Lexington, Ky. Kentucky opened its practice on Wednesday, allowing students, faculty, staff and a national television audience to watch the top-ranked Wildcats’ workout and scrimmage.
“I want the students into it, I want the players alert and focused through the week,” coach John Calipari said. “Our practices are pretty consistent in how we go about it, then it turns into ... ‘Why don’t we call ESPN?’ Then it was like, ‘I bet it rates higher than games.’ It’s Kentucky. That’s the Kentucky Effect.”
The Wildcats are trying to become the first team since 2003 to finish the Southeastern Conference undefeated. Next up for Kentucky (25-1, 11-0) is Mississippi (15-9, 5-5) on Saturday.
They also have games remaining at Mississippi State, home versus Vanderbilt and Georgia and the regular-season finale at Florida on March 4.
“The way we’re playing, I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied. I’m just not satisfied because I want to make sure we’re getting better and I’m looking for areas where can we grow,” Calipari said. “I guess we could be more perfect, but the reality is I’m happy how we’re playing, but I’m not satisfied. I want us to improve on that.”
Calipari decided to open practice after what happened in the days leading up to Kentucky’s only loss. The Wildcats beat North Carolina by a point on Dec. 3, but fell at Indiana on Christian Watford’s buzzer beating three-pointer exactly one week later after he gave the team two days off. He also downplayed that any team would gain an advantage watching the practice on television.
“You say, ‘Well, what if this doesn’t work?’ I know the other doesn’t work, because I lived it,” Calipari said. “The other thing we did absolutely didn’t work after North Carolina. So I’m trying something different. Maybe it won’t work, but we’ll see. We’re really not changing anything.”
The afternoon practice drew about 2,000 people to the 8,000-seat Memorial Coliseum who received free tickets as students, faculty or staff at the university. The Wildcats wanted to make it open to the public, but parking around the campus while school was in session proved to be too logistically complicated to solve on short notice.