John Calipari hits 'reboot' button, looking to rejuvenate young Kentucky team
John Calipari hit the reboot button with his young Wildcats team, hoping to rekindle 2014 magic
In 2014, John Calipari's 22-9 Kentucky team had fallen from preseason No. 1 to out of the Associated Press rankings entirely. It was the first time that happened in 34 years.
It was the same day the Wildcats coach revealed that he had made a now infamous "tweak" to the team, which sparked a remarkable turnaround for a young and struggling Kentucky team.
A month later, that rejuvenated team went from unranked to unbelievable, making a postseason run as a No. 8 seed through the NCAA Tournament. The season ended in disappointment -- a national title game loss to UConn -- but in a place almost no one would have projected a month prior.
This season's Wildcats (19-5) haven't slipped quite as far, but UK still fell from a No. 1 ranking earlier this season to No. 15 in the latest polls after dropping three of four entering this week.
Calipari is hoping another tweak a la 2014 with his current team can help spark a similar postseason run -- doing so a full month before the end of the season. Just don't call it a tweak.
"We rebooted today," said Calipari on his radio show Monday via SEC Country. "I talked specifically to a couple players: 'Here's how I want you to play.' To make it simple for them. And the great news for all you fans: (Monday) was good and there were a lot of players smiling."
The changes may be paying off. Kentucky looked very strong in the first half of its 92-85 win over LSU on Tuesday night. But second-half struggles show that UK still has some work to do.
The Cats' roster is similarly constructed to the 2013-14 team. With five 5-star freshman on the roster (and three in starting roles), UK is young and inexperienced, much like the 2014 roster that featured freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, James Young and Dakari Johnson.
While this UK team often shows its youth and inexperience on the court, it has also proven it can play at a high level. So with its embarrassing 22-point loss to Florida in the rear-view, Calipari is taking measures to make sure he gets his team back on track before the train gets derailed.
"The tweak was .. we weren't good all year," Calipari said Monday of his 2014 tweak. "I had to do something to get us going. But guess what with this [current] team? We were good [this season]. We were good."
With seven games left in the regular season, this young team still has plenty of potential. The Wildcats will be favored to win every SEC game from here on out, and they're likely to earn a favorable seeding in March. No one is writing this team off, despite the recent losses.
So what exactly did the latest reboot entail? And will it be enough to fuel another magical postseason run? If it's anything that produces similar results as 2014, Kentucky fans should be pleased with the head coach's latest tactics.
With Selection Sunday a month away, that could be just enough time for this young team to round into form. One thing we've learned: Don't bet against John Calipari.
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