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March 30, 2014

Kentucky's Calipari ready for Beilein, Michigan

Michigan is a two-point underdog today against No. 8 seed Kentucky, but Wildcats head coach John Calipari is wary of the Wolverines, aware of the challenge that awaits.

U-M head Beilein and Calipari have never talked much, Beilein said this week, but they've crossed paths.

"I really respect him as a coach," Calipari said. "He's played a different style he took the Princeton and did what he wanted to do with it, but a lot of the same principles. I love that he creates a culture wherever he goes, which is what he wants the culture to be, and I love the fact that he's just a good guy. He's a good man, and you want to be in that company. If I see him out or see him at mass or whatever, he always has a good comment for you or, 'how are you, what's going on?'

"He's a good man and a terrific, terrific basketball coach."

Calipari's young team will face a team only a bit older on Saturday.

"He has veterans that go along with these young kids that he has, and it makes it easier because they can be coached by him and each other," he said. "What they're trying to do is more of a it's not running plays, it's more of, 'how do we play to create good shots for each other?' It may be a down screen, but he may slip. It may be I'm popping this time and I'm going to go into a hand off. There are backdoors in it.

"It's more of a free flowing, quote, "Princeton" kind of offense, yet they play fast. They score a lot of points. It's not like they're scoring 55 points, he's not doing that, but I'll tell you what - he's got these kids bought into their role in that offense. And I think that's the challenge of coaching young players. He's done unbelievable work in getting those kids to really believe and accept their roles."

It's not easy to prepare for, especially in less than a day.

"You have to understand, I've got 16 hours to get these guys ready," Calipari said. "The good news is well, he had about 19 hours, o you don't have the time to go and say, 'here are the 12 things they're going to do, and defensively here's what they're going to do.' You just don't have time.

"It's going to be our best, hopefully, against their best and see who comes out on top. Neither one of us are going to change much. They play how we do; we play how we do."

The Wolverines will shoot the ball, he noted, led by sophomore Stauskas. Morgan is one who is "much better than you think" in Calipari's words.

"He understands how a big man in that offense has to play," he said. "He does a great job of screening. He does a great job of slipping. He will fly up and down the floor. He understands in pick and rolls how to get the man on his body yet fly down the middle. He understands his role in this offense much better than everybody thinks or gives him enough credit for. He is really, really good.

"Stauskas is also good. You could say we're going to try to not let him shoot any balls, but he's going to get off threes. They're going to dribble at him and run him backdoor and he's going to get a lot of hand offs. You can't say, 'He's a hard right driver.' He'll go either way. But you do know if you lose him in transition, if you lose him in penetration and he's open, don't even try to rebound it. Just run back. So you've got to know that guarding him. He's that good."

U-M is also "better than you think defensively, he said, covering elbows and blocks. Calipari also expects the Wolverines to throw some 1-3-1 at the bigger, more athletic Wildcats, a team coming off a very emotional win over rival Louisville in the Sweet 16.

"Honestly, we do not make that game bigger than it is," he said. "In most cases I've got probably four from the state of Kentucky, maybe five. The rest of these kids, and they're young, they don't know about that rivalry. Now, our fans do. Their fans do.

"But is there a chance for a letdown? There's a chance for a letdown because the last two games we played were just like slugfests. But I don't think it will be based on you just played Louisville, now you're going to let your guard down. I don't think so. But there could still be a letdown because that was a hard fought game and so was the one before."

If there is, he and his team could be in for a rude awakening.


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