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March 12, 2017

John Calipari

Lexington, Kentucky

JOHN CALIPARI: How many of you looked at these brackets? Because I have not. I just walked in the door. I know it's our little corner of the world is Northern Kentucky, who has had a terrific year; then Wichita State, who has won 15 in a row; and Dayton who is coached by one of the young stars in our profession in Arch Miller. So that's our little corner. Then I think it's North Carolina, UCLA, and Butler. So that's what I know. I don't know another region -- how is that region? I mean, there's got to be some others there are tough, too. They said they put out the seed, we played into the No. 5 overall, which we played. Guys did what they were supposed to. They did it in tournament play and finished the year and won tough games and got down and still won and so.

Q. Your initial thoughts on the first weekend, to get Northern Kentucky and to be in Indianapolis?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well I love Indy. What a great place to be. So it's a great town, it's a city, but it's kind of like a small town, so it will be great. And they're basketball bennies up there. And the greatest thing is our fans can get there and they probably already scooped up a ton of those tickets, knowing our fans. So, kind of like it.

Q. How much better did your team get over the last few days?
JOHN CALIPARI: Not the last few days, the last three, four weeks. If you remember, it took us three weeks to get to where we were like, what in the world is happening here? And then I said it was going to take us another three weeks to get back and start to grow and that's what's happened. It's kind of played out that way. So, we had to change some stuff around, we had to do some things a little different. We had to practice a little different. Had to emphasize some different things. But the only way that stuff works is if that group in there says, yeah, you tell us what to do, we'll do it. The biggest thing was just energy. Playing and fighting and knowing that you're going to have tough starts and sometimes you're going to have great starts and get up 18, but you just are trying to play for 40 minutes. And what's happened right now is De'Aaron Fox is really, he's come on. He's shooting the ball better, making free throws, how about playing through bumps? Do you remember he would drive and just the guy, oooh, and just throw it. And now all of a sudden he's connected, hitting, making "and one's", getting to the foul line. We still have having some bad turnovers at times, but I'm not worried about that if they fight and we -- this, what happens for us the rest of the way will all be based on how we guard. If we defend and we figure out how people are going to try to attack us and we have some different ways to combat that, but it will be all based on defense.

Q. Do you like when they put you with one of the small schools from the state like they have this year?
JOHN CALIPARI: That's fine. What time is the game?

Q. Doesn't say.
JOHN CALIPARI: What day of the week is it?

Q. Friday?
JOHN CALIPARI: They gave us Friday? I thought they would try to make it Thursday again. Thursday at noon. So Friday means -- what's the chances of noon? TV, we'll say.

Q. 7:30.
JOHN CALIPARI: Yes, that's my guess. So, play a normal time game. I kind of like these noon games. The game's over, you win, you're happy, whistling, skipping, take a little nap, watch some tape. But I'm not sure they -- like Malik and those guys, I saw Derek get up this morning. So I was leaving the hotel around 5 to 7 and they were waiting for their ride to the arena. So it's kind of neat seeing that, too.

Q. Do you feel like your team made a case for a 1 seed?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I mean Gonzaga, they lose one game. Oregon and Arizona, I thought Arizona would be the 1, but wouldn't matter, it's the 1 and the 2. And they're both where you would expect them to be. But they said we were 5, I would say North Carolina's, right now, when you talk about who has got the team, it's probably North Carolina. But that's fine. I mean, we played our way in. From what everybody's saying, there's a couple -- can you imagine a couple brackets harder than ours? Now this is my 8th year. It's not been close. Called it Murderer's Row and Insane Row and so they say -- I haven't looked at them, but.

Q. It seems like in years past you've been pretty worked up over the seed and stuff like that. It seems like you're okay with it.
JOHN CALIPARI: Okay, let me tell you why. Let me tell you why. There are teams that get into tournament play and play well and go from a 5 seed to a 2 seed. We win our tournament and the team in front of us goes to a 3 seed and we go to a 4. And we beat them. What do you want me to say? We go to the Florida game, they give us an 8 seed. 8 seed. Give us a 6 or a 5 and I would have been, okay. 8? Even last year, that affected us how we do. The seeding is really important, if you want to advance. And if you don't think it's important, you have never coached, you never been a part of this. So, other than a 1 seed, which that little, the hiccup in the middle of the season, but, again, we lost to Kansas and UCLA and Louisville on the road and Florida on the road and, I mean, the Tennessee game on the road. Other than that, who else beats us? Oh, no one. I mean, we took care of business for a young team.

Q. Do you like fact that you'll have to play some teams you've already seen before in this path that they have set up, UCLA, North Carolina, you've already faced those teams.
JOHN CALIPARI: I don't know. They're really good teams. We had a guy that went for 67. They should have beat us. And the other team beat us and beat us good. The score wasn't indicative of how bad they beat us. So hopefully we're a better team, for both of those games. And North Carolina had a kid out, point guard we weren't sure was going to play, it was first game back. They're good. But so is Dayton, there's teams along the way that you look at and you say, wow. For us it's just, let's get started, let's get this first weekend and see what happens. I'm not looking ahead. You guys know how I do this. We'll focus on this weekend and see if we can be the best of that group and if we are, we'll move on.

Q. Without looking ahead, what do you think of the competition as a whole within this tournament?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, this is one of those years -- look, in past years we all knew there were about five teams that could win the national title. Sometimes less. Three teams. Four teams. But there would be about 10 or 12 that could get to the Final Four. This year, you're talking 10 or 12 that could maybe break through and do something crazy. And you're probably talking 20 to 22, 23, that could get to a Final Four. I mean, when you talk West of, I imagine Arizona is out there with Gonzaga. Those are Final Four teams. I don't know who the 3 is out there.

Q. Florida State.
JOHN CALIPARI: Florida State? Who is maybe one of those talented teams. And the 4, if they're not with us, they're probably West, West Virginia. Are they in our bracket?

Q. No.
JOHN CALIPARI: So then they're West. Okay. So, now you got another team that's hard to play, man. They play a different style and if you've never seen it and you walk in, you know West Virginia could be another team that could make it.

Q. It seems like with your team the last couple of weeks when things aren't going right mentally they're in a better frame of mind even during those situations. Do you see that at all?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, I think that they're just starting to rely on each other and everybody's, you have to really focus on what's the job at hand and what is my role in this, what do have I to do. And we're just, it's hard when you get it started everybody's trying to figure out where they are and now we're kind of coming together and we're kind of linking arms a little bit and that's what you want to do. I was so happy Wenyen played better today and Isaac played better today. Mychal Mulder has never played better for us. Dom, come on. Who didn't shed a tear on seeing that? I mean Dom, all-conference, what he did all week. De'Aaron Fox, you're seeing him break through. Malik struggled, but did other things to help us win. We're finally throwing the ball to Bam. I mean, there's stuff we haven't done all year that we're starting to do and in that kind of environment -- and again, look, we use the conference tournament to prepare us for this. That's it. Like to win it, but we're playing it to say, what are we going to look like next week. What do we got to do. And there were things today I got on them about and I said, I'm not worried about this game, you can't do this in an 8-point, 6-point game. This was 17. But if it's eight, all of a sudden if you do that and do that and do that and miss two free throws, all of a sudden, dudes, it went the wrong way and your season ends. You can't do these things. But that's a young team and it gave me three more games and a chance to teach and work with them, which was good.

Q. The next week in the next week, can you do, will you do any more tweaking or just build on what you guys already are?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, there's some things -- we're going to talk as a staff. Are there any defensive weaknesses that we have that they may try to exploit. And if they do, let's not surrender like we did last year. Let's not say, if these don't play well, these guys, we lose. We'll play five guards. We'll do -- what do you do, how do we do this. And we'll probably discuss that and then we'll work on it a bit. I would say some teams are going to play us zone. We have got to get in that a little bit and maybe work on our zone a little bit, in case someone's beating us on the dribble or we get in foul trouble. You got to have enough -- I like the fact that we're pressing different ways now. We got more bullets in the gun. We don't, it's not just one round and you're and you spin it and, ping, oh, geez, we missed. It's all right. We can try this, we can try this, we got different things. The biggest thing is we got really good players. If they defend, we'll have a chance in every game we play. If they will just come out and say, we're going to be the best defense. We'll score just because of our talent, our speed, the ability to shoot the ball from different positions.

Q. Once we all get out of the your hair what's your Selection Sunday ritual?
JOHN CALIPARI: It's not a ritual, what I'll do is we'll see what we can get on Northern Kentucky. We won't do anything, I won't, beyond Northern Kentucky. The staff will. I don't want to hear about it, I don't want to know. I'm worried about Northern Kentucky. We'll see what they do and how they play and what we have to do. Tomorrow will be an individual workday with the guys that haven't played a whole lot. The other guys will get massaged. And they're on break, so we'll do something tomorrow night. Probably a dinner and a movie. And then Tuesday, Wednesday we'll have two great practices, we'll leave on Wednesday, for Indy, I imagine, and then we play Friday. So, we got like time. I mean, and if you look back, they fired us in on Thursdays. Like, deal with that. Like, you know, they gave us Thursdays. And that stuff is a hard -- that's five games, folks, in eight days, the NBA doesn't do that. Five games in eight days, all away from home, all against ranked opponents. They're not machines, they're not computers. I mean, I hope maybe we can move this championship off this Sunday. Because it's just, it's a tough deal.

Q. So you're happy.
JOHN CALIPARI: I'm happy. I'm always happy. Come on, what are you talking about. What? What, I've not been happy? Come on.

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