WVU Notebook: Kentucky's Calipari will take talent every time over experience
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Talent or experience?
Most coaches say that in the NCAA tournament, experience will often trump talent. Kentucky coach John Calipari isn't one of them.
Calipari's teams have been loaded with one-and-done (one season in college then on to the NBA) players recently. That means he has had to rely heavily on freshmen and many of his critics say that is a primary reason why Calipari's teams might never win a national title.
This despite the fact Calipari, a Moon native, is the first coach to win 30 or more games in five consecutive seasons. His teams have been to -- counting this season -- six consecutive Sweet 16s, have made four Elite Eight appearances in six years and are now one win away from a fifth. His 2008 Memphis team advanced to the NCAA championship game.
But he hasn't yet won a national title and until he does, he will likely continue to hear the "lack of experience" question.
"If you haven't been there, it is a little tougher, things happen [in the tournament] and an inexperienced team is at a disadvantage," Calipari said after the Wildcats' 71-63 victory Saturday against West Virginia.
"But if the choice is talent or experience, I'm taking talent. Then you can blame me for us not winning. But I'm taking talent, that's just how I've been throughout my career. I'd rather have that than experience."
Calipari is again expected to have to reload. His three freshmen starters -- Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb -- will face tough decisions about their future at the end of the season.
West Virginia will have some rebuilding to do next season. Coach Bob Huggins must replace six seniors, including four -- John Flowers, Joe Mazzula, Cam Thoroughman and Casey Mitchell -- who played a huge role in this season's success.
Huggins said replacing those four players won't be easy.
"It is hard for anybody to understand what Joe has been through [to recover from a major shoulder injury and work his way back onto the court]," Huggins said. "Cam was recruited to play guard, he's playing center and he's physically overmatched every game. But he just competes and I think the one thing that can be said for all of those guys is they step to the plate and compete.
"They're good people who are going to be successful in whatever it is they choose to do."
UCLA under coach Ben Howland went to three consecutive Final Fours (2006, '07, '08) but the Bruins slipped some the past two seasons because they lost a number of key players to the NBA and graduation.
But this year's team clearly put the program back on the map and given the fact that there isn't a senior on the roster and only one player who may consider leaving early -- sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt -- it is clear UCLA should be highly ranked to start next season.
Howland and his players said the experience they gained in the NCAA tournament -- the Bruins (23-11) lost Saturday to Florida, 73-65, in a third-round game -- is something they will be able to draw on next season.
"[This experience] will help because we've got everybody coming back," Honeycutt said. "There's no seniors."
First Published March 20, 2011 12:00 am