MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If one could only use a single word to capture Kentucky basketball’s mood heading into Sunday’s Elite Eight showdown with North Carolina, it would be loose. Maybe too loose for coach John Calipari’s liking.
Point guard De’Aaron Fox, coming off a 39-point performance against UCLA on Friday night, was weighing in on the SEC putting three teams in the Elite Eight, with a Florida-South Carolina matchup that guarantees the league at least one Final Four berth, when he added: “I want to say it’s going to be two in there.”
Calipari, sitting beside Fox at the podium, looked like he might choke.
“He didn’t say that,” the coach said.
A few questions later, Fox shot down a question about early NBA draft entry, saying he was focused on the present.
“If things go as planned,” he said, “we still have three games left.”
Calipari laughed, nervously.
“You’d better play well,” he told Fox, “with the stuff you’re saying.”
Then Calipari told Fox he was finished talking for the remainder of the press conference. When a question came to all five of the Wildcats’ starters about whether Kentucky-North Carolina for a spot in the national semifinals was exactly the kind of high-stakes game they want, star freshman Malik Monk interjected.
“Fox can’t answer anymore,” he said, to a round of laughs.
Later, pressed for their lasting memories from a 103-100 win over the Tar Heels in December, Monk, who scored 47 points that day, took a playful shot at his teammate.
“I just remember Bam (Adebayo) fouling out,” he said. “He left us hanging. That’s all I remember.”
Adebayo rolled his eyes, drawing another chuckle from the crowd. Then he was asked about being a North Carolina native facing UNC, and Adebayo remained typically reserved. He delivered his standard, non-controversial answer.
“I’m just going to go out there and just play basketball, just have fun,” Adebayo said, and even that provided a comedic moment. Monk and sophomore Isaiah Briscoe immediately doubled over laughing at the intentionally boring response.
“That’s his favorite phrase: I’m just going to go play basketball and have fun,” said a giggling Briscoe, who later answered an important question from a TV crew: What advice would you give a newborn? “Well, one, you can’t give a baby advice. Come on, you can’t give a baby advice.”
Truer words have never been spoken. If it is also true that a relaxed team is a dangerous team, Kentucky has never been deadlier.
It's time for another round of #OneQuestionWithZay.
— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) March 25, 2017