When he met with the media Thursday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari seemed to be looking ahead. The words he used to describe a tenacious future opponent fit Louisville, which UK plays a week from Saturday, more than UCLA, which UK plays this Saturday.
Without naming names, Calipari suggested opponents who play an aggressive style will look forward to playing Kentucky: "We'll get teams licking their chops," he said before taking on the voice of a future opponent. "'We're going to run and press and trap those dudes and try to get free baskets.'"
Calipari lamented how a future opponent could use physical play to try to bring down Kentucky. The words he used had a familiar red-and-black ring.
"Let me tell you," he said as if talking to a UK player. "You're going to be playing in games they grab, they hold, they kick, they push, they bite. Can you play in that kind of game? If you can't play in that kind of game, you can't win that game."
UCLA opponents have amassed more assists (154) than turnovers (147) for the season. Meanwhile, Louisville opponents so far have averaged almost twice as many turnovers per game (19.3) as assists (9.9).
Ulis to Chicago
Freshman Tyler Ulis welcomed the chance to play in his adopted hometown of Chicago, where he played in high school after growing up in Lima, Ohio.
"I can't wait to get back home," he said.
Ulis dismissed the notion of feeling pressure to play well in front of family and friends. "Not really," he said, "because I've been playing in front of them my whole life."
Ulis said playing in the highly competitive Chicago environment enhanced his game. "I would not be here if I didn't move to Chicago," he said. "Ohio is a great state. That's where I'm from. But basketball is not at the level Chicago is."
Surgeons will repair Alex Poythress's torn anterior cruciate ligament sometime after Christmas, said Calipari, who added that he doubted Poythress would make the trip to Chicago.
Calipari noted that entering the 2015 NBA Draft remains an option for Poythress even though he will not play again this season. The UK coach noted that Poythress will have about two more months to rehab the knee than Nerlens Noel had. Noel was a lottery pick less than five months after tearing an ACL on Feb. 12, 2013.
Poythress will need a new level of mental toughness to do it, Calipari said.
"Push through the comfort level, which you struggle with," the UK coach said of Poythress.
Ulis said he applies heat on his lower right leg before practice and ice after practice. Calipari scoffed at the suggestion of an injury.
"I think 75 percent of the NBA has tendinitis," he said. "So you can figure out how to play with it or don't play. Get another job."
Ulis does not have tendinitis, nor any significant injury, Calipari said.
Calipari moves carefully, which suggests he's still feeling pain after offseason hip replacement surgery.
"I'm fine," he said. "Biggest thing is I'm sleeping at night, and I'm working out every day." Calipari said he has to lose the 20 pounds he gained when incapacitated last season. "Like I told the team, I'm not supposed to have a six-pack (of abdominal muscles)," he said. "(I'm) 55. You're supposed to have a little belly when you're 55. Not a big belly."
When told that Calipari suggested that UCLA's lack of depth might be an advantage because it translates to great cohesion, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale laughed.
"Oh, jeez," he said. "Let me say this: John is the master psychologist."
Calipari also lamented UK's rebounding, saying the Cats were the "tallest bad defensive rebounding team" and the UK backcourt was possibly the "worst group of rebounding guards in the country."
To which Vitale could be heard sighing on the other end of the phone line. "I say simply, 'John being John,'" he said.
Calling the game
Verne Lundquist, Greg Anthony and sideline reporter Allie LaForce will call the game for CBS.