I previously posted a number of questions I posed to a writer from UCHuskies.com. Matthew Farrell was such a great sport; I decided to post the questions he asked me, along with my answers.
MF: After the epic feel of last season, what were you expecting this year coming in? How did those expectations change, if at all, after the Maui game against us?
RAP: It is very refreshing to know that the Northeast understands that a 35–3 record is an “epic feel” at Kentucky if a national title is not attached to it. The expectations of this season were high, but not “Final Four high” without the presence of Enes Kanter. The loss to UConn in Maui only affected our season because it was a loss, nothing more than that.
MF: There are a select few sets of well-traveled fan bases in the country, but your fans seem to go the extra mile–sometimes literally, when it comes to supporting your team away from home. How does Kentucky bring that many people to faraway games, compared with other elite schools?
RAP: We normally use automobiles, planes, trains, and whatever other means of transportation is necessary. No one travels like the Big Blue nation. We are passionate about our program and realize that the presence of our fans helps our team. We will travel anywhere and are looking forward to the first tournament on the international Space Station.
MF: The SEC as a league really seemed to be on the rise this year, and your squad lost a lot of nailbiters on the road. What home court atmosphere, outside of Lexington, do you think is the most challenging in the conference?
RAP: Our conference was actually terrible this year. The SEC West was as bad as it has been in the time the SEC was split into two divisions. In recent history, the Cats have had the toughest time at Vanderbilt. The awkward court and bench positioning seems to throw us off. Plus that many nerds gathered in one building distracts our squad.
MF: I still remember the wild Patrick Sparks shot in the Elite 8 six years ago, and I’m not a fan of MSU or UK. Even though you lost, where does that unreal play stack up against recent Kentucky memories on the court?
RAP: Patrick Sparks is one of my favorite all-time Cats Unfortunately, Kentucky was unable to get a defensive rebound late in overtime and lost that game to the Spartans. If Kentucky would have won, Sparks shot would be in the top 5 moments in Kentucky history. Patrick high-fiving Billy Packer is classic.
MF: During last year’s NBA draft in which several of his players declared early, Coach Calipari made comments suggesting that seeing his players drafted was more rewarding to him as a coach than them winning a championship. As a UK fan, what are your thoughts on this?
RAP: Of course, to a fan, his comments suggesting that the draft was the greatest moment in Kentucky history was ridiculous. Saying that, cal is a recruiter, and possibly the greatest recruiter. Nothing that he says in public is said for no reason. If those remarks help us get the greatest talent to UK, say whatever the hell you want.
MF: Louisville fans seem to really hate you guys–as a fellow Big East school we hear about it all the time on our fan boards. Does the hatred go as strong the other way, or do you look at them as more the little brother in the rivalry?
RAP: Little brother (Louisville) has had a tough run lately. We are on a long winning streak against them in football and there is no sign of light for them in the current losing streak to the Cats on the hard-wood. They have a very ‘cute’ commuter school over there and are doing the best they can.
MF: When you think of UConn basketball as a program, what comes to mind–other than Coach Calhoun? What are your views on our program?
RAP: No offense, but UConn is not a program Kentuckians talk about much. There is no question they have had great success in recent history, but when your greatest moments are in the last 20 years, you have a while before you become relevant in the bluegrass. The UConn women get a lot more run down here than the men do.
MF: Can you point to a particular game or even moment this season, when you really thought your team could make a deep tourney run, despite their struggles?
RAP: The SEC championship game against Florida was the first sign that we had a shot. The Cats won, 70 – 54 , and it wasn’t even that close. Then came selection Sunday a few hours later, and it once again looked as if we didn’t have a shot. Shows what we know.
MF: It’s a tie game Saturday and Brandon Knight is killing the clock, preparing to set up the final play. Do you think we’re better off employing the OSU/Princeton strategy and taking our chances, or do we need to show extra attention to him other than simply our best defender?
RAP: The best part of this Kentucky team is that they have multiple scorers. Knight has had 2 game winners in the tournament because he had the best look in those 2 situations. If you double Knight late in the game, you are leaving open either Miller, Liggins, Lamb, or Jones. It is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. My advice is to just not guard anyone and allow us to win. You probably are not going to beat VCU anyway.