Cal: 'It's a tough first game for us'

Kentucky coach John Calipari got his first in-depth look at Kansas State beginning Sunday night after it was announced his 8th-seeded Wildcats would be facing the Big 12 club on Friday in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky coach John Calipari got his first in-depth look at Kansas State beginning Sunday night after it was announced his 8th-seeded Wildcats would be facing the Big 12 club on Friday in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

What he saw on film was impressive for a team sporting a 9 seed.

"I watched some tape, and I tell you what, they're a veteran, physical (team)," Calipari said during Monday's SEC coaches teleconference. "Great defensively, motion offense. Really different kinds of motion, and they try to beat you off the dribble and be physical. A lot like the teams – LSU, Georgia and Florida – that we just played."

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Kansas State (20-12, 10-8) finished fifth out of 10 schools in the highly-competitive Big 12, considered by many analysts to be the best conference in college basketball this season. The Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament on a three-game losing skid, but own a pair of impressive wins this season over RPI Top 10 clubs Kansas and Iowa State.

Bruce Weber's Wildcats are led by freshman guard Marcus Foster, who averages 15.6 points per game and shoots 40 percent from 3-point range. He hit 78 of his team's 193 3-point shots this season.

The Wildcats aren't high-scoring, but they're a good passing squad, averaging more than 15 per game. Five KSU players have recorded 55 or more assists this season, compared to just three for UK.

Kansas State also has a physical post player in 6-foot-7, 265-pound Thomas Gipson, who averages 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

"He's been outstanding," Calipari said of Foster. "… Makes big shots, not afraid to score it.

"They have perimeter guys that can really play and shoot it and have the freedom to go do their thing, and… their big isn't 7-foot, but he's that wide. He's a big-bodied (guy) who angles to the rim. He'll put his body on you on drives."

Calipari knows it's an opponent that is more than capable of sending his young Cats home after one game.

"It's a tough first game… for both of us," he said.

The UK boss said one of the first things he decided to do this week was to give his players a chance to recover from the SEC Tournament. The Cats played three competitive games in less than 48 hours, which concluded with a near-upset of No. 1 Florida in the championship game. The Gators denied UK on the final possession of the game to win 61-60 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

"We had to give our kids a day off after the week we went through (last) Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to get ready to play for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and the wars we played in. (But) seems like they're in a great frame of mind right now."


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