Calipari to mull changes after UK's stunning exit

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PITTSBURGH — Sitting at the dais in his hometown’s arena, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari was something close to shell-shocked after his No. 3-seeded Wildcats’ improbable 80-76 loss to No. 14-seed Oakland.

Now 1-4 in his past five NCAA tournament games, matching the program’s worst five-game span in the tournament, Calipari considered what Thursday night’s loss could mean for his approach to constructing the team’s roster.

“I’ve done this with young teams my whole career, and it’s going to be hard for me to change that, because we’ve helped so many young people and their families that I don’t see myself just saying, ‘OK, we’re not going to recruit freshmen,'” Calipari said.

Of Kentucky’s 15 rostered players, eight were freshmen and three were sophomores. Oakland, meanwhile, has one freshman and a pair of redshirt freshmen. Five of the Grizzlies’ players were either seniors or graduate transfers.

Entering 2022, Kentucky was 19-0 against 14-seeds or lower in the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, but it is 0-2 in games since, including the 2022 loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s. The Wildcats were 13.5-point favorites Thursday night.

“I’ll look at other ways that we can do stuff, but, you know, there’s — this thing here, it’s a different animal,” Calipari said. “We’ve been able to help so many kids and win so many games and Final Fours, national titles and all this stuff, win league championships with young guys.

“It’s changed on us. All of a sudden it’s gotten really old. So we’re playing teams that our average age is 19, their average age is 24 and 25. So do I change because of that? Maybe add a couple older guys to supplement.”

The process to rebuilding from another early March exit begins immediately after losing to Oakland, Calipari said.

“We’ve got to figure out who’s coming back and who’s not. We got this transfer stuff going on,” said Calipari, who has been at the helm of the Wildcats since 2009. “We may not need it. We have an unbelievable group coming in that I feel really good about.

“We add some guys and they stay. I mean, you know — I’m going to — I’ll meet with them tonight. I talked to them after. But I’m going to meet with them in my room tonight, and these guys took this really hard. I mean, they took it really hard, and I took it hard.”

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