NEW ORLEANS — Louisville freshman Chane Behanan made only a cameo appearance when the Cardinals lost 69-62 at Kentucky in the regular season. He fouled out after 15 minutes, his second-lowest total of the season.
"I learned from my mistake," he said Thursday, two days before the teams play in the NCAA Tournament Final Four. "I think I got caught up in the moment, all the hype, and I let it get to me."
Behanan averaged 16 points and eight rebounds last weekend in being named the Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional.
"I think I could have contributed a lot to that game," he said of the New Year's Eve clash in Rupp Arena. "I could have rebounded (and) kept them off the glass."
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Two early fouls, plus a technical which served as a third, made Behanan a non-factor.
"When I got back in the game, all I could think about was (avoiding) the fourth and fifth fouls," he said.
Behanan, who said he considers UK freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist "like a brother," contemplated signing with Kentucky.
"It was close," he said. "It was very close."
After a game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Florida big man Patric Young questioned Kentucky's physical fitness. The Gators' supposed full-court superiority inspired UK to rededicate itself to transition basketball in the NCAA Tournament.
Apparently, Louisville guard Chris Smith remains unconvinced.
"I don't think they're in as good of shape as us, really," he said Thursday. "That will hurt them down the stretch."
Earlier, Smith had said he wanted to play UK. He did not waver when asked about that desire.
"I'm probably more confident now than ever," he said. "By walking on that court this morning, that made me more confident that we could beat them."
Beat the Wizards?
Former Maryland Coach Gary Williams (jokingly?) suggested recently that Kentucky was good enough to beat a NBA team.
To which, UK Coach John Calipari recoiled.
"This team could not beat one NBA team," he said. "Not one."
Point guard Marquis Teague seemed to have only minimal expectations for such a game.
"I feel we'd go out there and try to win," he said.
After the NCAA Tournament, many observers expect a mass entry of UK players into the NBA Draft.
"They trust at the end of the season they'll get the right information," Calipari said, "and they'll be treated fairly. So they don't worry about it. We're going to be fair, so we're just going to play basketball."
ESPN analyst Dick Vitale criticized the NCAA for ordering Calipari's Final Four appearances in 1996 and 2008 vacated.
"I think John Calipari got two raw deals," Vitale said on a teleconference. "I really do. ...
"This thing should have never been vacated. You talk about vacate. Schma-cate. They can call it anything they want. They should be ashamed of themselves."
The NCAA ordered Calipari-coached Memphis to vacate its 2008 Final Four appearance because it retroactively declared star guard Derrick Rose ineligible because of an invalidated college entrance exam score.
"They walked in on Memphis and sat there on three occasions and told the administrators flat up and down you can play Derrick Rose," Vitale said. "Derrick Rose is eligible. We studied his numbers.
"Then they come back when he wins them 30-plus games, goes to the final game, and now they say you've got to vacate it? Why don't they take the burden and the blame for maybe not doing their job effectively at the right time."
UMass was ordered to vacate its 1996 Final Four appearance after star Marcus Camby admitted he took improper benefits from an agent.
"You can't control your players 24/7... ," Vitale said. "Kid's got no money and here comes a guy, don't tell your coach, I'll take care of you, I'll represent you down the stretch, here's a few extra bucks. Come on now. The bottom line is they went out and won those games, and to me I don't buy that vacate nonsense. I don't buy it."
Vitale acknowledged that Calipari's record fuels criticism as well as praise.
"I think the guy gets unfairly ripped by a lot of people," Vitale said. "There's a pro and there's a con. If you want to be anti-John, he will (give you) some ammunition to be anti. And if you want to be pro-John, he'll give you a lot of ammunition to praise him."
Behanan smiled when a reporter noted that Calipari mispronounces his name as "BO-hanan."
"Coach Cal, it's BEE-hanan," he said light-heartedly. "I know I say your name (correctly), 'Cal-ah-perry.'
"I love Coach Cal. I respect every man on this earth the same way."
Pitino said of UK: "I don't know if they're better on offense or defense. That's the greatest compliment you can give a team."
Best Final Four statistic going into Saturday's games: Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor has never made a three-point shot in a dome.
In six career games in domes, Taylor has missed all 16 of his three-point shots.
When asked about shooting in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Taylor said, "I think I have a lot of experience shooting in domes. But not a lot of experience making them."
Domes or not, Taylor has missed 20 straight three-point shots in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, he's made only three of 37 shots from beyond the arc in the NCAA Tournament.