Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari knows the blueprint to defeating his Wildcats, and it's not a zone defense.
The Wildcats lost for the second time in 29 games Saturday, dropping a 74-65 decision at Tennessee. Calipari was asked Monday about the zone used by the Volunteers in Knoxville, and he said it was the same one Kentucky faced Feb. 13 during its 73-62 win over Tennessee in Lexington.
Kentucky missed 20 of 22 3-point attempts Saturday.
"What I was proud of was shooting 2-for-22 from the 3, and it's on the road, and it's 65-65 with two minutes to go. Incredible," Calipari said. "The way they played, where they held the ball, gave us a chance. That's how we stayed in the game.
"It's funny, because everybody has the 'This is how you play them.' Yeah, you hold your nose and close your eyes and hope we can't make any shots. Yeah, that's a good way to play. If we make shots -- if we go 5-for-22, which stinks -- we win going away."
Calipari credited Bruce Pearl's Vols for being more aggressive out of the gate, which he said was as important as his team's bad 3-point shooting. He said South Carolina played man-to-man during its upset of the Wildcats on Jan. 26, as did Vanderbilt on Feb. 20, when Kentucky prevailed 58-56 in Nashville.
The first-year UK coach also admitted there are times when there are good losses.
"Every time you turn on 'SportsCenter,' ESPN is making a living off this program and these players," Calipari said. "If they don't have a highlight, they put on a made free throw. All of a sudden, these guys are feeling it a little bit, and I don't blame them. At the start of the game, we weren't in the mode of attack, and they attacked."
Don't be fooled
Pearl's Vols have defeated a No. 1 (Kansas) and a No. 2 team (Kentucky) this season, but he doesn't translate that into a wide-open NCAA tournament.
"On any given Sunday or Saturday or whatever day of the week it is, it can happen," Pearl said, "but I still think that there are four or five teams that on neutral courts are clearly superior. I still think there's a chance the No. 1 seeds have a great opportunity to advance to the Final Four."
The NCAA began seeding the tournament in 1979 and never had every No. 1 seed reach the Final Four until 2008 with Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA.
ESPN's latest bracket projection has five SEC programs making the 65-team field, with Kentucky as a 1 seed, Vanderbilt a 3 seed, Tennessee a 4 seed, Florida a 10 and Mississippi State a 13. Ole Miss is among the teams just missing out.
"I think there is no question this league for sure can get five or very easily get six," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said.
The only seeding certainties for next week's league tournament are Stansbury's Bulldogs, No. 1 in the West, and LSU, the West's sixth seed.
Odds and ends
MSU senior forward Jarvis Varnardo, who became the NCAA's all-time leader in blocked shots last Wednesday, is the SEC player of the week. ... The hottest league player is Auburn senior guard Tay Waller, who made 21 of 31 3-point shots (67.7 percent) his last three games. ... At 1-13, LSU could become the first team without multiple league wins since Alabama went 1-17 in 1968-69.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...