Kentucky’s game in Chicago against Duke is the first of several in major American cities in November and December. UK will also play in Miami (against South Florida), Los Angeles (UCLA) and New York (Ohio State) before the end of the year.
With ISIS claiming credit for a terrorist attack in Paris last weekend and threatening to strike in the United States, UK Coach John Calipari acknowledged concern.
“I think everybody should step back and let’s evaluate security,” Calipari said Monday. “I worry about my players, our fans, my own family. That they’re there. . . . What’s our security?”
After UK’s victory over Albany last Friday, Calipari opened his postgame news conference by asking people to pray for victims of the Paris attacks. He said he didn’t understand why terrorists would harm innocent people.
On the eve of UK’s game against Duke, Calipari spoke of his concern about security.
“We all have to really look at that hard, and say, What’s the security? It’s sad, though. It doesn’t make sense to me. But it puts us in a different mindset.”
When asked if the Paris attack might make a future foreign trip less likely, Calipari revisited his well-chronicled dislike for long trips.
“You know me,” he said. “A foreign trip better not be more than an hour and a half away or I’m not going. I doubt that will ever come into play as long as I’m here.”
‘A different cat’
Tyler Ulis will be playing in his hometown of Chicago. In the past, Calipari has said his players seldom play well in such homecoming games.
But, Calipari suggested, Ulis is an exception that proves the rule.
“I think Tyler will be fine,” the UK coach said. “He’s a different cat. He has a different way of doing things.”
Ulis, who said he needed about 13 tickets for family or friends, seemed unconcerned.
“I played pretty well last year,” he said. Ulis had seven points, six assists and only one turnover in UK’s rout of UCLA in Chicago last season.
“I feel when guys go home, they want to prove something,” Ulis said. “Probably a little too excited. And I try not to be that way.”
Duke gets calls?
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas scoffed at the notion that referees favor Duke.
“I’m a believer in evidence behind conspiracies,” Bilas said. “And with all the analytics that we’ve got, no one can point to any sort of analytic or any sort of statistic and say Duke gets calls.”
Tyus Jones, the star of Duke’s Final Four victories last April, acknowledged at the time that some people believe Duke gets calls.
"That’s just an opinion some people have,” he said. “Some people would say we get all the calls. It just depends on who you’re talking to and who you’re asking."
Bilas, a Duke graduate, is not convinced.
“Usually, what that comes from is bias on the part of the person watching it,” he said. “It’s amazing how quick people are to claim bias on the part of an official, but very slow to recognize their own bias.”
Calipari scoffed at the notion of UK players getting caught up in the history of Kentucky-Duke games.
“The history these guys know is like two years,” he said.
For players, Christian Laettner is a forgotten figure from the distant past.
“Do you remember Laettner?” Calipari said as if asking a player. “‘Who’s he?’ These guys don’t know any of that stuff. Like do you know Kareem Abdul (-Jabbar)? ‘I’m not sure.’ What?!”
Ulis seemed to vouch for that when he did not embrace the idea of a Kentucky-Duke rivalry.
“I don’t think we really realize it that much,” he said, “because Kentucky hates Louisville.”
Calipari uttered a sentence few UK fans could expect to hear.
“I just want the kids to be excited about the game,” Calipari said. “Like I’m excited about this game. . . . I just love the challenge. Let’s see where we are right now. That’s what I want them to feel.”
When Kentucky played Duke three years ago, Calipari made an issue of how the Blue Devils draw charges. Of course, charge calls blunt UK’s dribble-drive offense.
At halftime, Calipari told the sideline reporter that Duke’s signature tactic would draw fines if used in the NBA.
Calipari said he had no such concerns going into Tuesday’s game. The bigger block-charge arc in the lane and referees calling more fouls when contact occurs should inhibit Duke from trying to draw fouls.
“You can’t touch anybody,” Calipari said.
Ulis sounded ready to drive to the basket.
When asked about Duke taking charges, Ulis said, “I haven’t really thought about it. I didn’t really know there was a rule change, honestly.”
Six of seven
Duke has won six of the last seven games against Kentucky.
Five other programs have done that: Florida (seven straight from 2005-2008), Indiana (six straight 1925-1943), North Carolina (eight of nine 1973 to 1995), Notre Dame (seven straight 1936-1942) and Tennessee (six of seven 1920-1924).