John Calipari, Wenyen Gabriel and Hamidou Diallo spoke to the media after learning they got a 5 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Q. Tell us about Davidson.
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know much about Davidson. I know they won their tournament and they’re playing well. They run good stuff. They run a lot of — Tennessee and their coach, Rick Barnes is a good friend, so a lot of stuff Tennessee runs they run. I remember a game early in the year they had 30 3-pointers made, so they’re a 3-point shooting team. But I have not watched them. I have not watched tape.
Q. What did you think of the draw overall?
JOHN CALIPARI: I didn’t see all of it, but you guys is ours like the toughest again? Like by far? Is anyone in here surprised? We’re not playing on Thursday, right? Because we just got done playing today.
JOHN CALIPARI: No, we’re playing on Thursday?
Q. Boise (laughter).
JOHN CALIPARI: Anchorage or Boise? It is what it is. I mean, you know. They’re not going to make it easy for us. They could all say this is all by the numbers and all that. OK.
Q. So you would have been struck if you played on Friday?
JOHN CALIPARI: I would have been shocked if we got a four seed. I would have been shocked. I would have been stunned. I’m not. I always say when you mis-seed somebody, you’re not hurting that person or his team. It’s who he plays is who you hurt. That’s Wichita State. Just it is what it is. But I like how my team’s playing and we’re going to go play some basketball games in Boise. Which state is Boise in?
JOHN CALIPARI: There you go. I’ve been to Idaho by the way. I’ve been to Jackpot, Nevada which is right across the way. I’ve been to Twin Falls. I was on their campus. Great place, it really is. I’ve been to Idaho.
Q. Along those same lines you have Arizona on the next line there. That game’s going to be pretty tough. Good friend?
JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, and they’re a good team. I’m surprised they were a four. How did they drop to a four? Didn’t they win their tournament?
JOHN CALIPARI: Did Davidson win their tournament? Did Virginia win their tournament? Oh, wow. Did we win our tournament? Wow.
Q. What did you and Mitch Barnhart talk about?
JOHN CALIPARI: Not at all. He can’t be in the room. So whether he’s on the committee or not, he can’t be in the room. So if they talk about us — I don’t even think he can be in the room with an SEC team, maybe.
Q. But just about his experience?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, he’s doing a good — I tell you what, he is working his butt off. He really is. He’s taking it serious. He’s looking at and watching games. He’s looking at the numbers. He’s trying to evaluate. He’s using Dwayne (Peevy) and his staff to help him. I’ve never seen Mitch more serious about anything than this.
But he’s not in the room. He was probably just as surprised as anybody when they said here’s where we’re putting them.
Q. Did you think Kentucky would be a four seed and deserve a four seed?
JOHN CALIPARI: I thought maybe we’d have a chance, but I keep coming back to — do you understand why I don’t think conference tournaments are worth anything other than our fans like to travel? It doesn’t help your seed. I’ll tell you this, do you think it would hurt if we lost early? It did hurt.
The year we went to the NIT we lost that first round game, we were in the NIT. So it can hurt you, but we’re not going to let it help you.
Why are we doing them? I come back to that. It’s good for the kids. I was happy to see their faces and how they played. But it was more about them and us being together and figuring stuff out than playing in a tournament. Three games — we’re going to end up, if we’re lucky enough and we get to the second round, we’d have to be lucky. That’s five games in eight days. That’s five games in eight days.
Q. So you’re not going to do anything on the court with these kids over the next couple days?
JOHN CALIPARI: Oh, we will. But we’re going to travel tomorrow. Monday we have to give them off. We’ll practice Tuesday, travel.
Q. Back to November, if somebody would have told you your kids — forget about the losing and stuff like that — that your kids would be playing this well right now, is that what you would have wanted?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s what we built for. It’s what we go through the steps of. So, happy for the kids. I’m happy for Wenyen (Gabriel), I’m happy for Sacha (Killeya-Jones), Quade (Green)’s playing better, P.J. (Washington)’s playing better. They’re all playing better. Now it’s been thrown at us. You’re not advancing. Everything we can throw in front of you, we are, have at it. And what’s better than that?
I’ve only sat here how many NCAA tournaments have I been in, Jerry? Do you know?
Q. He’s in St. Louis.
JOHN CALIPARI: OK. If he could hear me, he’d yell to us. But when we were the one seed it was a bear. It was a bear. So, it is what it is.
At the end of the day, everybody’s got to play basketball games. I like my team. Let’s go see what we are. Again, we’re the youngest team in the field. There is no team younger than us in this field maybe ever in the NCAA tournament younger than this team.
Q. Does the fact that Davidson had to beat a top 25 team to get in the tournament, do you think that keeps your kids sharp to know they have a pretty good opponent?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, Davidson’s a good team, they’re well coached. They’re good. They’re good, and they won their tournament which means they’re playing their best right now. If anybody had asked about us a month and a half ago, now all of a sudden, it’s like uh-oh.
Q. Did you see this turnaround coming for your team a month ago?
JOHN CALIPARI: Even though we were losing I kept saying we’re playing better. Just stay the course, we’re going to be fine. But we had to win a game. I mean, you have to. There’s got to be some positive reinforcement.
When we beat Alabama and then we won, and then we won, and then we won. Then what we learned in Florida, and I told them, they didn’t want to believe me, whichever team is ready at noon usually wins. If one team’s really ready and the other’s not, you’re losing.
Well, it was Florida. They wanted it way worse than us. It was a great lesson for us. Today, in the last couple noon games we’ve played, I tell you, we wanted it. We wanted it as bad as the other team wanted it.
Q. That loss in Florida, was it nice to have a lesson before the games really started to matter?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, I’d rather learn from close wins to be honest with you.
Q. Are there many players that improved from the start of the season until the end as much as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has?
JOHN CALIPARI: I have, but no one knew about them, and that’s why. Like right now. Again, I told you all, seven o’clock in the morning shooting. Asking the strength coach when can we lift? I want to go lift. Well, you just got the MVP of the thing and you played almost every minute. Yeah, let’s go. Let’s get something in.
Do you wonder why he’s playing well? You three could go, no, I’m tired. We just traveled. I’m like — I mean, again. If you want what he’s getting, then you’ve got to invest what he’s investing. You invest a lot, you’re going to get a lot.
Q. Have you talked to Sean Miller since the bracket came out?
JOHN CALIPARI: I haven’t. I just was in the car and someone called me and said you’re on murder’s row again, absolutely threw the hatchet at you. So I didn’t have time.
Q. What is that relationship like?
JOHN CALIPARI: His grandmother practically raised me. He is — his father’s one of the best coaches at any level, his father. Obviously, Archie and Sean, they’re like family. Our families are close. So I recruited him to Pitt, recruited his brother to Massachusetts and then I went to the Nets.
But he was all-conference, overachieved as a player. Getting his team playing.
Q. Can murder’s row motivate your players?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know. I haven’t met them yet.
Q. In the past, you’ve had that kind of feeling. Did it motivate your kids?
JOHN CALIPARI: It’s really hard. Like last year’s field. You remember who they put in that corner? We all had only one and whoever it was was going to win it. So if it was us, whoever won that was going to go. They threw this one out here now. It is what it is. I mean, I don’t expect anything different.
Today they asked me what did you think? I thought we’ll probably be a 12 and playing in Dayton unless they have something in Anchorage where they could throw us in Anchorage and they would probably do that. But it’s alright.
Q. What is the margin of error on a run like 2014?
JOHN CALIPARI: OK. Let’s talk about the run 2014. 2014 we had to beat that 31-0 team, and then we had to have buzzer beater, buzzer beater. You know what I mean? Then we played a Connecticut team who had unbelievable guards and had our chances.
It be’s what it be’s. Now it’s time to regroup, talk to the team. They’ve got Monday off, we practice Tuesday, travel. We’re on a nine-hour trip there and we play on Thursday. My guess, what time?
Q. Don’t know. It will be the first game. It will be the early game.
JOHN CALIPARI: Noon. We’ll throw it out at noon. It’s alright. It be’s what it be’s.
#3, Hamidou Diallo, Fr., G
On whether Calipari told them their bracket is tough …
“Yeah, of course. But we’re just worried about us. We’re just trying to worry about the teams we gotta face and how we gotta play and what we gotta do to get these wins.”
On playing well going into the tournament …
“It’s definitely good. We just won a couple of big games and we won the SEC championship, so we feel great. We’re feeling good about ourselves and we just gotta make sure we polish things up this week and take care of our bodies and make sure we’re at 100 percent on Thursday.”
On what he learned watching last year’s tournament run …
“Everything just gets picked up a notch in March. We train for the whole year just for these moments right here, so we just knew it was going to pay off one day. It’s paying off now and we just gotta keep running with the type of firepower that we have right now.”
On whether he knows any Arizona players …
“Yeah, I know Arizona guys. I know almost half their team. I’m friends with some of them and stuff like that.”
On his relationship with Rawle Alkins …
“Yeah, that’s my boy. He grew up in New York. I played against him a couple times and it’s going to be fun to hopefully get to see them in the second round.”
On whether he stays in touch with any Arizona players …
“No, not really. Not during the season. I just let everybody have their space. I want my space as well. Not really. We talk during the summertime and stuff like that, see each other here and there.”
On how well he knows UK’s bracket or whether he’ll look more closely later …
“Closer later, but I know the whole region and I know who’s in the bracket. I know it’s a really tough bracket and we just gotta be prepared for anything.”
On whether he has been to Idaho …
“Never in my life. Never thought I would be going there either.”
On the possibility of playing five games in eight days …
“No, it doesn’t scare us. We just played three games in three days, so it doesn’t really scare us. We just gotta take care of our bodies. It’s the end of the season. This is why we train so hard and this is what you practice so hard for, being able to play in tough, back-to-back games.”
On what they learned from the SEC Tournament …
“We just gotta stay together as much as possible. Teams are going to try to break us. Players are going to get fouls. Just gotta stay as a team and try to do what the game plan is coming up.”
On whether they showed progress this weekend …
“Yeah. We definitely showed growth in a bunch of players. We just showed that we have many players that can score there’s not only one option. You gotta stop multiple guys.”
On whether it was important to show they can win without Jarred Vanderbilt …
“Yeah, definitely. That was definitely important, but he’s definitely a big part to our team and we definitely need him out there.”
#32, Wenyen Gabriel, So., F
On his first impressions of the bracket …
“First impression was that we got put in a tough bracket. I looked through the bracket and it’s a tough bracket. But then again, it’s March. You gotta play a tough game every day and we just have to focus on the game at hand. We got Davidson coming up. That’s a good team we gotta focus on right there and I’m not trying to look too far down the bracket after we play Davidson. Hopefully we win, then we’re going to look on to the next game.”
On his NCAA Tournament experience …
“I didn’t play too much last year, but this year my message to them is just focus on the game at hand. We take it one game at a time and stay locked in. The intensity that we brought to this tournament, we gotta play the next game just like that.”
On Davidson …
“I haven’t really watched them play, but I know they had a game this year when they hit 30 3s or something like that. So know they can really shoot the ball well.”
On how important the SEC Tournament was for their confidence …
“It was great. It gave us some kind of experience to sit on, winning the SEC Tournament title. It’s been great for our confidence, especially being a young team, and hopefully we’ll use this firepower to keep going on.”
On whether anything surprised him about this weekend …
“I like the way we responded to that Tennessee run. We got up big and that’s what’s going to happen in March. You get up big and a team makes a run, they come back. When they took a lead, Cal called a timeout. We were forced to respond and the way we responded showed a lot of what we can do and what we’re capable of. I was proud of us.”
On how they guard against overlooking Davidson …
“We let you guys look ahead and we focus on the task at hand. We know obviously from the four-game losing streak that we’ve been through we can’t overlook any team. Any team, they have the ability to beat you. If you don’t come in with the type of focus that you need to win the game, you can eventually lose. So we gotta focus on winning the game, each game one game at a time.”
On whether he has been to Idaho …
On what he knows about Idaho …
“I think it’s the home of the potatoes.”
From UK Athletics
Kentucky Selected for Record 57th NCAA Tournament
Wildcats tabbed the No. 5 seed in the south region
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Hours after winning its 31st Southeastern Conference Tournament title, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball extended its national record for most NCAA Tournament appearances to 57 on Sunday, as the team was selected as the No. 5 seed in the South Region. The Wildcats will play Davidson, the No. 12 seed in the region, on Thursday, March 15 in Boise, Idaho.
This is the second time in program history the Wildcats have earned a No. 5 seed in the annual event. The only previous time was in 2000 when the Wildcats played in Cleveland, defeating St. Bonaventure 85-80 in overtime in the first round before falling to fourth-seeded Syracuse in the second round, 52-50.
Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament fresh off an 77-72 win over No. 13/12 Tennessee (25-8) to seize the SEC Tournament championship. The tournament title was UK’s sixth under John Calipari and fourth straight. The Wildcats (24-10) have won seven of their last eight games entering the NCAA Tournament, with four of those seven wins coming against teams that were ranked or receiving votes in the national listings.
UK is 45-10 in tournament openers and has won 24 of its last 25 first round tournament games. UK owns a 124-50 record all-time in NCAA action, with its .712 winning percentage the fifth-best in NCAA history. This is the fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the Wildcats.
Kentucky owns a 1-0 record all-time against Davidson in the NCAA Tournament, defeating the Wildcats 75-55 in the opening round in 1986 in Charlotte. UK was a No. 1 seed that season and advanced to the regional finals before falling to LSU. Davidson is coming off a 58-57 upset of top-seeded Rhode Island in the finals of the A-10 Tournament on Sunday. In addition to receiving the league’s automatic bid with the win, the Wildcats advanced to their 14th NCAA Tournament and ninth under head coach Bob McKillop. Davidson is 21-11 on the year and has won eight of its last nine games. The Wildcats are averaging 76.4 points per game this season and are paced by senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who is averaging 21.5 points per game with 7.8 rebounds per game.
With a win over Davidson, Kentucky would face the winner of the No. 4 seed Arizona (27-7) vs. No. 13 seed Buffalo (26-8) matchup. Kentucky and Arizona have met just once in the NCAA Tournament in the 1997 championship game with Arizona earning a 84-79 overtime win. UK and Buffalo have never played in the tournament, but Kentucky owns a 1-0 advantage all-time over the Bulls having defeated UB 71-52 on Nov. 16, 2014.
Tickets for the first and second round games in Boise can be purchased by visiting NCAA.com/mbbtickets. Fans will find complete ticket information for all NCAA sites, including information on NCAA Ticket Exchange, the official secondary marketplace for authentic NCAA Tournament tickets. Student ticket information will be posted online at UKStudentTix.com later this evening.
Check back for additional information regarding UK’s 2018 NCAA Tournament appearance.
For the latest on the Kentucky men’s basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB on Twitter and on the web at UKathletics.com.