LEXINGTON — Kentucky’s first true road game is tonight at Notre Dame and UK¿coach John Calipari says he has “no idea” what he will get from his freshman dominated team.
“I think this team, from what I’m seeing, what I know and what I don’t know, it will be till February till we figure this out. Hopefully, we can go in good enough to win the number of games we have to be winning to stay alive, but we’re learning. This will be another chance for us,” Calipari said Wednesday.
He says playing Maryland in Brooklyn to open the season where the Terps had more fans than UK¿was not the same as playing at Notre Dame.
“They probably had 60 percent of the fans. We still had 40 (percent). We may have 40 people in the building there. So, no. This will be a new experience for them. I’m anxious to see how they respond,” he said. “They (Notre Dame) shoot the ball well. They were 12 out of 22 last game (from 3-point range). If they do that, we will be coming home with an L.
“They’re very, very big. They’ve got great size. They play a great zone. They spread a zone out, they try to play gaps. They do some things that we have not seen, so that will be interesting to see how we respond to that. Again, they’re a veteran team compared to us. They do well in that building. They’re a good home team. So it’ll be a tough challenge.”
Kentucky also played Duke — and lost — on a neutral court at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
“Duke was a veteran team. Duke had seniors. But Notre Dame has big players, and they’re also a veteran team. But I would tell you Duke probably had more experience than Notre Dame (has). Notre Dame has lost some key parts each of the last two years, some big-time parts to their puzzle. I think Duke, when you talk about the guys that are returning, that was the guts of their team,” he said.
Calipari says Kentucky has no pressure in the SEC-Big East Challenge trying to represent the league.
“I’m not sure we’re the best team in the SEC. I’ve said that from day 1. And again, I’m worried about his program and this program moving forward and us getting better day to day and week to week,” the coach said. “This is another opportunity for us to learn about our team and get better. Short of that, until you said it, I forgot it was a challenge. I thought it was a game. Never entered my mind. It is the Big East Challenge? OK.”
Calipari says he came into the season knowing he would have to be patient with his team and nothing has changed.
“When we figure it out, this team is going to be pretty good. It’s amazing, we’re the — I think somebody told me — ninth-most efficient team in the country. Well, there’s some inefficient teams in the country. We’re the third most efficient team on offense. Folks, we’ve been together 36 practices. There’s 350 teams. So, as I’m saying to you, I’m not looking for us to be just a good basketball team. I want us to be special. And to be special, we’re not close yet,” Calipari said.
“We’re OK. We can win some games and beat some people, but that’s not what this is about. This is about when it’s all said and done, were we the best version of what we could be as a team? Were individual players the best version of themselves? And were we having more fun than any team in the country? Now, the answer to all those right now is no, no and no. We need that to be yes, yes and yes. Then that’s the team that keeps marching, doesn’t want the season to end.”
How good could UK¿be?
“We could be very good. We’re just not right now,” the Kentucky coach said. “Should we be? If we are, then we were practicing double time in the summer. We are what we are right now, and I’m fine with it.”