John Calipari hasn’t won a game at Bud Walton Arena while at Kentucky.
No, you read that correctly.
With all of the superstar-laden teams Calipari has had with the Wildcats, they haven’t beaten Arkansas in Fayetteville. If there is a hurdle he hasn’t cleared since landing in Lexington, it’s beating the Razorbacks on the road.
The No. 23 Wildcats (13-4, 3-2 SEC) enter tonight’s game tied with Arkansas in the league standings and vulnerable away from Rupp Arena. Kentucky is only 1-3 in true road games, with losses to UCLA, LSU and Auburn.
Calipari didn’t beat Arkansas even when John Pelphrey was coaching the Hogs.
And it drives Kentucky fans crazy.
To stroll down memory lane:
• 2011 … Arkansas beat the Wildcats 77-76 in overtime. It was probably Pelphrey’s signature win, if you want to give him a signature on anything in Fayetteville.
• 2013 … Sylvan Hills’ Archie Goodwin returns to his home state with Kentucky and Mike Anderson’s first team found a way to win big, 73-60, at the first jam-packed Bud Walton in a long, long time for a Sunday afternoon nationally-televised game.
• 2014 … Again, the Hogs win in overtime, downing Kentucky 87-85.
By the same token, Arkansas hasn’t beaten Kentucky in Lexington under Mike Anderson. The teams the Wildcats have brought in to Fayetteville haven’t been the overloaded NBA-futures teams … but it’s still Kentucky.
“You can’t compare this year’s team to last year’s,” Anderson said in a press conference Wednesday.
But it’s, well, it’s the Wildcats, right?
“It’s a different team, but same Kentucky,” he said. “They’ve got a brand they bring to the table.”
Calipari’s teams don’t change a whole lot in what they do. When they have all those NBA first-round draft choices, the results are just more eye-popping. Quite simply, better players, better results.
“Their field goal percentage is going tobe really good,” Anderson said, “they’re going to out-rebound a lot of teams and get to the free-throw line more than their opponents.”
Anderson’s teams don’t usually spend a lot of practice time on specific matchups.
“we prepare for everybody in our practice,” Anderson said Wednesday. “We know they are going to be a talented team. Last year they had some tremendous post presence, the No. 1 pick in the draft (Karl-Anthony Towns) … and they had a mixture of experience and some very talented kids. Now they come with another group of one-and-dones.”
Maybe not as talented as some years, but, as is often the case in basketball, coaching tendencies don’t vary a whole lot.
And, after all, it will still be Kentucky.
“”They’ve got a brand they bring to the table,” Anderson said.
For a team like Arkansas that is gaining some momentum — and respect — early in the season, it’s a chance to add to that.
After all, it’s still Kentucky.