Calipari doesn’t know what to expect in showdown against Kansas

Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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Kentucky will face a major test Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (2-0) will face top-ranked Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic in Chicago. Kentucky (2-0) start, split two games with the Jayhawks in the classic, which also features Duke and Michigan State. The Blue Devils and Spartans will meet in the opener at 7 p.m., followed by the Wildcats and Jayhawks at 9:30 p.m.

“They’re a veteran team, older players and we’ve got young guys,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday. “We have no idea how they will respond. I’m hoping they respond. Sometimes, they’re so young, they don’t know and they just go play well. I don’t know what to expect.”

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Calipari, whose team dropped one spot to No. 17 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released Monday, said the Jayhawks are deserving of the top ranking.

“Kansas is the No. 1 team in the country and should be,” Calipari said. “They’re not going to beat themselves. They play hard. They’re very aggressive. They’ll play fast when they can.”

The Wildcats have won their first two games, including an 81-61 win over Texas A&M Commerce last Friday and has been bolstered by a balanced scoring attack. For the first time since the 2011-12 season, five players scored in double figures in the first two contests.

Antonio Reeves leads the Wildcats in scoring at 16 points per game, followed by freshman Rob Dillingham (14.5 ppg), Justin Edwards (14 ppg), Tre Mitchell (13.5 ppg) and D.J. Wagner (12 ppg).

Calipari wants the Wildcats to play with the same of freedom they have displayed in the first two games.

“(We just have to) go play loose and free and have fun and let’s see who we are right now,” Calipari said. “This is our third game. This is literally a brand new team. We’ve shown signs of really good and we’ve shown signs of ‘oh my gosh, we have to be better than this,’ which is typical.”

Much like Kentucky, Kansas (2-0) easily defeated its first two foes and is coming off a 99-61 rout of Manhattan last Friday. Despite the fast start, Kansas coach Bill Self is expecting a tougher opponent in the Wildcats.

“It’ll be a totally different animal than what we’ve experienced so far,” Self said. “We’ll be very excited about it. I know that both programs will and both sets of players and should be a lot of fun.”