Because of the fierce competition between their teams and occasional exchanges of verbal punches, a perception exists that John Calipari and Bruce Pearl do not like each other.
Calipari gave Pearl a compliment on Friday, two days before his Kentucky team plays at Tennessee.
"He's absolutely sold on the style of play they play," Calipari said. "I respect anybody that's committed to a style. 'This is how we play. This is what we do.'
Recalling last season's three Kentucky-Tennessee games, and previous Memphis-UT games, Calipari said, "They've been wars. Every one of them has been a war and I respect that."
When asked what he thought of coaching the visiting team in what might be Pearl's last home game as Tennessee coach, Calipari said, "I don't know. I don't think it will be. But I don't know."
Pearl has admitted to lying to NCAA investigators. He has already been punished by Tennessee (salary reduction) and the Southeastern Conference (eight-game suspension). He and Tennessee still must face the NCAA judicial system.
"They're going to be excited," Calipari said in sweeping that well-documented case aside. "It's Senior (Day). Packed building. I don't think anybody's thinking of anything but beating Kentucky."
Freshman forwards Terrence Jones of UK and Tobias Harris of UT bring a friendship into the game.
"My mom and his dad talked all through recruiting," Jones said. "He's a great friend. I've known him for a long time."
The two discussed going to the same school, while agreeing that each had to make an independent decision, Jones said.Jones assured reporters that the friendship he and Harris share will not affect the competition.
Harris had only 10 points and two rebounds in the first game. Pearl noted that Harris played on a sore ankle, plus UT was playing for the third time in six days.
Earlier in the week, Calipari noted that he uses reporters like a "wet rag" to communicate with players. This admission came as Calipari explained why he might publicly criticize a player.
Darius Miller told reporters that Calipari does not rely solely on the media to communicate with players.
"He lets us know what he wants us to know, anyway," Miller said as reporters chuckled. " ... He tells us the same thing he tells you all. He's always criticizing — not really criticizing us — but coaching us. He tries to push us and get the best out of us. We kind of expect that now."
UT honors Houston
Tennessee plans to retire the No. 20 jersey worn by former All-American Allan Houston during halftime of the game. When asked about Houston on Friday, Calipari said he first became friends with Houston's father, Wade, when the elder Houston was an assistant at Louisville.
"I've always had great respect for the father," Calipari said. "That made me watch games (played by) the son."
Calipari called Allan Houston a "true gentleman. Terrific basketball player. Just a talented, talented young person who had it all. Still has it all."
Calipari guessed that five or six SEC teams will receive NCAA Tournament bids.
"Four or five on our side," meaning the Eastern Division, he said.
Calipari also noted Alabama as an NCAA Tournament team.
"Mississippi State is winning now," Calipari added, "and they have talent."
Tennessee will bid farewell to six seniors, including the son of the coach, Steven Pearl.
"The great part of this Senior Day is that every one of them has graduated or is going to graduate on time," said Bruce Pearl, who noted that he will participate in this Senior Day for obvious reasons.
"I get real emotional," he said of all Senior Days. "It's all I can do to keep myself composed."
Since scoring a personal SEC-low 11 at UK, Kentuckian Scotty Hopson has been hot. He's scored 19 or more points in the six games since, averaging 23.7 points. In that span, he's made 51 of 98 shots (14 of 35 from three-point range).
"Hopson is as good as anyone in the league, maybe the best talent in the league," Calipari said. " ... Because he can score and can take over games without help. Those are the guys that are dangerous."
This will mark the first time since 1999 that UK doesn't end the regular season with a made-for-TV game against Florida. ... Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller will call the game for CBS.