Thursday, 79-56.
  • UK started the game 3 for 10 from the floor but went on a 19-3 run to take a 33-14 lead and never looked back.
  • The Wildcats opened the second half on a 13-2 run.
  • Kentucky entered the game as the nation's toprated shooting-percentage defense, and the Wildcats held Hampton to 28.8 percent from the field.
    • UK held a team to less than 30-percent shooting for the first time since South Carolina (Feb. 14).
    • Kentucky has now held 12 opponents to less than 30-percent shooting for the game.
    • Kentucky is now holding opponents to a combined total shooting percentage of .353.
  • Kentucky shot 71.4 percent from the foul line, 20 of 28. The Wildcats have made 78.4 percent at the charity stripe over the last five games (105 of 134).
  • UK trailed for 29 seconds. The Wildcats have trailed for only 179:25 of a possible 1,415 minutes this season.
  • Kentucky won bench points 24-10. The Wildcats have won the bench points in all but one game this season (vs. Arkansas, SEC Tournament championship).
  • UK's 35-0 start to the season is the first in the history of the program, bettering the 1953-54 group's 25-0 start.
    • The 35-game winning streak is the longest such streak in school history, surpassing the previous streak of 32 straight games set from Dec. 5, 1953 to Jan. 8, 1955.
  • UK is the only team in SEC history to begin a season 35-0.
  • The 35-0 start is the best of any John Calipari team he has ever coached.
  • The 35 straight wins is the longest winning streak of Calipari's career, bettering his 2008-09 Memphis team's 27 consecutive wins.
  • UK has won 57 of its last 59 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
    • Calipari has a 101-9 all-time record when coaching the nation's No. 1 team, including a 59-4 mark at Kentucky.
  • Kentucky improved to 44-10 in NCAA Tournament openers and has won 22 of its last 23 second-round (previously first-round) tournament games.
  • The Wildcats are 6-1 in NCAA Tournament games held in Louisville. UK is 3-0 in NCAA Tournament games held in the KFC Yum! Center.
  • Kentucky won its nation-leading 117th NCAA Tournament game. UK is 117-47 (.713) all-time in the Big Dance.
    • Since 1992, the Wildcats are 116-32 (.784) in postseason play (NCAA, NIT and SEC).
  • Kentucky also leads the country in wins in the tournament since 2010 (19), when John Calipari first led UK into the Big Dance.
  • UK is 19-3 in tournament games under John Calipari.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns posted his eighth double- double of the season and second in the last four games.
    • He finished with a career-high 21 points. He added 11 rebounds and three blocks.
  • Andrew Harrison scored 14 points. It was his 15th double-figure scoring game of the season.
  • Trey Lyles scored 10 points and added six rebounds.
  • Tyler Ulis scored 11 points and had a game-high three assists.
    • Ulis has scored in double figures six times.
    • He has scored in double figures in two games he has played at the KFC Yum! Center (at Louisville on Dec. 21, 2014).
    • The freshman guard has led UK in assists in seven of the last eight games.

Wildcats Capture 28th SEC Tournament Title

  • The Kentucky Wildcats captured their 28th SEC Tournament title in program history behind a dominating 78-63 victory over Arkansas.
  • UK scored the game's first eight points and never conceded the lead en route to its seventh win over a ranked foe this season.
    • Kentucky now has an all-time record of 124- 25 (.832) in SEC Tournament games.
    • UK has now won 28 tourney titles with a 28-10 record in championship games.
  • Kentucky's 34-0 start to the season is the first in the history of the program, bettering the 1953-54 group's 25-0 start.
    • The 34-game winning streak is the longest such streak in school history, surpassing the previous streak of 32 straight games set from Dec. 5, 1953 to Jan. 8, 1955.
  • UK is the only team in SEC history to begin a season 34-0.
  • The 34-0 start is the best of any John Calipari team he has ever coached.
  • The 34 straight wins is the longest winning streak of Calipari's career, bettering his 2008-09 Memphis team's 27 consecutive wins.
  • UK has won 56 of its last 58 games as the Associated Press top-ranked team.
    • Calipari has a 100-9 all-time record when coaching the nation's No. 1 team, including a 58-4 mark at Kentucky.
  • The Wildcats did not trail in the game, and has only trailed for 178:56 of a possible 1,375 minutes this season.
    • The Cats have only trailed for 22:11 of the possible 280 minutes vs. its seven ranked foes.
  • UK is 7-0 vs. ranked opponents this season and 3-0 vs. top-10 teams.
  • Kentucky has beaten its seven ranked opponents by an average of 16.9 points per game.
  • The Cats' seven ranked opponents have shot a combined 33.2 percent.
  • UK shot 51 percent from the field (25 of 49). It is the 11th time this season, and the second game in a row, that the Wildcats have made at least 50 percent.
  • The Wildcats shot 58.3 percent (7 of 12) from 3-point land. It is the fourth game this season, and second in a row, that they have made at least half their shots from long range.
  • Kentucky shot 77.8 percent (21 of 27) from the foul line. The Wildcats have made 77.9 percent at the charity stripe over the last 10 games (187 of 240).
  • Willie Cauley-Stein had 15 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double of the season, en route to earning MVP honors of the tournament.
  • Andrew Harrison also led the Wildcats in scoring with 15 points. It is his 14th double-figure scoring game of the season.
  • Aaron Harrison sparked the first-half performance with eight points and six assists in the opening stanza. He finished with 11 points and six assists, his team-leading 21st double-figure game of the season.

UK Advances to SEC Tournament Title Game with 91-67 Rout of Auburn

  • Kentucky advanced to its 39th SEC Tournament championship game with a decisive 91-67 victory over Auburn in the semifinals.
    • UK improved to a remarkable 39-2 in SEC Tournament semifinal games.
  • Auburn made the first basket, then UK responded with the next eight points.
  • Kentucky also made runs of 7-0, 9-0 and 6-0 in building a 34-14 lead, its biggest advantage of the half.
  • UK went to halftime ahead 47-29.
  • AU pulled within 13 points (57-44) before UK put the game away with a 14-0 run, making it 71-44.
  • Kentucky shot 56.3 percent from the field, the 10th game this season the Wildcats have made at least 50 percent.
  • UK made 7 of 14 from behind the arc, the third game this season the Cats made at least half their long-distance shots.
  • Kentucky shot 85.7 percent from the foul line (30 of 35).
    • Thirty free throws made is a season high.
    • The Wildcats have made 77.9 percent at the charity stripe over the last nine games.
  • UK won bench points 26-5.
  • Five Wildcats scored in double figures, the first time that has happened since the previous game vs. Auburn on Feb. 21.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein had 18 points, a game-high seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
    • It is his first double-figure scoring game since Feb. 14 vs. South Carolina.
    • It is his most points since a career-high 21 vs. Texas on Feb. 5.
  • Andrew Harrison notched 15 points and added four assists. It is his 13th double-figure scoring game of the season.
  • Aaron Harrison scored 12 points, his team-leading 20th double-figure game of the season.
  • Trey Lyles scored 12 points, including 4 of 4 at the foul line. It is 10th time this season to land in double-figure scoring.
  • Devin Booker tossed in 12 points, his 18th double- figure effort of the campaign. He also grabbed six rebounds, one shy of his career high.
  • Tyler Ulis totaled six points, five rebounds, a game-high six assists and two steals.
    • He has averaged 3.9 assists over the last eight games, leading UK in that category in five of the last six games.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns scored eight points, netting career highs with 8 of 8 at the foul line.
      • Towns has averaged 13.1 points over the last seven games.

Cauley-Stein a First-Team All-American

  • Kentucky junior Willie Cauley-Stein was tabbed a First Team selection to the USBWA All-America team on Monday.
  • Cauley-Stein is the first Wildcat to earn All-America honors by the USBWA since Anthony Davis (First Team) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Second Team) in 2012.

Trio Named to SEC All-Tournament Team

  • Willie Cauley-Stein (MVP) and Aaron and Andrew Harrison were named to the SEC All-Tournament team.
  • Cauley-Stein totaled 42 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots over the three games, averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
  • Andrew Harrison was the team's second-leading scorer at 13.0 points per game while shooting 44.8 percent from the field.
  • Aaron Harrison posted 12.0 points per game. It's the second consecutive season Harrison has been named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Awards Keep Coming

  • Kentucky won several of the major awards from various publications this past week:
    • Sporting News named Willie Cauley-Stein a First Team All-American and Karl-Anthony Towns a Third Team All-American.
    • In addition to the All-America teams, Sporting News also named John Calipari its Coach of the Year.
    • NBC Sports selected Cauley-Stein as its National Defensive Player of the Year and Calipari its Coach of the Year.
    • NBC Sports also tabbed Cauley-Stein to its First Team All-America Team.
    • USA Today selected Cauley-Stein as a First Team All-American and Towns as a Second Team All-American.
    • Both Cauley-Stein and Towns were named Second Team All-Americans by Sports Illustrated.
    • The USBWA named Willie Cauley-Stein its District IV Player of the Year and John Calipari District IV Coach of the Year.
    • Four of the 10 players on the All-District IV Team - Cauley-Stein, Towns, Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison - were from Kentucky.

Media Opportunity - March 20, 2015

Q. Willie, what was it like having the game end that late -- start that late and end that late. How much rest did you get overnight?

Willie Cauley-Stein: It wasn't that bad. I think we got back to the hotel -- by the time we got done eating and everything, it was probably like 2:00-something. But Coach let us sleep in until about 11:30. So we got good rest.

Q. This is a question for all three of you. When you guys were up as much as 35, it seemed like Coach didn't let up. How important is it for you guys to continue and not have any complacency in your game, even when it looks like it's in hand? And what does Coach do to make sure you do that.

Trey Lyles: He just makes sure that we stay on top of our game and we don't let down even though we're up by that much. Coach requires us to play as hard as we can at all times of the game no matter what the score is.

Willie Cauley-Stein: Yeah, like what Trey said, just doing what you practiced the whole year, staying with our team norms and playing with high energy and making sure we're doing all the right things.

Aaron Harrison: Just like they said, make sure we're staying on our A game and just want us to play well.

Q. Could you guys just comment about Cincinnati, when you know about them and what they present to you.

Trey Lyles: They're a zone-playing team with athletic guards. They're going to push the tempo.

Willie Cauley-Stein: We just know that they're going to play extremely hard and try to bully us. They play that zone. That's really all we've looked at so far. We'll know more about probably an hour.

Aaron Harrison: I know they're an aggressive team, and they'll try to play physical with us.

Q. For Willie and Trey, when you look at the film from last night, how would you all assess your individual play inside in terms of just trying to be assertive, going to the hoop? Do you feel like some things you could have done differently? Where do you feel like there's room for improvement?

Trey Lyles: I think, for all the bigs, we controlled the glass pretty well last night. We were able to rebound and get second chance points pretty easily.

Willie Cauley-Stein: Same thing as Trey said. I think we owned the boards, especially inside. Even our guards did really well rebounding. I thought I could have made easy one-footers under the net.

Q. Cal, Devin (Booker) early in the season said he felt like he was shooting it in the ocean. That hasn't been the case recently. Have you seen anything different with him, and what's your plan?

COACH CALIPARI: We're going to need him to make baskets going forward. I say it all the time. These kids aren't machines. They aren't robots. I say it all the time, most of this game's mental. Whatever is in his mind, he's got to go back to where it was. I mean, this is tough on these kids. This clutter that circles them and expectation for them personally, individually, team-wise. But I just called him in and said, you know, we need you. We're waiting on you. Still believe in you.

Q. It doesn't seem to have been that big of an issue to this point, but is it difficult to tell a team of undefeated players that anybody can lose in this tournament?

COACH CALIPARI: I think they know that. I think they know. The stuff that has affected us, real physical play, stretching our big guys out, playing a zone and doing stuff, that's all what Cincinnati does. We know we're in for a tough game. They fought all year and deserve to be in a position they're in. A great win. It's going to be a really hard game for us.

Q. You said you called Tyler (Ulis) in and told him you're a lot better than I thought you'd be. What exactly does he do that surprises you from coming in?

COACH CALIPARI: I didn't know he'd have the impact on games he's had. I know he was a good player. But for someone coming in as a freshman to affect the games he has is amazing, and he's done it on both the defensive end and the offensive end. The freshman class that we brought in, with Karl (Anthony Towns), Trey (Lyles), Devin, and Tyler is one of the best classes that I've recruited. What I mean by that is they're all basketball players. They've got a great feel. They've got mind for the game. They're really all that way. But Tyler -- you know, I just told him, you're better than I thought you were. I knew you were good. I didn't realize you were this good.

Q. Given the anxiety of the first game and the way it started, has the team been able to kind of catch their breath or sigh of relief? Have you spoke to them? What did you say to them this morning?

COACH CALIPARI: I just saw them for a minute at the lunch, or the late breakfast that we had, and I didn't say a whole lot to them. We talked last night. They knew my disappointment on how we started the game. Again, we didn't get back to our rooms until 2:00. I don't understand why it was this late, but when you're behind an overtime game, that's the kind of stuff that happens with the long time-outs. But they performed. I watched the tape. We were up 35. It's hard to play when you're up 35. I mean, it is. When I started subbing, it wasn't like the first five were playing. We start subbing, the guys break down, and all of a sudden they go on a 10-2 run, 12-2 run. But we did what we were supposed to.

Q. I'm interested in the two approaches the two programs have. Mick has to take players he has to develop, and you get a lot of guys that go to the NBA. I'm sure you've had -- earlier in your career, you've had to do the same things, take guys for three or four years. I wonder if you could talk about the difference in approaches and what it's like for a coach to have to go through that.

COACH CALIPARI: There's not that much difference in what we're doing in that kids come with us because they want to get better. They want to get from one point to there to here. The problem is it's faster. Its like warp speed. Along with being under the microscope, along with being everybody's Super Bowl. If you're not mentally tough enough, you end up in a fetal position under the desk. So it is a certain type of kid that can deal with what we're doing. But what Mick has done is taken guys and said, "Hey, we're getting better year to year. We're going to help you take your game to another level. We're going to get guys that will compete and battle because that's the number one thing.' If you don't to that, you have no chance. I don't care how skilled you are. And his teams have done that historically. But when I was at UMass, we had guys for four years and had Marcus Camby for three. Every other player was four years. When I was at Memphis, we had a couple players two or three, some guys left after three years. But what we're doing where every year I'm coaching a new team and literally trying to figure them out throughout the whole year, I wouldn't -- what's that commercial say? Don't try this. I wouldn't recommend this to anybody.

Q. Coach, you mentioned the start as well as being up 35. Can you talk about your attitude with the players when you're up, making sure that they don't relax or regress. How important is that for them to continue to get better?

COACH CALIPARI: Let me just say this to everybody. I've said this before. My job is to love them right now. If they want to win, they'll continue to win. Wanting to means they're going to be mentally tough enough to withstand whatever's thrown at them. They've done it all year, which means they can't do it. They will have a choice. I can't drag them. This is them dragging me now. But I kind of have to point out certain things to them. Maybe it's pick-and-roll. We had a situation last week, maybe two weeks ago, where the players came over and told me to take a guy out of the game. And I loved it. I took the guy out. I kind of reminded him that they told me to take you out. But they're empowered when that happens. It's their team. They know it's not my team. If I have to kick and scream to get these guys to play, just a matter of time. This right now, I just got to keep loving them and letting them know that I care enough to be honest with them, that I want each of them -- like Dakari played okay in that game. I want Dakari to be great. I want people to look at Dakari and say, "I cannot believe that is the same person I saw in high school" The same with Marcus Lee. I want him to be great like he was against Michigan. He has it in him, and if he's not playing to that level of energy, not making shots and free throws, it was just energy, I'm going to say something. But this is their time, not my time.

Q. You mentioned last night that job that Larry's done in Cincinnati. Larry said you guys used to work Five-Star Camps together. Can you just talk about him and how difficult that would be to come into a situation like that as an assistant coach and have to take over under those circumstances.

COACH CALIPARI: First of all, he's one of the few guys that could do what he's doing. I've got a great story to tell you, one of my recruiting stories. So I go to Oak Hill to recruit a kid named Roy Brow. If you're listening, Roy Brow, you will remember this. I walk in, and I say, I'm from Kansas at the time. I'd just been on the road. Put me on the road, I go out, I get all the information about Kansas, and I start talking about Kansas and Kansas this and Big 12 -- Big 8 Championships and all that Kansas has done. We had every major you could want except veterinary medicine in farming. If you want that, you've got to go to Kansas State. Just a little fun thing to say. So I said, "Roy, what do you want to major in?" He said, "veterinary medicine." Larry was in the room when that happened. Now I usually ask what do you want to major in before I start talking. The job he did there was coaching the best players, even back then. He and I coached against each other when we were at Five-Star together and battled and went out and had fun at night. He's one of the few good guys in our profession. There's very few that could handle the situation like he is, and Mick (Cronin) believes in him, and they are loyal to each other. So he'll let Mick, come on, Mick, do your thing. This is your team. I'm just doing what I can to help, and that's how he's doing it. Yet he's got to coach the team. That's really difficult. So he's doing what I would expect Larry to do.

Q. When you were talking about Marcus earlier, what's kind of kept him from getting to that level of consistency? Is there times when he's too nice a guy?

COACH CALIPARI: He has nothing to do with that. All these kids, we expect them to be so confident, but they're not. A lot of times, one rain drop on the shoulder can change their whole outlook of what the weather's like. And it was one off a leaf on a tree that had nothing to do with anything, oh, my God, it's raining. These kids are 18 and 19-year-olds. So when he's confident, when he's clapping on the court, when he's getting it, he is unbelievable. He just doesn't do it all the time. It's hard to be that. It's hard to be at your best every night out. And I'd say the same of Devin. Devin isn't as confident as he was. We are all confident in Devin, but he's not as confident in himself. Where did that happen? Well, go miss a few shots, go 1 for 6. Now all of a sudden, can you be confident when you're 18? He's 18. When you're 22 and you're in the NBA and you understand that stuff happens and I'll be fine, not when you're his age. You think the world's coming to an end. But the greatest thing with this team, no one has the weight of the world on their shoulders. If you're not playing well, I just won't play you. I'll play these other guys. We have nine. We'll play these five. You're all right. Just be ready next game. That's how we've been able to do it, and that's what I keep telling them. You don't have anything on you. Just go play. Go do what you do. Go have a ball. Go show people what you are.

Q. Coach, do you recall, after the 2012 championship, you came to Cincinnati, threw out a first pitch, the great American ballpark, there was a smattering of boos throughout the crowd. There was a lit of bit of a tension --

COACH CALIPARI: I didn't think there was boos. And by the way, I threw a BB that day. Do you remember? I knocked the catcher over. He went right on his back. I did a Luis Tiant. I kicked my leg up and fired a BB. Whether it's here in Louisville, whether it's in Cincinnati or other areas that we have a lot of fans, there are fans of other programs in those cities, and I accept that. It doesn't bother me. I don't think the fans of Cincinnati are going to cheer when I walk in the building, nor will the fans of Louisville.

Q. I think Brow ended up at Virginia Tech, if I'm not mistaken. He was a Hokie.

COACH CALIPARI: He did, veterinary medicine.

Q. Hey, this is about Willie (Cauley-Stein). Was the high school football game the first time you saw him?

COACH CALIPARI: Saw him in an AAU game, and he got two points and like a rebound. Orlando (Antigua) kept telling me, I'm telling you, and when I watched him run and I watched his feet and I watched his hands, I said, "He's got a chance, but my gosh, he had two points in an AAU game, and the other team wasn't that good." Then I went back, and I watched him play a football game. Heck of a football player, by the way, at 7 foot tall. So you walked in, and there were all these helmets, and then there was this other helmet. And then I went to the high school one time, and I watched him play -- I think he was playing kickball one time, and another time he was playing wiffle ball. He was a hell of a wiffle ball player too at 7 foot tall. But what he's doing in basketball, trying to prove himself, doesn't do it every night, but I'll tell you that he's come so far, and I know him as a man, not just a basketball player. And I can't begin to tell you where he was with trust and all the stuff that you need, the caring heart that he has. He always had it, but you had to kind of bring it out of him. A lust for learning, which was in there, that he didn't enjoy. But now reading books and doing other things is a part of who he is. When he decided to come back last year, I thought he was leaving. I hugged him and said, "Hey, congrats man. From the wiffle ball game I saw you play to a draft pick is a hell of a move, buddy." The next day he came in, and he said, "I want to come back." I said "Why"? He said, "I could graduate. I'm not ready to go in that league and do what I want to do. I know that. And the third thing, I want to win a championship." Three very good reasons. Kind of similar to what Patrick Patterson said to me. Patrick, why would you come back? You'll take my game away from the basket, I want to play in an NCAA Tournament, and I can graduate. He did all three, and he's playing pretty good in Toronto right now.

Q. John, from a fundamental standpoint, when this freshman class came in, were they better than other classes you've had? What kind of challenges have you had with them this year from just a fundamental standpoint?

COACH CALIPARI: Karl had a long way to go. I didn't realize Devin could defend and rebound the way he has. Didn't think -- because I watched him in Moss Point, Mississippi, playing against his dad and his dad's boys, like everybody was 40, and he struggled guarding those guys. There's no way this kid can guard the way he can guard. Guess what? He is capable, and he's done a terrific job and rebounding the ball. With Trey, I thought all along Trey was like the guy that no one knew, and you're starting to see him now. He is 6'10". We're training him as a three. He's not going to be a three. He's going to be a four. A stretch four on top of that. And he's guarding guards. Can't guard him in the post. He's been trained the right way. So you look at all those guys, and then Tyler is just he's the spoon in the milkshake, just mixing it all up, going nutty, and pressing the ball, and making passes and creating havoc. So it's been a good group. And they all like each other. They all get along with each other. Like I said, it's been one of the best groups I've recruited.

Q. This is sort of about the freshman class, but when you're recruiting a kid, how much do you look at basketball IQ? And how much, okay, basketball IQ isn't all that great, but I can teach him about the game. How do you weigh those two things?

COACH CALIPARI: The biggest thing you watch -- or at least I do -- kids have to have character, and you watch how they play. In other words, they've got to be playing for everybody else on the court because you can't come here playing for yourself. It doesn't work. So character is something that we recruit. The other thing is, when I'm watching, their feel for the game. Do they have any feel for the game? Are they trying to outrun you, outjump you? Do they have a feel for what's going on? And the last thing you're watching for, what I watch for is do they know when to take over a game? Like I want you to share until it's time to win and go win the game. Those are the guys that I'm looking for now. You notice I don't say a whole lot about free-throw shooting and all that stuff. So there are times I have bad free-throw shooting teams. It's not on the list of 1 to 20. I mean, we'll figure that all out. But the longer the better. I'd like to have everyone 6'9". The longer, the better. Then all of a sudden, I get this 5'9" kid. He proves me wrong. I want them all that size, he says, "You want one like me." And he's right.

Q. Some of the Cincinnati players who said that they're right across the water when they go to the movie theater or the restaurants there, and they see blue everywhere. They're very aware of what your team has done this season. Can you imagine for them what this game must be like, having sort of watched this whole thing go down and coming in as an underdog?

COACH CALIPARI: They've got a chance to beat the Number 1 team in the country. They've got a chance. They're next up on the docket. I would imagine they're dreaming about it, thinking about it, having people in the stands. Make sure you take video of this because I want my grandkids to see it. And I don't blame them. That's the great thing about these tournaments. It's for these kids, my kids and their kids. It should be a great game. It should be a war.

Q. John, last year you guys were the 8 seed that got hot at the right time and took out everyone.

COACH CALIPARI: No, we were mis-seeded by 100. Don't say that. We were really good, and Wichita State got screwed.

Q. Yes, they did. At least the awareness of what an 8 seed can do, it doesn't insulate your team. How important is it for your veterans to know, this is how far an 8 seed can go? Is seeding, as far as this point, is it just a number?

COACH CALIPARI: Until you said that, you had to remind me of last year's seeding. No, it has no bearing on this game. At this point, the seeding doesn't mean anything. When a 14 takes out a 3, they become the 3 seed. So if a 10 takes out a 7, they're now the 7 seed. If they go against a 2 and win, they're now the 2 seed. That's just how this thing is. Seeding, everybody is 0-0. You play games now. 8 seed, 9 seed, it doesn't matter. I'm watching -- and, again, I really don't spend much time watching the games, but I may flip it on, see who's on. Teams that are playing with desperation look pretty good, and if two teams play with desperation, it's a great game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports