The Kentucky Wildcats are coming off a hard-fought loss at Kansas, but they'll have little time to lick their wounds before hitting he road to face Tennessee.
John Calipari made his weekly appearance on the SEC Teleconference Monday to recap the Kansas game, what has to change going forward and what to expect in Knoxville among other topics. Cal also talked about how he should be managing Tyler Ulis' workload better, as well as how UK should have gotten the ball in Jamal Murray's hands at the end of regulation vs the Jayhawks.
On facing the Volunteers
"This is a quick turn and a hard game. The games I've watched of Tennessee, Rick (Barnes) is doing a terrific job of playing his team the way they gotta play to have success. They beat South Carolina pretty handily. They went to Alabama, had 'em down as many as 15, 16, and lost at the end of the game.
"Guard play is solid. They fight like heck. They're rebounding, and they're really good. And Florida's Florida. I did not get to see - I haven't watched much tape of them. I will after this game. They're playing well. People are saying they're coming into their own. We know they're very talented, and they seem to be building momentum."
On having a more consistent low-post scorer
"We would hope Alex (Poythress). Just trying to get him to be more confident and aggressive. He's making free throws. We couldn't get him to go to the middle of the court against Kansas. Just go, man, and jump over people. And he just didn't want to do it, wouldn't pull the trigger. But he's had games where he's played really well. But Tennessee's doing a really good job. If they think you have somebody that can hurt them, they trap.
"They're playing a funky zone, and it's aggressive. I think, and again, watching and knowing it and coaching against Rick in the past, this is a difficult game. He probably looked at the triangle and two and said, 'Hey, let's throw that at 'em.' When we faced it versus Kansas, we scored 20 points and missed six free throws in it.
"But until I put Skal (Labissiere) in there, that was confident enough to shoot that elbow jumper, it kind of put us out rhythm for a minute. I would imagine they'll try a lot of different stuff to keep us from that post position."
On Tyler Ulis and lowering his minutes
"He's playing good. He's got to. He and I met on it yesterday. I tried to take him out a couple times and he's begging me to leave him in, so we got to a little more of a rotation going. And then, who is in on that rotation?
"So we're working on that right now, trying to get a pre-set in stone plan especially in the first half of how we're subbing players. 'No, coach.' 'No, here's what we're doing.' And it doesn't matter the score. This is how we're doing this. Second half you can change a little bit. The only other thing is, Kansas opened up the court for him and he scored.
"Later in the game, they collapsed and he was still trying to get by. And I told him, I said, 'There may be games you get 30 and there are other games you get 12 assists, 13, 15 assists, and you're a facilitator.' And he's figuring that out because people are coming after him now and he's got to be able to count on these guys to make plays."
"I think (Wayne) Selden played 44 minutes in this last game, and he made the plays in the end that won the game. Tyler's a little different in that he has the ball in his hands and there was a point in the game where he was just carrying us. We're trying to come up with something we're comfortable with.
"This kid, with his weight and size, it's not normal. And so, what I do want to do is play him every minute he can be out there playing at his pace. Now, when I was at UMass, I played two guards 39 minutes, and we went to the Final Four. And they played 39 minutes a game. So I've done it before, and those kids know and feel, one was the point and the other was the two guard.
"So it all depends on the player. But not only for him, but for this team, I would like to get a little rotation going where it's really consistent and not guessing by, is he tired, is he... you know. Now, foul trouble can change that, or lack of effort. The guy goes in and he's just not into it. That can change your rotation. But this team right now, everybody's trying, and if we get a little rotation going I think it helps everyone."
On relying too much on Ulis at Kansas
"No, it's not that. It's, ‘How are they playing?' What he's got to recognize - and I told him - he's got to recognized when they're collapsing you're a facilitator. When they're not collapsing you're a scorer. When they then collapse, you're a facilitator.
"That means you don't take one more dribble, you just give it up. It's, again, part of the teaching, teaching them how to win. With nine seconds to go, they collapsed and Jamal was wide open, so he'd have got the ball with about four seconds. My guess is he makes that shot. But that's me as a coach, and then defining it and letting them know. The kid is really smart.
"He's going to do whatever I ask him to do, like this team. You've got to ask them the right things because they're going to do what I ask them. So we're trying to figure this out as a staff. Our last four games they've fought like heck. They've had a refuse to lose attitude every game. Teaching them how to win and how to finish off games is one me.
"That's my job. Their job is to go in there and fight like crazy. My job is to help them understand and have maybe more structure in how we finish off a game. That's not on them. That's on me."
On advice Cal gave Rick Barnes on the Tennessee job
"I said, ‘Take that job.' I said, ‘That is one of the best jobs. You're close to D.C. where you made your bones.' D.C. is his area. And I said, ‘You can recruit there. You're going to have everything you need there. It has an unbelievable following.' I said, ‘You just got to win.' The last couple guys kind of screwed it up a little bit, but I said, ‘I'm telling you, I'm in this league. It's one of the best jobs in this league.'"
On Cal's relationship with Barnes
"Most of the great relationships I have are with other people that worked with me or I worked with because there's a loyalty there. Rick and I have that even though we've never been on the same staff. If he ever called me for anything he knows I would be there.
"It wouldn't matter what he asked me, I would say, ‘Yes, I'm there.' And he knows that. And I feel the same way about him. I would say anybody that I've worked for or with or has worked for me or with me that's how this is. This stuff we do is really, really hard.
"Rick's not one of those guys that tries to be the only guy that can coach. He knows that other guys can coach too, but he also has pride in his own self as a coach. But he doesn't say, ‘I want to be the only guy that can coach. Everybody else is a schmo.' That's not who he is.
"He's about his players, and he is, again, a guy that I've called on many times as my team struggled as I struggled: ‘Talk to me. Tell me what you do here. How would you do this?' And I'm telling you he's one of the best in our business. One of the best.
"If I were an AD and it's like, ‘OK, it's time to rebuild,' there's only one or two or three guys that are above the crowd, and he's one of them in my mind, that he'll go get it done. He's going to work. He's it. There's a couple other guys that I have that kind of faith in. Maybe a Bob Huggins is right there, the same way. He goes. Those guys are change agents. They bring their culture with them. There's not a whole lot of guys that do that."
Listening to the way Cal described Barnes, it almost sounded like Cal was talking about himself in the way they both are all about their players. It's easy to see why they're such good friends.