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Tom Izzo and John Calipari exchange verbal barbs

Oct 9, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky Getty Images

November is always a fun time in college basketball as some of the nation’s top teams fly around the country playing in holiday tournaments that put together matchups you’d rarely see otherwise.

The best early season event this year? The Champions Classic, which will feature Duke and Jabari Parker against Kansas and Andrew Wiggins as the undercard to Michigan State and Kentucky, which could end up being No. 1 vs. No. 2.

On the fifth day of the season.

That’ll be awesome, and you better believe that Tom Izzo and his Spartans are looking forward to the challenge. According to a student in attendance at Michigan State’s Midnight Madness, Izzo dropped this gem: “We are working to kick Kentucky’s [rear end].”

Well, word got back to John Calipari about this, and two times over the course of the last four days, Cal has managed to reference that quote.

“It’s not just Kentucky they want to beat,” Cal said on Kentucky Sports Radio, “it’s you because you got the scholarship they wanted.” Shots fired. But wait, it gets better. Cal unloaded this beauty at a luncheon for Louisville’s Wildcat Tip-Off Club:

Our third game is against Michigan State. That’s going to be hard. They’re already a veteran team. They’ve already made comments that their practices are about beating Kentucky. But I say this to you: If I ask my team when we play Florida, they’re not going to know. North Carolina, (they don’t know). I’m going to do it today, because as I thought about it, they don’t know. You think they know when we’re playing Louisville? They don’t know. They want to know if there is a meal tonight. They don’t know. Now, I ask you this: Does everyone on our schedule know when they’re playing Kentucky? Oh, they know. And it’s on their locker, it’s on their ceiling of their bedroom. You’ve got to deal with that. That’s part of being at Kentucky. You know what I tell them? Not only do they want to beat Kentucky, they want to beat you as individual player. You want to know why? They wanted that scholarship that you got and they want to prove they’re better than you, not just their team is better than Kentucky. So that’s the challenge that we have. But would you want it any other way? I don’t. Bring it. Let’s go.

Izzo and Cal get along, and most of this is good-natured back-and-forth between a couple of competitors.

But I’ll tell you what, no one can spin the way that Coach Cal can spin: “Oh, you’re biggest game of the year is against us? Well guess what. We’re trying to go undefeated, so EVERY game we play is our biggest game of the year. Because we’re so much more awesome than you.”

I’m sure this will rankle some feathers, but you know what?

I love it.

And I cannot wait for Izzo to fire back.

  1. jpopejoy - Oct 9, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Strong words from a guy who backed out of a rivalry because he was afraid of losing to Indiana

    • gobigblue1988 - Oct 9, 2013 at 1:47 PM

      I don’t think trying to have a neutral court game means your afraid to play, did you forget that after they lost to IU the played again? What happened in that sweet 16 game, which matters more that home win for IU or that Neutral court win in march?

    • kentakka - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      Lame words from a guy who obviously forgot IU lost to UK in their rematch in the NCAA tourney. IU afraid of playing away from home? Go cry to mommy. Since you don’t like taking a few steps away outside your city limits, then I’m sure your mommy is within walking distance.

    • bbngr8 - Oct 9, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      Or Indiana was afraid to lose at home? There’s always 2 sides to each road. Open your mind and think a little. That was nothing more than a scheduling negotiation where an agreement couldn’t be met. I don’t know what you think Calipari was so afraid of, Crean isn’t on Cal’s level.. He would never be able to hang with him consistently. Also, it’s Indiana, not exactly top tier anymore. Unless you consider those back to back Sweet 16’s that made you “relevant again….

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 9, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        Indiana was afraid to lose at home? Dude…do your homework. Indiana WANTED the continue the tradition by playing a home and home.

      • bbngr8 - Oct 9, 2013 at 8:27 PM

        Do your homework buddy, they use to play neutral games as well…….

      • bbngr8 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:22 PM

        You people are putting way to much thought into it… Just bc you don’t like Cal, the only thing you can come up with is that he is afraid to play TOM CREAN???? A coach that kisses his players and tells recruits he’s been thinking about them, A WHOLE LOT! A coach that’s been to 1 final four and has done nothing more than embarrassed IU’s great tradition by having his players cut down nets after losses and making freaking SWEET 16 RINGS for crying out loud!!! How lame is that?? Indiana basketball is suppose to stand for excellence, tradition, and power!! Not, “it’s okay to be losers or come in 2nd!!” It was nothing more than UK & IU wanting 2 different things.. Cal has no reason to be afraid of Crean. A great shot at the buzzer is suppose to make him shake in his boots? How soon you forget Kentucky sent IU packing in the big dance, when it actually mattered, and beat them at their own game, high powered offense… Crean might get the occasional win on Calipari, but when it comes down to it, he wouldn’t be able to beat him consistently and enough for it to amount to anything other than 1 win every few years.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 9, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      On point Pope. These Kentucky fans won’t admit it. There skin isn’t thick enough to do so.
      As a result, they make excuses. But everyone…and I mean EVERYONE realizes The Mafia Don snaked out of the home and home series as a result of a supposed “neutral site” preference. Hahaha! He was trying to protect that home court winning streak. Well…it was gone last year. Serves him right. And Rob is also on point. He can certainly spin it with the best. Of course…most Mafia Don’s can spin it. It’s what they do.

      • malone39 - Oct 9, 2013 at 8:04 PM

        The only tradition IU has with any team is going to assembly hall and getting absolutely raped by the refs-they call the game like they’re still scared Bobby Knight is coming at them-the only team that screws the visitor more is Duke-have a home and home with them-so much screwing there it will be like a XXX movie

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        So…Purdue fan? No? Kentucky fan? No? Michigan? Michigan St? Lemme guess again…Illinois? No? Ohio State?

    • malone39 - Oct 9, 2013 at 7:56 PM

      All you IU fans are the same-you finally beat UK and now all of a sudden were scared to play you all-comical-it’s all about $$$$$ buddy-simple math-both teams profit more when the game is held at a neutral site and it’s sells out 40,000 every year than when it’s a sellout at rupp for 24,000 and assembly hall at 17,000-the other school makes zero when the they are away-neutral site-money split even-every year 20,000 seats per team for their revenue-this is actually UK doing IU a favor since assembly hall can’t seat that many so it’s money gained for IU.

  2. senorpapino - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    A couple of points:

    1. Kentucky isn’t going undefeated. No way, no how. Just put it to bed because no one is even suggesting it.

    2. Cal sounds a little snarky since he keeps losing recruits to Kansas.

    3. Cal’s players don’t know the schedule because college is a 9 month detour till the NBA draft.

    • gobigblue1988 - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      I’m sorry does it look like Kansas will end up with the better recruiting class next year, maybe yes. There is no better recruiter than coach cal and to suggest that is idiotic. Not only is this years class considered the best maybe all time, nobody puts players in the league like cal, first year as a coach five first found picks, two just signed max deals, UK has more players in the league than any other school all just because of the past 4 years. Yes UK sucked last year but don’t forget the last 2 times coach cal has played KU he won and once for a national title

    • kentakka - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      Huge UK fan and I know if UK is ever gonna go undefeated, it would be this year based on talent and returning experienced players. If Poythress and WCS has the kind of year that Jones and Lamb did returning for a 2nd year, then adding that to all the talent coming in, then going undefeated is possible.

      Personally, as a huge UK fan, I don’t see it happening though.

      As for Coach Cal losing players to Kansas…you must be referring to Wiggins. I wish Wiggins the best of luck and I know he’s gonna have a great year. But you can’t say Coach Cal sounds snarky. Both Izzo and Cal are just adding hype to their early match-up. I have a lot of respect for Izzo. He has a great team this year and certainly capable of winning it all too.

      Cal’s players don’t know the schedule because it’s pointless to know who you’re playing and when. The only thing players should worry about is practicing hard, becoming a better player everyday, becoming a better teammate everyday, and then prepare for the upcoming game and that’s it. No point looking ahead to a game that is weeks or months away.

      A lot of people are Coach Cal haters and will hate regardless what a fan says about him. Not calling you a hater. Just speaking in general. But Coach Cal can coach just as well as he can recruit. Look what he did with Josh Harrellson. I mean my goodness. Jorts made a mistake and complained on twitter. Coach Cal gave him a choice. Jorts turned his life around. He got in shape. He played harder. He practiced harder. He graduated and is now playing on another NBA team again this year. Had Coach Cal not gone to UK, do you really think Jorts would have got drafted at all from that lousy Gillipsie? There are few coaches that can truly motivate and turn a person with poor skills into someone worth having on a NBA team. Cal is one of them. I honestly believe people like Izzo, Donovan, and even Duke’s Coach K has that kind of skill behind their coaching abilities too. But not many other coaches could have done to Jorts what Coach Cal did.

    • bbngr8 - Oct 9, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      You really think Cal is snarky bc he lost a couple players to Kansas? Something tells me Cal will manage just fine. For every 1 that picks KU over UK, UK will get 5 that doesn’t pick KU. Secondly, looks like Self is resorting to more and more one and done players, so u better start calling for his head, bc remember how awful Kentucky was for doing it???? Surely you can’t approve of Self and his ridiculous recruiting of a bunch of one and dones right? You people bash UK and Cal bc there is no long term relationship, and long term development, so go ahead, don’t be a hypocrite, hold Self to the exact same standard…..

  3. cranespy - Oct 9, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    Cal fears only ONE coach……..Bob Huggins.

  4. barkleyblows - Oct 9, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    Kentucky would curb stomp little brother.

  5. gostlcards5 - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    Izzo – awesome…love listening to that guy, even though you always hate to play his team
    Calipari – barely works his way UP to being qualified as a used-car or snake-oil salesman

    • gobigblue1988 - Oct 9, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      Michigan states last title 2000, the big 10 last title 2000, the sec alone as won 3, UK has 3 since 96, so don’t talk crap when you lose constantly in march

  6. fedcopper - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Its like this, lets be real right now. Michigan State is going to get busted in the mouth. And I’m going to be setting in a 1100.00 seat to witness it. Indiana your washed up. Deal with that the best way you can. Its a new revolution in college basketball. And Kentucky is in the drivers seat. Like they have been for the last 110 year s. As for us going undefeated. Highly unlikely I have a gyt feeling Florida will have our number @ Florida and UNC will have our number @ North Carolina. Louisville your going to get curb stomped. As for the rest of the field. All I can say is take that sliver of h ope that your going to beat us. And shove that crap right down the trash. Because that’s what your team is, when you walk onto the court with GOLD STANDARD. #BBN its going to be a very special year guys. Take my word for it.

    • tgd112gostate - Oct 10, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      WOW, UK (who haven’t even played a game together as a team) are busting Tom Izzo’s team in the mouth? Do you think the Spartans will be upset about that? Is that allowed by the NCAA?

  7. prov1x - Oct 10, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    If you believe those clowns don’t know when they play U of L I have some oceanfront property in central KY I’d like to sell you. Awful lot of woofing by cat fans, just like last year, just like every year.

  8. bms2008 - Oct 10, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    None of those players would even start for MSU anyways

  9. bbil2012 - Oct 12, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    Do the Kentucky players know if they play Robert Morris this year?

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