Calipari: No. 1 ranking means 'bigger target' on Kentucky

Calipari: It's too early to be significant

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 29, 2011 

Kentucky Wildcats guard Darius Miller (1) put up a shot over Radford Highlanders forward Javonte Green (2) as UK defeated Radford 88-40 on Wednesday November 23, 2011 in Lexington, Ky.


Kentucky Coach John Calipari did not embrace a return to a No. 1 ranking for the second time in three seasons.

"This early in the season, it's nice," he said Monday in a statement. "But it's not that significant. It just puts a bigger target on us."

The previous No. 1 team, North Carolina, can take aim at that target Saturday in a long-anticipated game in Rupp Arena.

Kentucky rose from No. 2 to No. 1 after North Carolina lost to UNLV on Saturday night in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Calipari noted that Kentucky did not receive every first-place vote. No. 2 Ohio State got 17 and No. 3 Duke one. UK had 46 first-place votes.

"Obviously, not everyone thinks that we're the best team," Calipari said. "Starting three freshmen and two sophomores, they may be right. I'll be anxious to see how the team accepts the challenge this week."

Calipari and Frank McGuire (St. John's, North Carolina, South Carolina) are the only coaches to lead three schools to a No. 1 ranking. Calipari guided his 1994-95 and 1995-96 Massachusetts teams to the No. 1 ranking, as well as his 2007-08 Memphis team and his 2009-10 and now 2011-12 Kentucky teams.

Kentucky's next opponent has a history of beating No. 1 teams. St. John's has taken down the nation's top-ranked team five times, though the last time was during its Final Four season of 1984-85.

St. John's beat then-No. 1 Kentucky 64-57 on March 22, 1952. That second-round game in the NCAA Tournament at Reynolds Coliseum allowed St. John's to avenge what is regarded as its most lopsided defeat, an 81-40 loss at Kentucky the previous Dec. 17.

While at UCLA, St. John's Coach Steve Lavin's teams defeated four No. 1 opponents.

Kentucky was last voted No. 1 in the weekly poll on Jan. 25, 2010. In its next game, South Carolina beat undefeated Kentucky 68-62. Kentucky was ranked as high as No. 2 later that year and ended its season with a loss to West Virginia in the NCAA East Regional finals.

Before that, Kentucky was ranked No. 1 in the final regular-season poll of the 2002-03 season. That was the only time UK was ranked No. 1 that year.

The last season in which UK was ranked No. 1 and won the national title was 1995-96. UK was ranked No. 1 for five weeks during that season. This is Kentucky's 90th week at No. 1, fourth on the all-time list behind UCLA (134), Duke (122) and North Carolina (108).

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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