Coach John Calipari would be great at hosting a late night talk show, because those are typically taped during the day, and because we know he has no trouble talking to celebrities and interviewing guests on his latest project - the “Cal Cast.” But when it comes to his team playing games as the later show on CBS during March Madness, Cal doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan.
From the Herald-Leader following Kentucky’s 79-70 first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Northern Kentucky:
UK Coach John Calipari made it clear he’s no fan of made-for-TV late-night starts. He opened his postgame news conference with a request.
“Folks, can you make this really quick?” he said. “It’s 12:30. A college kid shouldn’t be playing at 12:30. The old man that’s coaching their team has to watch tapes tonight. Can you ask (only) a couple questions.
“We shouldn’t be playing this late, but that’s another issue for another day.”
I know I’m nit-picking here, but just humor me for a minute…
Kentucky has played in 10 games this season that have had a tip off time of 8 p.m. or later. Here are those 10 games, followed by the results:
Date | Opponent | Tip Time (Eastern) | Result:
- Sunday, Nov. 20 | DUQUESNE | 9pm | W 93-59
- Wednesday, Dec. 7 | VALPARAISO | 8pm | W 87-63
- Tuesday, Jan. 3 | TEXAS A&M | 9pm | W 100-58
- Saturday, Jan. 7 | ARKANSAS | 8:30 p.m. | W 97-71
- Tuesday, Jan. 24 | at Tennessee | 9pm | L 80-82
- Tuesday, Jan. 31 | GEORGIA | 9pm | W 90-81 (OT)
- Saturday, Feb. 4 | at Florida | 8:15 p.m. | L 88-66
- Tuesday, Feb. 21 | at Missouri | 9pm | W 72-62
- Tuesday, Feb. 28 | VANDERBILT (Senior Night) | 9pm | W 73-67
- Friday, Mar. 17 | vs. Northern Kentucky* | 9:40 p.m. | W 79-70
*-denotes NCAA Tournament Game in Indianapolis
Nit-picking even further, I want you to draw a line through those first four games on that list. Kentucky clearly asserted its dominance over inferior opponents Duquesne, Valparaiso, and Texas A&M. They were equally dominant against a more legitimate foe in Arkansas at home.
But once you get down to Tennessee, you start to notice a bit of a pattern. Kentucky is far and away better than Tennessee and showed that in the following match-up between the two teams on Valentine’s Day in Lexington, where the Cats won 83-58 (in a game with a 7pm tip). But they were off that night in Knoxville, and the Volunteers were able to capitalize with an 82-80 upset.
Kentucky started out on January 31 at home against Georgia down 12-0 early on, digging themselves a big enough hole to need an overtime period to put the Bulldogs away.
February 4 in Gainesville was an absolute disaster where the Cats all but gave up at halftime. Kentucky came out sluggish on February 21 at Missouri and trailed the Tigers, who finished up the season with a 8-24 overall record, at multiple times throughout the first half, only coming away with a 10-point victory in Columbia, Mo.
Then there was senior night against Vandy, when UK got down 25-6 against the Commodores early on. And finally, most recently against Northern Kentucky, the Wildcats’ 79-70 victory over their northern neighbor was enough to advance, but less than impressive.
It appears Calipari got at least one question on his Friday call-in show about the later games, but he wasn’t making any excuses...
Cal's idea on easing late games (like Friday's): No post-game pressers. "Don't let us deal with the media. When the game ends, go home."— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) March 20, 2017
Furthermore, Malik Monk has been fairly inconsistent in these later games. Monk put up 37 in the overtime win against Georgia, 27 at home against Vanderbilt, 26 versus Texas A&M in Rupp, and 25 at Tennessee. He only scored 11 at Florida and at Missouri, 12 against Northern Kentucky and Arkansas (at home), 14 versus Duquesne, and 15 against Valparaiso. He’s is only averaging a point less (19 points per game) in the later games than his average for the season (20). But to be fair, Monk has had several games this season where he has scored well-above and sometimes well-below his 20-point average.
What’s more concerning for Monk has been his scoring in the month of March. He’s only reached the 20-point margin once, which was against Alabama in the SEC Tournament Semifinals. Through six games this month, he is averaging 11.8 points per game (after averaging 20 in the regular season), and shooting 29.7 percent from the field, which is significantly lower than 45.7 percent, his final field goal percentage at the end of the regular season.
Again, I know I am being extremely nit-picky with these numbers. They are only observations made to start a conversation.
I’m not saying that Kentucky won’t be ready when the clock strikes 9:39 p.m. EDT Friday, or 8:39 p.m., Memphis-time. I’m just pointing out one trend I’ve noticed in later games, in the later part of the season, where Kentucky has come out looking a bit sleepy and another trend, where Kentucky’s leading scorer has struggled this month.
The hype surrounding Friday’s Sweet 16 match-up vs. UCLA will be enough to wake these guys up. Let’s just hope that Coach Cal gets enough rest the night before, drinks a couple cups of coffee or a 5-hour energy drink during pregame warm-ups, and that Malik Monk comes out with a chip on his shoulder.
That is all. Go Cats.