John Clay: Fair or unfair, next game will be fun

CATS DISPLAY TALENT WORTHY OF CHAMPIONS CLASSIC

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 10, 2013 

It's just not fair.

So said the coach with the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 1 recruiting class of all time and the five, six or seven — take your pick — first-round NBA draft picks, maybe even lottery picks.

"It is unfair," John Calipari said.

OK, if the Kentucky coach meant it's unfair for the rest of college basketball for one program to have so much size and skill and athletic ability on one roster, then maybe the rest of the world would buy that it's unfair, but that's not what he was talking about it.

"I said it's not fair for a team like ours to play an event like that, it's true," Calipari said of Tuesday's Champions Classic when the No. 1 Cats go up against No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago.

"So Tom Izzo, who's a good friend of mine, said well, 'Cal should forfeit the game. Just let us know he's forfeiting so we I can go to Chicago and just shop.'"

So Cal sent Izzo a text message.

"I said, I officially forfeit the game so you can go to Chicago and shop,'" Cal joked. "We're not very good right now."

Then heaven help the rest of college basketball when Calipari's Cats do get good

Mercy.

For we show-mes who vowed to be practicing hold-outs until we actually witnessed this alleged juggernaut that would be Kentucky basketball, Sunday afternoon's 93-63 win over Northern Kentucky provided glimpses into the Big Blue future

For opposing coaches, it must have looked like the trailer to a horror film.

Julius Randle scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, his second double-double in his second college game. Willie Cauley-Stein snatched 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. Aaron Harrison scored 16 points in 23 minutes. Andrew Harrison scored 13 points and made just one turnover in 26 minutes.

Friday night at Purdue, Northern Kentucky made 13 of 26 three-pointers and lost by one point. Sunday afternoon in Rupp Arena, Northern Kentucky made nine of 35 three-pointers and was outrebounded by 28.

It's unfair, all right.

"Tremendous size," said NKU coach Dave Bezold when asked about the difference between the Boilermakers and the Cats. "They are very, very skilled with their size."

Bezold could have said "very, very, very, very, very skilled" but hey, it was late on a Sunday, and he and his family — the ones he joked he had to pay off not to wear UK gear inside Rupp Arena — wanted to get back to Highland Heights.

And while the Norse played a decent Big 10 team on Friday, Kentucky will play a really good Big 10 team on Tuesday. Kentucky is No. 1 in the nation. Michigan State is officially No. 2 in the nation, though there were those who still believe experience trumps youth and placed the Spartans in the pre-season top spot.

For Calipari's protests that his team is so young and it's so early and this Champions Classic is so unfair — Cal says all this with that gleam in his eye like "you know and I know but I'm going to say it anyway" — the whole spectacle promises to be so, so good.

Jabari Parker and Duke versus Andrew Wiggins and Kansas in the nightcap. Julius Randle and Kentucky versus Gary Harris and Michigan in the opener. It gets no better than that.

"We win or we learn," Calipari said Sunday. "That's what this game will be. We win or we learn. What I think is that we don't play hard enough. I don't think we cut hard enough on offense. I think we stand around."

He's a coach. He's paid to think these things. And on many of these things, he's absolutely right. And he's going to let his team know it.

Even with a 30-point lead in the second half, Calipari's voice bounced around the arena on Sunday as if he was preaching a live-action sermon.

"Coach tells us that we stop too much," said Cauley-Stein. "We look at the film, and he's right."

Tuesday night, Michigan State is likely to show it to them in person. But Kentucky is likely to show the Spartans a thing or two, as well.

It might not be fair, but it should be a whole lot of fun.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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