UK back to No. 1 in the rankings, Calipari praises SEC



The weekly Monday rankings/awards/SEC teleconference update:

  • UK climbed back to No. 1 in both major polls following Syracuse’s loss on Saturday. UK received all 31 votes in the coaches poll and 61 of 65 first-place votes in the AP poll. Missouri and Syracuse split the remaining four votes.
  • UK held the No. 1 ranking for two weeks earlier in the season. The state of Kentucky is owning college basketball right now, with the top-ranked team (UK) and the only undefeated team left (No. 9 Murray State).
  • UK was shut out of the SEC weekly awards. Ole Miss’ Terrence Henry and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes were the recipients this week.
  • LSU coach Trent Johnson: “I don’t know if it’s Kentucky or the Miami Heat we have to play Saturday.” I just checked the schedule. It’s Kentucky.
  • On the SEC teleconference, John Calipari again heaped praise on the league. He called it “the best it’s been” in his three years at UK and deemed it “one of the best in the nation.” He said the teams at the top are as strong as any conference, throwing in the Big 12 as a league that’s possibly stronger. He again said five teams — Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and “hopefully us” — will make the Sweet 16 and predicted “eight or nine teams” could make the NCAA Tournament.
  • Calipari wants to see more internal praise of the conference. “We need to brag on ourselves more,” he said. I think he’s trying to make up for it all on his own. He’s been talking about having five Sweet 16 teams for the past two weeks and went to ESPN’s Andy Katz with it Monday morning. I couldn’t set high enough odds that we’ll hear about it at the press conference this afternoon. We’ll see how right he was in March.
  • UK plays at Georgia on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are led by a freshman guard — the type of player Calipari is familiar with — in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who leads the team in points (14.7), minutes (31.6) and steals (1.8) and is third in rebounding (5.1). “He’s one of the best young players in the country,” Calipari said. “He’s a game changer for their program.”
  • On the other side, Fox was returning the compliments for UK. He raved about their length and athleticism. “They’re loaded with weapons,” Fox said. “[Darius] Miller is probably bigger than my power forward, and he’s starting at the two. They’re big, long, athletic and cover ground well.”
  • Fox also noted UK’s balance, which has six players scoring 9.9 points or more ( Darius Miller really needs to raise his per-game average by 0.1 points so it’s a nice round number). “Some guys get the attention, but they have lots of players making plays,” Fox said. “To put up numbers on that team is impressive because they have so many guys who have to share the ball.”

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