The tweak is back.
Everyone remembers the memorable 'tweak' John Calipari made back in the 2013-14 season as a loaded UK team was struggling to find the best ways to utilize all of their talent.
The tweak led to Kentucky making it to the SEC Championship game and then the NCAA title game. This year's version of the Wildcats has certainly shown that kind of potential, but still haven't found that magic with the postseason nearing.
So what better time than for Cal to break out the tweak again. During his Monday meeting with the media, Cal revealed he'd already done so following UK's debacle at Vanderbilt. It sounds like it's meant to help get more production out of the frontcourt after they did almost nothing during that loss.
However, that tweak will not include freshman forward Tai Wynyard, who it looks like with redshirt this season. Asked if he thought Tai would play this year, Cal admitted the New Zealand big man likely won't play this year with March already here and him having not played yet.
Here's a recap of everything Cal said Monday.
On what he can do or say to help the bigs
"This is probably a week early for me, but we tweaked a few things (laughs). Scary word. We tweaked a few things. It's not a wholesale change from what we do, but you basketball bennies will have an idea of what I did. Most of you in this room will have no idea what I tweaked. But the people who really follow it, study it, will say ‘well this is what he just did.'"
On if the tweak is based on Derek Willis being in or out
"It's not in the lineup. He won't be Tuesday. Let's hope he can play Saturday. But he's not playing Tuesday. What I'm doing is going to help us whether Derek is there or not. It's something I probably should have done a long time ago but you kinda get blinded. You start winning games and guys are doing certain things and other guys are not so you just leave it alone. But we'll see."
On Calipari saying that a few years ago
"I'm saying the same thing. What I said on the call - I'm not the kind of guy that says ‘OK, we're going to run a bunch of plays for this guy to score.' We didn't run plays for Karl (Anthony-Towns). We didn't run plays for Julius (Randle) or any of the guys.
"We play basketball. We create actions and then you got to insert yourself. We're an unselfish team. It's not like guys are selfish. But we're creating space for you to go do what you do. It's not just our bigs. There's some other things we're going to tweak to get some other guys more confident in what they're doing."
On how long he's been thinking of the tweak
"A friend of mine had called me before and said ‘you need to think about doing da-da-da,' I listened, but I didn't listen. And then the last game you start looking at guys and guys have to play more confident. And it isn't what you say to a guy. ‘Well, you yell at them.' What? OK, I yell at Jamal. He really lacks confidence. It's how you're playing.
"Demonstrated performance builds your confidence, so if they're struggling to insert themselves you've got to help them and say, ‘Here's how you do this.' Within what we're doing, let's think about this. That's what tweaking is:[/b] ‘OK guys, here's how we're playing. Let's focus a little bit more on this or let's focus more on this.'
"It's too late to change how we play, but there's no reason that we can't have a confident basketball team. And that's what we should have."
On how much a tweak is just a mental reboot
"Some of it. Some of it is mental, but the other part is you're changing how they think about playing, you're changing the mentality of how their doing this. That gets them - especially the guys that need it. You've got some guys that, you know...But I'm anxious to go.
"See, last time if you remember I had three or four days before and we did it over time and I said, ‘You're going to see.' This is yesterday we walked some stuff and then today we're going to practice. We only have an hour and a half or less. We're off Wednesday, so we'll have Thursday, Friday.
"It's the beginnings of it. It's like anything else: We just need to go out, play defense, which in the second half against Vandy we had so many slip ups, so much slippage in the game, and then offensively just be confident in what you're doing. We just can't play through one and two guys.
"You can in a game. If a guy get's us going, just let him go, but you can't every game. That's not how I coach and it's not how you win at the highest level."
On if guards have responsibility to get the ball to the bigs more
"You know, again, when you throw it to them they fumble. You try get it to them, they miss. You want to win, so it's like, ‘Now I'm shooting. Go rebound it.' I mean, you want to win. So we have to - they have to build the guards' confidence in them.
"Again, it's through demonstrated performance. It's not saying, ‘I'll do this and this and I'll do that.' You've got to go do it in a game. The great thing about this team is they're all cheering for each other. They want the other guys to do well. If a guy gets it going, they're really happy."
On who is the guy up front who can step up
"You got all of them, every one of them. Marcus Lee, Alex, Derek has proven it when he was healthy. Isaac can do it, Skal can do it. They can all do it. You just:[/b] Where do I insert myself? How do I make myself available? Some of it's just:[/b] You gotta work harder.
"That one's - they (hands over ears) - ‘I don't want to hear that one. What else can I do?' You gotta make yourself more available. You gotta beat the other guy to spots. How about this? Outrun the guy, sprint. That's stuff that, again, that's part of tweaking, to get them to think different."
On whether Tai Wynyard remains on option this season
"Not at this point. I would say no. We've seen our big guys play pretty well and we've seen them struggling."
On second half at Vandy
"We just, like, we gave them layups and dunks. Like there were four of them, five of them. We just don't do that. When you give up - that's 5 for 5, and we're a defensive team. We're a team that holds you to 40 percent (shooting) or less. And the second half, you know.
"Aside from all that, if Tyler makes a couple shots - he missed them all; just make a couple and it's a different ball game and we have our chances. And we had our chance with that being the case. Layups and one-footers and missed three and missed three and missed three?! Oh, my gosh.
"I mean, that's what - and you still have a chance. They were scoring either. But those four or five dunk, layup, layup, that was the gap in the game."
On playing at Florida
"It is going to be loud, you know? It's going to be packed. It's going to be a game that will be a hard game for us. But I'm, again just trying to focus on my team. I know how good (the Gators) are. I know how good they are in that building. It's just I'm focused on my team.
"Let's just try to get better. Let's get this thing - we gotta build a couple more guys out of this. You gotta go into tournament play, and if you think of us historically, we never went into tournament play with one or two guys playing well. We go into tournament play with five and six guys playing well, and then you're hoping seven gets in and does something, too.
"We gotta get to that, and we got time. I'm, again, working on that earlier than normal, but let's see if we can begin that process, that climb, to get our team like that."
On Isaiah Briscoe shooting when open
"There are things we can do to help him, too, and we will."
On getting more consistency from frontcourt
"It's almost like, OK, how do we get this more consistent, how do you build your mentality? And you all know that comes from within. If you're relying on someone else to do that for you, you're just ... what if he's not feeling good that day, the guy you're counting on to pick you up. You have to do that yourself. You have to get yourself in a frame of mind.
"Look, Alex did not walk. You saw that. He did not walk and he didn't trip the guy. Those were like two ridiculous calls. But that kind of caved him in. You can't be that way. We've had it all year. All year we've had that. So? Just play. We're trying to talk to him about that. You can't let a call or a play cave you in. Just play through.
"The question becomes, how good can we be? We know if we don't have everybody playing confident, we're not going to be very good. We've got this week and next week at the tournament to get this thing steering up. Playing on the road is not a good place to try to do that. The road in our league is the toughest place to win in any conference in the country. But it's our next game so let's go."