"I want the students into it, I want the players alert and focused through the week," coach John Calipari said. "Our practices are pretty consistent in how we go about it, then it turns into ... 'Why don't we call ESPN?' Then it was like, 'I bet it rates higher than games.' It's Kentucky. That's the Kentucky Effect."
The Wildcats are trying to become the first team since 2003 to finish the Southeastern Conference undefeated. Next up for Kentucky (25-1, 11-0) is Mississippi (15-9, 5-5) on Saturday.
They also have games remaining at Mississippi State, home versus Vanderbilt and Georgia and the regular-season finale at Florida on March 4. The Wildcats' rotation includes highly touted freshmen Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle Wiltjer to go with sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones and senior Darius Miller.
"The way we're playing, I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied. I'm just not satisfied because I want to make sure we're getting better and I'm looking for areas: where can we grow," Calipari said. "I guess we could be more perfect, but the reality is: I'm happy how we're playing, but I'm not satisfied. I want us to improve on that."
Calipari decided to open practice after what happened in the days leading up to Kentucky's only loss. The Wildcats beat North Carolina by a point on Dec. 3, but fell at Indiana on Christian Watford's buzzer beating 3-pointer exactly one week later after he gave the team two days off. He also downplayed that any team would gain an advantage watching the practice on television.
"You say, 'Well what if this doesn't work?' I know the other doesn't work, because I lived it," Calipari said. "The other thing we did absolutely didn't work after North Carolina. So I'm trying something different. Maybe it won't work, but we'll see.
"We're really not changing anything."
The afternoon practice drew about 2,000 people to the 8,000-seat Memorial Coliseum who received free tickets as students, faculty or staff at the university. The Wildcats wanted to make it open to the public, but parking around the campus while school was in session proved to be too logistically complicated to solve on short notice.
Calipari was also unsure if they'll be able to do a similar event in the future or if the NCAA will outlaw similar live, televised practices.
"If it's allowed. It may not be allowed (in the future)," he said. "But I'm not worried about that. What I do is worry about my program and my team and that's it. We go from there."
The practice included a question-and-answer session with Calipari from fans, drills, a shooting contest that included students and a scrimmage.
Calipari said his favorite part of taking the Kentucky job in 2009 has been walking into a sold out Rupp Arena every time the Wildcats play there, where he's 48-0 since he's taken over. He also was asked humorous questions like who would win a beauty pageant among his players and who would he rather coach — Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
Calipari took the high road on each, drawing the most laughs when he said he'd love to coach Knicks rookie Jeremy Lin over the other two superstars.