Gaudin: Calipari Prepares Kentucky For March In October

One game at a time? Nope, for John Calipari, it's all about the Madness

March 22, 2018 - 8:56 am

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The Kentucky Wildcats are back in the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in nine seasons under John Calipari, and they’ve advanced to the Elite Eight each of the six previous times. 

This should surprise no one.

Calipari always has talent, sure, but he also prepares that talent for March months in advance.

“He said, 'I start talking about the NCAA Tournament when they arrive on campus and when we start practice in October,'" Westwood One broadcaster Brandon Gaudin said on Ferrall on the Bench. “He said, ‘That’s what we are playing for. That’s what these kids came here for – to win a national championship. So by the time the NCAA Tournament actually gets here, they’ve heard me hammer home what its like, what you need to do to be successful, what you need to do on 48-hour prep to get ready for another game to get your body ready.’ He hammers that home to these kids and that’s what they want to do. They want to come, they want to win a national championship, and, right now under the current-one-and-done system, they want to go on to the NBA.”

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Last month, Kentucky was 17-9 – a far cry from the 2015 squad that waltzed into the tournament at 34-0. The Wildcats lost four straight games in early February, and their national-titles hopes seemed non-existent.

Now? Not so much.

“That’s the first time that’s ever happened in nine years under Cal,” Gaudin said of the four-game losing streak, “and since then they’re 9-1. They looked so good in the SEC Tournament. They looked really good closing against Buffalo.”

No. 5 Kentucky (26-10) is the top seed remaining in a wild and crazy South region. The Wildcats will face No. 9 Kansas State (24-11) on Thursday at 9:37 p.m. ET.

“Kansas State, I don’t know,” Gaudin said. “This is going to be a really, really tough matchup for Bruce Weber. While they won their first two games and did so with great defensive effort, they’re going to need more offensively if they want to knock off Kentucky.”

K-State has played its last three games without leading scorer and rebounder Dean Wade, who has a stress fracture in his foot.

“I think that they have to have him,” Gaudin said. “They kept saying during the first two rounds that he was available for emergency minutes, and you’re in a tight game with Creighton and then a tight game with UMBC. I kept saying, ‘These look like emergency minutes to me,’ and he didn’t play. While they are saying there’s a very good chance he could play – Dean Wade said (Tuesday) there’s a 98 percent chance (he’s) going to play – you wonder if he’s going to be at full capacity.”

Wade, a 6-10 forward, averaged 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds and shot 44.0 percent from three-pint range this season.

“I agree that Dean Wade at 75 percent is better than no Dean Wade at all, and he makes it so Kentucky has to honor him on the scouting report and possibly open things up for others,” Gaudin said. “But I just don’t know what version of Dean Wade we're going to get.”