INDIANAPOLIS — If John Calipari is correct, this year's NBA Draft will resemble this college basketball season: There will be a distinct Kentucky presence.
The UK coach spoke of several of his players entering this June's NBA Draft.
"We could lose seven guys," he said Monday. "I would guess five at the minimum. But I would say seven is a distinct possibility."
Among the players who've worn the Kentucky uniform for the last time is probably All-American Willie Cauley-Stein.
"I would say he and Karl, the twins, Trey," Calipari said. "There's no reason to hold off if you know what you're doing."
Calipari was referring to Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Trey Lyles.
Then there's Alex Poythress, whose season ended in mid-December when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament.
"I'm going to explore for Alex," Calipari said. "My guess is the injury probably will influence him to come back. But if someone says they'll take him 15, 16 in the draft, then that may change."
Devin Booker and Dakari Johnson will also consider entering this year's NBA Draft.
"What if Dakari is the 25th pick in the draft," the UK coach said. "I'm not going to say you should stay."
Calipari spoke of Andrew and Aaron Harrison as first-round picks.
The morning after Wisconsin beat Kentucky in the Final Four semifinals Saturday night, Calipari had five-minute individual meetings with players who may weigh the turn pro/return to college decision.
"I did tell a couple kids that it is a man's league," Calipari said of the NBA. "It's not a child's league. If you're not ready for a man's league, you better come back."
But Calipari said he did not want to have undue influence in the decision. He said he and the UK staff would try to gather information from 20 or more NBA teams to better inform the players.
And he mentioned one other role he can play.
"Now, I'm their PR machine," he said.
Kentucky did not exit the Final Four gracefully. A microphone caught Andrew Harrison muttering an expletive and racial slur during the post-game news conference. Then UK players, including the Harrison twins and Cauley-Stein, did not follow college basketball custom and shake hands with Wisconsin players.
"Great kids do dumb things," Calipari said. "My own children do things that I look and say, 'Where did you come from? You did not come from me?'"
Calipari said any punishment would stay "in-house" and not be made public.
"They know I was disappointed, and we talked about it," Calipari said. "And the only thing I can tell you is they apologized."
The UK coach said he put great stock in acknowledging mistakes.
"You step to the plate," he said. "When I do somethinng or say something to a player I shouldn't say, I apologize. I hug them. ...
"I want them to know it's OK to be wrong. It's OK to be stupid and do stupid things. Step up to the plate, And I think they did."
Cal: Blame me
Calipari accepted the blame and invited the blame for Kentucky's loss to Wisconsin.
"They can say whatever they want," he said of those who questioned UK's late-game strategy. "Were they saying that when we were winning all those close games."
"All I can tell you is we were trying to do exactly what we did versus Notre Dame."
Rather than milk the shot clock, UK wanted to run its offense with the emphasis on getting the ball to Towns in the post, Calipari said.
"I wish I had a few more answers on how to post the ball," he said. "... If they want to blame me for the loss, I agree. Don't blame the kids."
Even Wisconsin players said the basket by Nigel Hayes that tied the score at 60-60 came after the shot clock expired. But because a rule prohibits referees from checking a sideline monitor on such a call outside the final two minutes, the basket counted.
"It's not the officials," Calipari said. "They missed it. They kicked it. But they weren't able to correct it. And that was the problem. ... So you change the rules. Don't ever let it happen again."
It feels good
Calipari said he will not watch Kentucky's loss to Wisconsin. Nor did he watch a replay of his Memphis team's loss to Kansas in the 2008 national championship game.
But, Calipari slyly added, he's watched UK's victories over Louisville and Kansas in the 2012 Final Four many times.
And what does he gain from these repeated viewings?
"A smile," he said. "It makes me feel good. Gives me a vision we can do this again."