In an extremely loaded four-team preseason tournament, the Legends Classic in Atlanta tonight will place No. 7 Kansas against No. 14 Michigan State on one side of the bracket while the defending national champion No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats will face the No. 9 Duke Blue Devils.
Although Kentucky escaped its matchup with the Maryland Terrapins on Friday at the Barclays Center, it’s clear that this Kentucky team is a work in progress and will try to find itself as the season progresses.
Wins or losses aren’t the only thing that matters; player and team development are being placed at a premium at a school that specializes in the one-and done, and Coach John Calipari knows his job is to hold the bar high for his players.
“I told Ryan [Harrow] and Alex [Poythress], ‘I know you’re better than you both played and I’m fine; just come back and the next game and play better,'” Calipari said after his 72-69 win over the Terrapins.
“I don’t take this personally. My job is to care about each one of these kids and help them get better, including Jared Polson. My job is to hold the bar high on a guy like Kyle [Wiltjer]; You have to rebound and defend – you’re not just here to shoot balls. On Archie Goodwin: You have to rebound the ball. Alex Poythress: You have to be a better defender. You can’t … You don’t foul, you don’t leave your feet … And just hold the bar high. We’ve got a bunch of good guys. I like my team. We’re not very good right now.”
So with that, Calipari’s youthful squad will head to Atlanta to face a Duke team that will pressure the Wildcats into making quicker decisions in their halfcourt offense, forcing them to read situations and react quickly and efficiently. Along with making reads, Kentucky’s guts will be tested as well.