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Calipari says he has date set for UK-Louisville game … if it happens

John Calipari - photo by Brendon D. Miller - Bluegrass Sports Nation

LEXINGTON – September 29, 2020 – KEITH TAYLOR

The date and time is set for Kentucky’s annual rivalry game with Louisville this season.

“We have the date and the time and unless that changes, if they choose not to play, then we’ll plug in another team,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “We already had that team set. So, where we are, you guys know I like to be ahead of this. You’re not going to throw the fire hose at me and it’s hitting me in the nose and mouth and I’m trying to figure out a schedule. I’m not going to do that.

“We kind of knew we’re going to have some home games with no fans, which is crap, but we got no choice. We’re also going on the road a couple of times without fans, which isn’t fair to them, but there’s not competitive equity. It is what it is.”

The two teams are set to meet in Louisville this season, but Calipari admitted he’s not sure if Louisville coach Chris Mack or athletics director Vince Tyra are fully committed to playing the contest during a pandemic. 

“I’m not gonna tell you what they’re thinking or what they’re doing,” he said. “I just know that the terms of the contract, we go there and they come here next year. How about, does anybody really know what this virus is going to do? I mean, what if we’re in next year and we’re in the same boat? Then we got them at home with no fans. We don’t know. This virus is running us. We are not running this virus. And so, you know, you’d have to talk to them. My hope is we’re playing the game this year, but we’re prepared if not.”

Calipari’s hope is that the two teams can play this season, but also has a contingency plan in case the Cardinals opt out of the contest. The Wildcats defeated the Cardinals 78-70 last season at Rupp Arena and have won 12 of the last 13 games between the two in-state rivals. 

Calipari said the rivalry should be played regardless of the circumstances.

“I think that game is good for our state,” he said. “It should be played, but I’m not — I’m running Kentucky’s program. That’s what I do. I’m not telling any other program what they should or shouldn’t do.”

Four former Kentucky players, including three coached by Calipari, are in the NBA Finals. Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo are with the Los Angeles Lakers, while Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo represent the Miami Heat in the best-of-seven series that begins Wednesday.

“The environment here, everything about it is preparing them for the NBA. It’s an NBA environment,” Calipari said. “How we practice, the competitiveness in practice, the games, the shots, every shot matters here. There’s no like, that’s an easy game.  Every game is sold out and all of that. So, these kids, it’s kind of like their rookie year is here. They go in with that kind of an advantage. But they still have to do it. They still have to go out and perform with some athletic, smart, basketball-savvy guy guarding them or they have to guard. There’s a fight and a spirit to these guys.”

Calipari said the success of his players at the next level helps on the recruiting trail.

“I don’t think it can hurt. I’m back and forth with the guys, and whether it was Enes (Kanter) in the bubble or guys in the playoffs, what you want to see in that culture is their fight, their competitive spirit, and their fearlessness that they’ve taken,” he said. “They’ve been in an environment where every shot matters.”

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