Auburn likes to play at a fast pace. Kentucky, which has an average time of possession of 14.1 seconds, thrives on speed. The faster the pace the better, UK players repeatedly say.
So the question becomes: Should Auburn play its style even if that style brings out the best in a presumably superior opponent?
Yes, said a not-exactly impartial observer: Kentucky Coach John Calipari. Harkening back to his days at Massachusetts, Calipari said the question boils down to establishing a team identity.
“My whole thing is this is how we play,” he said Friday. “If you’re better than us (so be it).”
Calipari recalled UMass playing its style, but struggling against top-shelf opponents because it had an undersized front line.
“Then I got a guy that they had: (Marcus) Camby,” he said. “Then we beat the crap out of Kentucky.”
Camby’s 32 points, nine rebounds and five blocks led UMass to a 92-82 victory over Kentucky in the second game of the 1995-96 season. UK won the rematch in the Final Four 81-74, although Camby had 25 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
But recalling the pre-Camby coaching decisions and the approach Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl will take, Calipari said, “I wasn’t going to change (styles), and I don’t think he’ll change. They’re going to play how they play. Any time I keep switching game to game, it’s not good for my team. Never has been.”