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April 1, 2012

Notes: Calipari, Self meet in second NCAA title game

NEW ORLEANS - Don't ask John Calipari to dissect the finish of his last NCAA title game tilt with Kansas coach Bill Self.

The Kentucky coach hasn't seen it since he caught the live act.

That was in 2008, when Calipari was the coach at Memphis and Self's Jayhawks beat his Tigers 75-68 in overtime, winning the national championship in San Antonio.

KU's Mario Chalmers sank a three-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play in regulation that sent the game into overtime, and Kansas went on to win the title in overtime.

"I have never looked at that tape," Calipari said Sunday, on the eve of coaching Kentucky against Kansas in Monday's NCAA title game at the Superdome. "That tape was flung out the door of the bus as we were going to the plane."

Self kept his copy.

"I could recite just about every possession if you want to go through it right now because I've seen it enough," Self said. "I think there for a stretch - I'm not a big workout guy, but doing my little Elliptical every day - I watched the game every day I worked out, 50 straight days or something like that. I could go over a few possessions with you, if you want."

The game has a special place in Self's heart. It was his first - and to date, his only - NCAA title, a milestone Calipari still is pursuing. Mostly, Self said, that's changed the way people view him from the outside. He doesn't coach much differently. He hasn't changed much.

"I got a new contract," he said with a smile. "That was one thing."

Still, Self has been where Calipari is now, working to win a first title. Calipari said that chase doesn't consume him, and Self can see how it wouldn't.

"I think the thing that you have to do is think about what you have to do to win (a title) and not worry about what comes after you win," Self said. "You got to enjoy the process. I'm not thinking anything about 'What happens after we win?' I'm thinking about, 'How do we win?' Your focus isn't on those things. Your focus is on the task at hand."

That title in 2008 could easily have been Calipari's. The Tigers led by nine points with 2:12 to play in regulation and shot 1-for-5 from the free-throw line in the final 1:15 before the Chalmers three-pointer.

Calipari doesn't need to review the tape to take a lesson from that.

"Make free throws!" Calipari said. "That's what I learned."

He won't take much else from it. He hasn't seen it, and he doesn't plan to.

"I have never looked at that tape, nor will I," Calipari said. "I haven't looked at the Connecticut tape (of UK's Final Four loss) from last year. That was thrown out. The only thing I would learn from that thing is, 'Oh, my gosh, we lost.' I'm moving on."

Wildcats see wild scenes
Mostly thanks to social media, Kentucky's players were aware of the happenings in Lexington after Saturday's Final Four win against Louisville as fans spilled into the streets in celebration.

"I heard it was pretty crazy," senior Darius Miller said. "I didn't get to see too much. I heard a lot. I've got a few pictures, a few videos sent to my phone. I couldn't really tell because it was dark. It seems like everybody's having a good time."

Some fans took the revelry too far. There were fan riots. Fans near campus overturned at least one car and set fire to another. City officials reported at least 39 fires.

Calipari said he was "disappointed" in the reaction. "I don't know if that ties into having too much to drink," Calipari said. "I mean, it might have. But our fans are the classiest fans. They would never storm a court. They just don't do it. Rupp Arena, if you win a big game, they're not storming the court, because you're supposed to win, so there ain't no storming. They're not vicious to the opponent. They're not that way.

"I think, again, the state of Kentucky is so connected to this program. It's the Commonwealth's team. They go overboard sometimes."

Most of the fires were the result of fans burning couches or other furniture.

"I don't want to go to that person's house," forward Terrence Jones said. "They don't have nowhere for me to sit. That's crazy. I know if I caught anything on fire in my house, my mom would probably go crazy, so I don't know what that's like."

Coaches share roots
Calipari got his start in coaching as a volunteer at Kansas when Larry Brown was the head coach there. After he left, Self took a similar position, and Brown has been an influence on both coaches.

"My first impression was I wanted to be like him," Self said. "I mean, as a coach, I wanted to be like him. I loved the way he handled players. I loved the way he thought about the game. I loved the way he taught the game. I loved the way he was always cool under pressure. I wanted to be like him."

On Friday, Calipari said he, too, tried to emulate Brown.

"I wanted to be like Larry Brown," Calipari said. "The problem was he had a bad hip. So you start talking like him, dressing like him, and I developed a limp, and I didn't have a bad hip."

Over the years, Calipari and Self have drawn from other coaches and developed their own styles of play. Self served as an assistant to former UK coach Eddie Sutton, and his high-low offense is predicated on some of Sutton's principles.

But Brown's influence remains.

"The one thing that is pretty consistent is who we are, what our staple is - we guard our man," Self said. "(Calipari's teams) play straight man to man for the most part, we play straight man to man for the most part. That's something Coach Brown has always done as well."

There are other basic similarities that Calipari said have their roots in Brown's instruction.

"I will tell you offense to defense, defense to offense, which is one of Coach Brown's major points, I think both of our teams do that well," Calipari said. "I think taking care of the ball and getting good shots each time down, that's one of his things. Making easy plays. Defensively both teams are pretty good. I think that's Coach Brown."


Game Information

Kentucky vs. Kansas
April 2, 9:23 p.m.
Superdome
New Orleans

TV: CBS
Radio: UK IMG Network
Series: Kentucky leads 20-6
Last Meeting: Kentucky won 75-65 on Nov. 15, 2011 in New York City.

No. 1 Kentucky (37-2, 16-0 SEC)
Coach: John Calipari (504-152; 101-14 at Kentucky)
Kansas (32-6, 16-2 Big 12)
Coach: Bill Self (476-157; 269-52 at Kansas)
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Marquis Teague Fr. 6-2/189 9.9 2.5
G Doron Lamb So. 6-4/210 13.5 2.7
F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Fr. 6-7/232 11.9 7.5
F Terrence Jones So. 6-9/252 12.4 7.2
F Anthony Davis Fr. 6-10/220 14.4 10.2
Pos. Name Yr. Ht./Wt. PPG RPG
G Elijah Johnson Jr. 6-4/195 10.1 3.3
G Tyshawn Taylor Sr. 6-3/185 16.5 2.3
C Jeff Withey Jr. 7-0/235 9.1 6.3
F Thomas Robinson Jr. 6-10/237 17.7 11.7
F Travis Releford Jr. 6-6/210 8.6 4.3

Key Storylines

Starry Night
Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Kansas' Thomas Robinson were neck-and-neck most of the year for national Player of the Year honors, and though Davis beat out Robinson for the hardware, both players are crucial to their teams' national title hopes. For all Davis' shot-blocking prowess, Robinson isn't backing down. Asked what he and center Jeff Withey need to do to deal with Davis, Robinson said, "Nothing. I mean, Anthony Davis is a great player, but he's not Superman."

Underdogs Can Bite
Kentucky is favored to win Monday, and the Jayhawks didn't dispute on Sunday that the Cats have had the better season. But Kansas went 16-2 in the Big 12 despite not having a McDonald's All-American on its roster, and the Jayhawks believe they're up to the challenge. "We can come out and play and we can be a better team for 40 minutes, even though on paper they're better," guard Tyshawn Taylor said.



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