Calipari still seething over Kentucky's seeding

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 17, 2014 

UK Coach John Calipari speaks of putting the players' interests ahead of the school's. In reality, it's not so simple.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF — Herald Leader

Still smarting from how the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee judged his team and his conference, Kentucky Coach John Calipari called Monday for Southeastern Conference leaders to look into the process for picking and seeding participants.

Three bids equaled a low for the Southeastern Conference, and one of the three, Tennessee, must play in a so-called play-in game. Calipari also questioned an 8-seed for Kentucky.

"Why (in) the world did this happen?" Calipari said on an SEC coaches' teleconference Monday. "Someone's got to find out."

Calipari accused the committee of changing the criteria year to year to create a basis for decision.

"So they can do anything," he said. "Well, it's a cloudy day that day, and we decided they were an '8.'"

Noting that Tennessee played "as well as any team down the stretch" of the regular season, Calipari said, "You've really got to go down and find out what it was."

Wake Forest Athletics Director Ron Wellman, the chair of the Selection Committee, said Sunday night that members were "strongly supportive" of making Kentucky an 8-seed.

"We scrubbed the seeds," he said, "and we scrubbed the seeds going from 1 to 68, comparing one to two, two to three, three to four, all the way from 67 compared to 68. When we did that for Kentucky, the Committee was strongly supportive of their seed line and where they ended up."

Jim O'Connell, who has been college basketball editor for The Associated Press since 1987, judged an 8-seed for Kentucky as appropriate.

"I think it's fair," he wrote in an email. "Does the SEC hurt? You bet. Kentucky's last win over a team in the NCAA tournament field was Jan. 18, Tennessee. Since then all the wins were over teams that didn't help them at all in terms of quality. Other conferences had good wins through the middle of the conference and that's a big thing.

"In all, Kentucky had three wins over teams in the field. ... Kentucky has a tough argument whether you go by the numbers or go by the 'eye test.' One of the biggest things that hurts in an eye test is inconsistency and the Wildcats have had plenty of that. Just don't see anything egregious about it."

Speaking to reporters in the Georgia Dome Sunday night, UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart questioned whether the Selection Committee had been "respectful" of the SEC.

When reminded that the SEC had a 4-15 record against top-25 teams in the non-conference portion of the schedule, Barnhart said, "But go look at the records of some of the other teams in other leagues. They're not much better. There's not that huge discrepancy that people make it out to be."

Calipari echoed that sentiment Monday when asked about the SEC's 4-15 record against top-25 teams. "Compared to who?" he asked.

Of the five major conferences, the SEC had the worst record against top-25 competition. The Big 12 was 8-9, the Atlantic Coast Conference 9-13, the Big Ten 4-9 and the Pac 12 4-7.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan, whose team is the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, seemed to suggest the SEC got what it deserved.

"Could Arkansas and Missouri go into the tournament and win games?" he asked. "Without question, they could. They came up a little short, but they put themselves in position to be right there."

Calipari noted UK's strength of schedule, which he said was ranked No. 2 in the country. But the Cats had only a 1-6 record against ranked teams, with the lone victory coming at home against a Louisville team in flux.

Missouri Coach Frank Haith sounded unconvinced.

"Everybody can talk of scheduling," he said. "But I think it boils down to one thing: winning in the non-league. It's just winning games."

'Pretty mellow'

After the loss to Florida, a reporter asked Willie Cauley-Stein about the mood of the Kentucky team.

"Pretty mellow," he said.

Calipari also suggested Kentucky was in a good mental state going into the NCAA Tournament.

"Great frame of mind right now," he said.

Calipari lauded the play of Cauley-Stein in Atlanta as "ridiculous," as in ridiculously good.

"Our guard play was as good as anybody in the country," he added.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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