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John Calipari believes Kentucky will be in the hunt for a national title when Cats return to court this fall

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Kentucky’s loss to Saint Peters in the opening round of NCAA Tournament still bothers Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“We were the fifth-seeded team in that tournament and lost,” Calipari said during an appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show last week. “I’m still sick over it. … There’s some grieving. I have never had a team lose to a seed like that, but they weren’t a 15 seed, Saint Peters was really good. … At the end of the day, you can’t steal the joy of that season. The last game, you got to go through it, you got to deal with it.

Despite a slight roster turnover, Calipari will return several players from last year’s squad, including College Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin.

John Calipari offers a smile after answering a question during the NCAA Tournament last March. (Photo by Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today)

“We got a terrific group. It’s Kentucky, we play for the national championship. My thing always is, you want to be in the hunt. We were in the hunt last year. Two years ago, when we win our league by three games, they shut down the tournament. That team could’ve won the whole thing. You want to be in the hunt, and I am looking at this team, and we have a chance. We really do.”

Calipari, entering his 14th season at Kentucky, still thinks he has the best job in basketball.

“I believe that,” he said. “I’ve had some opportunities to look or leave, and you know what? At the end of the day, you look at this situation, we have the chance to win it every year.”

Despite his status, Calipari added that facility upgrades remain a top priority moving forward.

“Mitch (Barnhart) and I are meeting because it’s unacceptable if we’re not the gold standard in facilities and everything else,” he said. “It’s not acceptable if Midnight Madness isn’t something talked about for a month. We need the campout going again.

To have everything the gold standard, we’ve always been that. We slipped a little bit in some of the facilities. Now I’m not saying our facilities are bad, they’re not bad, they’re just not the gold standard.

“Mitch and I are going to sit down and talk ‘okay, what’s the path?,” he said. “How do we get that going to where anybody that walks on our campus and sees any facilities, knows, ‘Wow, look at this’? We’re going to get there. Like I said, he and I are going to sit down and talk about it, but again what we do, the big picture, is getting kids to that next level by developing young people.”

Calipari said he remains committed to win the school’s ninth national title.

“I’ve done this for a long time.” he said. “The bullets are shot through bazooka holes. The greatest job, the greatest opportunity, we got to make everything the gold standard, which is what it’s been. You know what? Let’s go on and do some crazy stuff, which we have a chance to do.”

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.

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