September 27, 2022


When John Calipari and Mark Fu announced theirs deal for a home-and-home series, there was a slight — but significant — distinction in the lingo used by the two legendary coaches. Few said he was excited to take his Gonzaga team to Rupp Arena, Kentucky’s home court, while Calipari was noncommittal about taking his Cats to The Kennel.

Turns out it wasn’t a fluke. As Gary Parrish explained in detail, the choice in language by the Hall of Fame coach was deliberate. Calipari then confirmed the selection Thursday and explained why Kentucky — which will make the trip to face Gonzaga on Nov. 20 this year — won’t be playing in the Bulldogs’ standard home field, but instead at Spokane Arena 12,000 seats.

“I’m excited to play Gonzaga. I’m disappointed we have to go there first, but to make it happen I was willing to do it.” Calipari tweeted. “Playing in front of 13,000 crazy fans at Spokane Arena will be exciting as it will be in front of 22,000 fans at Rupp next year.

“Anyone who wants us to play in a 6,000-seat facility wants us to lose!” Calipari added. “And I get it. I tried to look back and find the last time UK played in a true regular-season road game with 6,000 or fewer fans. I stopped paying attention in the ’70s.”

In all the excitement at this week’s series announcement, it was kind of lost that this always felt like a possibility. Not only did Calipari not commit to playing in The Kennel, but he showed a somewhat awkward tension about the whole deal, figuratively puffing out his chest in front of Big Blue Nation when he announced it.

“This guy bothers me all the time. He wants to schedule a game,” Calipari said in a call with Few that was broadcast in front of UK fans while Kentucky was helping with a telethon to raise money for flood victims. “But everything has to be on his terms. I thought we were in Kentucky?”

“First of all, we were good,” a few replied playfully. “We were looking good, and you just said, ‘Hey, do you want to play?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m good at acting.'”

It sure stinks for non-college fans true home-and-home series as it originally appeared. Big teams playing in big, home environments is what makes the sport so great. But it’s Kentucky and Gonzaga, after all. Two teams that are projected to be top-five preseason teams in 2022 and will almost certainly be in the same mix a year from now when the streak ends. Even if The Kennel isn’t the venue in November, this game should be excellent.





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