Notes: Calipari says 30 or 40 teams capable of making Final Four

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 9, 2013 

UK team and head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats with the trophy after defeating Kansas in the championship game of the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament Monday, April 2, 2012, in New Orleans. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

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Given that it's never too early to assess the NCAA Tournament coming up in March, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said Wednesday that "30 or 40" teams might be capable of advancing to the 2013 Final Four.

Kentucky among them?

"At this point, probably not," he said, before adding, "By March, that is what our plan would be."

Calipari included Louisville among the top four or five contenders for the national title.

"I don't think there's any clear-cut national championship winner," he said.

Calipari did note his admiration for Michigan, but he added a qualifier by saying the Wolverines depended on shooting.

"Scares me sometimes," Calipari said. "Sometimes you'll go a month and can't make a shot. And if that's what you're relying on, your team goes south."

'Great foundation'

With the beginning of Southeastern Conference play, Kentucky faces the prospect of two games per week for the next nine weeks.

"It's going to be a lot more competitive," Archie Goodwin said before diplomatically adding that UK's opponents so far have been competitive, too.

"We've just gone through a great month of training," Calipari said. "Now go on the court and show what you've worked on."

Calipari predicted "bumps" along the way, ups and downs, victories and defeats.

"Not like you're going to beat everybody by 30 (points)," he said. "The whole point is now you've got a great foundation to fight, to know you can play with anybody, if you choose to."

Getting in tune

A game at Vandy requires talk about the benches being on the baselines because the court is basically a stage in Memorial Gym.

When asked about the impression Memorial Gym made on him as a spectator, Alex Poythress said, "Just how weird the gym is."

Calipari noted the importance of coach-point guard symbiosis.

"Pretty much the point guard has to be in tune with you," he said. "... We've done OK down there."

Next to last?

Vanderbilt, which has been synonymous with good shooting for years, ranks next-to-last nationally in free-throw accuracy.

The Commodores have made only 57.9 percent of their free throws.

Among the 345 Division I teams, only UC Riverside has shot worse (56 percent).

In the last two games (both at home), Vandy made 16 of 35 free throws. In the last five (four at home, the fifth in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena), Vandy made 47 of 92 free throws.

When asked if his players had shown improvement in practice in the week without games, Coach Kevin Stallings said, "Define what improvement means."

In what Stallings called a "very tense, high-stressed" practice setting, players made 24 of 28 free throws.

Meanwhile, UK has its own free-throw issues with Willie Cauley-Stein (36.7 percent) and Nerlens Noel (54.2 percent).

On his radio show this week, Calipari heard a caller recommend the players try to bank in free throws. The UK coach replied that the players had begun shooting free throws with an under-hand motion.

That was said in jest, Calipari said Wednesday.

Hood returns

Jon Hood has returned to the gym, but he hasn't yet practiced, Calipari said. Hood has missed time because of mononucleosis.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Noted Wednesday was how now-departed players scored all but 10 of Vandy's 208 points in three games against Kentucky last season.

The same is true of UK. All but 10 of the Cats' 216 points against Vandy were scored by players now departed. Kyle Wiltjer scored the 10 points (two in the first game, eight in the third).

Etc.

■ UK will be seeking the 2,100th victory in the history of the program.

■ Rece Davis and Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight will call the game for ESPN.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227 Twitter: @JerryTipton Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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