LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari did not mess around when painting his Kentucky Wildcats’ precarious postseason picture Friday.
The Cats have a foot inside death’s door.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Uh-oh. If I go under one more time, I’m gonna drown. I better start swimming,’ Then all the sudden you start swimming,” Calipari said. “The car’s laying on you. It’s on your leg. You gotta lift a 3,000-pound car. It’s funny how you figure out how to lift it to get it off your leg so you don’t die. This team can do what they choose to do. … Now are you going to fight like heck, play through the ups and downs of a game, or are you gonna die?”
Clearly, Calipari wants the Wildcats (20-10, 11-6) in all-out desperation mode for today’s noon showdown against the 11th-ranked Florida Gators (24-5, 14-3), a team that already has clinched the Southeastern Conference title.
“This is a one-game season,” Calipari said. “And it will be every game from here on out.”
The defending national champions have lost two straight and are on virtually every NCAA Tournament prognosticator’s bubble. The Cats went to Georgia with a must-win mindset Thursday and became the first UK team since 1910 to lose four straight road games by double digits.
But now they’re home, backed by 24,000 at Rupp Arena, and with a shot at some big-time RPI points and Calipari is going to the wall with his do-or-die routine.
“I can’t put it anymore bluntly,” he said.
The dooms-day scenario even has freshman forward Alex Poythress re-evaluating his up-and-down rookie season -- and vowing a renewal, starting today.
“I’m probably disappointed in myself because I realize I could give more effort out there. You know, it’s time for a change.”
Friday night, Calipari even sought to put Big Blue Nation at desperation’s door with his team, tweeting out a challenge/request to his 1.2 million followers.
“At the 8-min timeout in the 2nd half, let’s commit to standing up and cheering until the final horn. It won’t be easy, but we need you!”
He was sending a message to his players -- and the Gators -- that he expects the Cats to be in the game at the 8-minute mark and wants everybody “all in” with them.