UNC-UK notes: Expanding leagues make scheduling a challenge

Calipari, Williams want rivalry to continue

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 3, 2011 

Kentucky and North Carolina coaches agree that conference expansion threatens their highly entertaining series. John Calipari and Roy Williams gave qualified support Friday to continuing the series.

"We both want to play the series," Calipari said. "It's important for both programs."

Then he added, "There are only so many games you can play."

The Southeastern Conference is expanding to 14 teams, which might mean an increase from 16 to 18 league games. The Atlantic Coast Conference must determine its schedule with Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining the league.

"If we had 26 (league) games, you're not going to see North Carolina (and) Kentucky play," Williams said.

On his Web site last weekend, Calipari asked fans to vote for which series — Indiana, Louisville or UNC — they wouldn't mind seeing ended. A large majority said Indiana.

Williams seemed to object to the impression Kentucky could take unilateral action.

"The good thing is, we get to vote, too," the UNC coach said. "They're not the only one that gets to say yes or no. Whether it's the 85-year old person that's a North Carolina fan, or the 15-year-old ... the college basketball landscape is changing, and it's changing every year. I have no clue how many conference games we're going to have next year, and I definitely have no idea how many conference games we're going to have the following year. ... In a perfect world, I'd like to play everyone in our league twice."

But a 26-game schedule in a 14-team league is not feasible.

"I can understand what John's feeling," Williams said of Calipari's scheduling concerns. "We as coaches talk about it all the time. (Michigan State Coach) Tom Izzo and I had a conversation about it already this year, too."

Injury report

UNC reserve guard P.J. Hairston is iffy after injuring his left wrist against Wisconsin on Wednesday.

"If you pin me down, I'd say I guess he won't play," Williams said. "But I don't know."

Hairston hurt his wrist trying to take a charge against Wisconsin. He said on Twitter on Thursday morning that his wrist wasn't broken, but that he probably wouldn't play at Kentucky.

That evening, UNC officially announced details of the injury, and said Hairston was "questionable."

Learning experience

Although he has a relatively experienced team, Williams echoed Calipari's sentiment that coaches use their early-season games as a means to learn about their players.

"I don't think anybody really knows anything about their team, or I don't," the UNC coach said. "You know some things, but I don't think you know the true character or personality and the makeup of your team just after a month of play. I think it takes a little longer to do that."

Pace race

UK and UNC expect a fast-paced game.

"They want turnovers or bad shots that lead to their break," Calipari said of the Tar Heels.

Added Williams, "I really believe they could save some power in Rupp Arena and not even have the shot clock this weekend."

Revenge?

Williams downplayed revenge as a UNC motivator. UK beat the Tar Heels in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

"I'm more motivated right now about the UNLV loss than I am about the Kentucky loss last year because this is this year's team," Williams said. "If that motivated them over the summer, I told them to let your pain be fuel for you. ... If that helped give them some fuel to work harder over the summer, I think that's fine."

'Dumb, dumb things'

UK made 12 of 22 three-point shots in beating UNC in the East Regional finals. Another factor was foul trouble. John Henson fouled out after 23 minutes.

"That game, I did some dumb, dumb things I shouldn't have done," he said. "One particular dumb foul was I fouled Brandon Knight 50 feet away from the basket, which is something you're not supposed to do."

Etc.

Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg will call the game for CBS.

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