Kentucky Basketball: John Calipari Still Has High Expectations for the Wildcats

Dan BodnerCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2011

Calipari has specific goals for each of his players, including Brandon Knight.
Calipari has specific goals for each of his players, including Brandon Knight.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Situated almost halfway through SEC play, the Wildcats find themselves struggling against lower-ranked opponents. Nevertheless, Kentucky is still right in the thick of a conference championship race.

Though winning its 47th regular season conference championship is an intriguing prospect, it is clear that fans' expectations are much higher. And while coach John Calipari is typically reserved in his public approbation of the team, it seems that he, too, shares national title aspirations.

"I'm looking around; everybody's getting beat," said Calipari. "Everybody's in a close game. So why not us? That's what I keep saying. Why not us?"

In a year that seems ripe with parity, almost every team in the Top 25 has shown some chink in its armor. Even the nation's sole unbeaten team, Ohio State, showed its vulnerability this past weekend as it barely survived a one-point scare against Northwestern.

It seems only logical then that Kentucky, who has beaten three of the country's current Top 25 teams, could conceivably make a run at the Final Four by the end of the season.

Yet, in order to do so, the team will have to outperform its more highly-publicized and talent-laden predecessor, which fell just short in a loss against West Virginia.

Could this year's team really surpass John Wall and company?

Coach Calipari believes that it already has—at least in some respect.

"This team is executing better than last year's team," he explained. "[Last year] we turned it over all over the place. We took bad shots. Then we'd still block a shot, get a steal, and run down the court."

Of course, this should come as no major surprise. The team is executing better because it has no other choice, due largely to its lack of depth.

"We just don't have as many pieces," said Calipari. "When a guy last year didn't play well, what did I do? Eh, they don't play as much this game. We'll play this guy and we'll play two seniors who started a year ago. This year; two guys play poorly? That's it."

If the Wildcats want to make some noise in March, each player will have to live up to his full potential. Calipari was not coy in detailing what his expectations were for each individual.

Of Terrence Jones, he said: "my goal for him by the end of the year is everybody saying 'there's not a more well-rounded player. There's not a better player who does more than Terrence.'"

Expectations were equally high for Brandon Knight.

"I want Brandon to be the best point guard in the country who scores," he said.

These high goals also extended to Darius Miller and Doron Lamb.

"I want Darius to be one of the best players in our league. He does everything well."

As for Lamb, Calipari explained that he wanted the freshman to be the person about whom everybody says: "wow, he's the best freshman scorer in the country."

Finally, the Kentucky coach made it clear that none of these players were close to meeting these goals just yet. He also tempered these goals with a bit of realism when he explained that not all of these visions would necessarily have to come true in order for Kentucky to be successful.

What is essential; however, is that each player on Kentucky's roster be willing to pay the price to achieve these goals.

For more news and analysis on all things UK, follow me on Twitter @KYSportsBuzz.