LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach John Calipari was vaguely
talking about areas where the unbeaten Wildcats could improve on
Friday when asked if he could be more specific.
"I don't know," Calipari said, playing coy.
After a little more prodding, Calipari looked directly at a
television camera and sent a message to Georgia coach Mark Fox.
Kentucky hosts the Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference opener
for both teams on Saturday.
"Mark, let me tell you exactly where we're weak," Calipari
deadpanned. "You attack these three areas, you'll beat us."
The quip drew laughter, though Calipari is only too aware how
quickly the good times can disappear in the SEC.
Calipari's happy with Kentucky's 15-0 start - the best in 40
years - even if the Wildcats are "9-6" according to his
He also knows the giddy highs of the last two months, including
wins over North Carolina, Connecticut and Louisville, won't matter
over the next two months as Kentucky vies for its 44th SEC title.
"These are the games that are scary because you know they're
good enough to beat us," Calipari said. "You hope your team
understands that they're good enough to beat us and that we're
going to have to play one of our better games to beat them. And if
you think you're walking through 'em, you lose."
The Wildcats haven't lost any yet, winning thrillers, blowouts
and everything in between.
Yet Calipari allows his team is still learning how to put
opponents away. Kentucky nearly squandered sizable first half leads
to North Carolina and Louisville and barely survived close calls
against Stanford and Miami (Ohio).
While he'd prefer a more comfortable margin, he's impressed with
the way a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores has been able
to deliver in the clutch.
It's an attitude they'll need over the next 16 games as the
other 11 SEC teams try to knock the Wildcats off their lofty perch.
"We're going to be everyone's Super Bowl," said senior forward
To prepare for it the Wildcats spent most of the holiday break
going through "Camp Cal," a series of grueling workouts - two or
three a day - Calipari said is vital to getting through the grind
of conference play.
"I think we've gotten better," he said. "It may not show on
Saturday but the things that we needed to do, we did. A lot of it
is trying to stretch them mentally, to get them to do things they
don't think they can do."
Particularly on defense. While Calipari stayed mum about his
biggest concerns, Stevenson said the focus the last few weeks has
been on getting stops, not scoring baskets.
"A lot of it has just been on us staying in front of people,"
he said. "He's not really too worried about offense. He knows he's
got guys who can score."
Even better, Calipari's got volunteers, though not all
volunteers will play.
The bench will likely get shorter as the season goes on, and
Calipari said part of the beauty of "Camp Cal" is that it becomes
apparent who his go-to players will be when things get tight.
There may be a surprise or two in a given game, but there will
at least be one constant: star freshman John Wall. The point guard
has been better than advertised for the Wildcats. While he's been
careful to deflect as much media attention to his teammates as he
can, he hasn't been able to avoid the spotlight entirely.
Wall is on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" this week.
Calipari said the team talked about the cover and the
accompanying article to make sure no egos were dinged. Not that it
matters. Wall has certainly earned the attention in the eyes of his
"When the game's dying, he picks it up, just like he does in
practice," Calipari said. "That's him."
Yet Wall and the rest of Kentucky's heralded freshmen class have
never been through the rigors of SEC play.
"It's a grind," said senior guard Mark Krebs. "There's no
(pushovers) in the SEC."
Certainly not the Bulldogs (8-5), who stunned rival Georgia Tech
on Tuesday, the first signature win for Fox, who took over for
Dennis Felton last spring.
Though Kentucky has owned the series through the years - winning
110 of 134 all-time meetings - Calipari remains wary. He's hopeful
his players will be too.
"I am scared to death," Calipari said. "I don't know if those
dudes are but I'm going to try and make them scared, because if
they're not ready to play, they'll get beat."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)