With a potential six first-round draft picks on its roster, some have suggested Kentucky could beat some NBA teams. Wildcats coach John Calipari does not agree.
“This team could not beat one NBA team,” said Calipari, who spent three years as an NBA head coach in the late 1990s. “Not one. The worst team in the league, we could not beat.
“There are good players on every team in this tournament. I have good players on my team. We all have good players … the players are why they’re here, or they would not be here. The whole point of this is to get a group of players to play together. People ask, ‘Isn’t it hard to get all of those good players to play together?’
“I’m going to tell you what’s hard … coaching bad players. That’s hard.”
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Icing, playing — Kentucky forward Anthony Davis said the knee he injured in Sunday’s NCAA Elite Eight game against Baylor is “90 percent” healthy.
“I was active in practice,” Davis said. “I sat out some things, got on a bike and always kept moving. I got a lot of treatment and rehab so I’ll be ready for Saturday. I’ll be fine … I’ll keep icing it …”
The team that smiles together — Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor said the photographer who was shooting team pictures of the Final Four participants paid the Jayhawks a compliment.
“He told us it seemed like our team liked each other more than the other teams he just shot,” Taylor said. “We’ve had a lot of things we’ve gone through … Thomas’ (Robinson) story … we’ve had to bounce back from and show how together we were … and had to stick together through a lot of things.
“On the court, that shows a lot. Myself, being a leader, I try to keep us as close as possible on the court and off the court.”
Under the radar — As a fourth seed in the Phoenix regional, Louisville is the decided underdog in a field that includes top-ranked Kentucky, the Cardinals’ opponent on Saturday, and second seeds Ohio State and Kansas.
When asked whether he thinks his team is playing with house money, Louisville coach Rick Pitino joked: “Let’s quit now and go home with the money.”
Kentucky is playing in its second straight Final Four; Kansas is here for the first time since 2008. Ohio State is back for the first time since 2007 and Louisville’s made it for the first time since 2005.
“It’s very difficult to get here, so I don’t believe in that (house money analogy),” Pitino said. “This is our chance to win a championship. And we have everything to lose, just like they do.”
As for playing in-state rival Kentucky, the program Pitino took to two Final Fours, winning the national championship in 1995 and losing the title game in overtime in 1996, he said: “I don’t know what they’re better at, offense or defense. That’s the greatest compliment you can give a basketball team.”
Not quite Baylor green, but — Since donning its new Infrared uniforms, which feature an orange-pink hue, Louisville has won eight straight, starting with the Big East tournament. Louisville, Baylor and Cincinnati were each outfitted with new, bright uniforms for the postseason.
“It might be Louisville’s new colors,” said point guard Peyton Siva. “It might be the new uniform for next year. We’re just happy we’re playing in new uniforms. We like ’em … We’re 8-0 in ’em, so we’re not going to change anything now.
“When I first saw them, I liked ’em. I didn’t think Coach P (Pitino) would like ’em, because he doesn’t like change … but the players loved it. We talked Coach P into wearing it. We won the first game, so he had to let us wear it in the second game, and we kept winning, so hopefully we’re going to get him an Infrared tie pretty soon.”
Withey on the line — Center Jeff Withey is Kansas’ top free-throw shooter among the starters, making 79.4 percent of his attempts, an unusually high rate for a 7-footer.
“I’ve always been a pretty good free-throw shooter,” said Withey, who has even taken technical foul shots for Kansas during the second half of the season. “Before practice, I’ll shoot free throws; after practice I’ll shoot free throws.
“I know it’s free points, so every time I step up to the line, you’re not going to get an easier look at some points …”
Kidd at heart — For all of Kentucky freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s all-round brilliance — he is projected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft — teammates say he still has an innocent side, one that makes him an easy target for jokes.
“He’s always trying to watch ‘The Lion King,’ ” freshman forward Anthony Davis said, shaking his head. “I don’t really like that.”