News flash from Music City. In its infinite wisdom, the media covering SEC basketball has crawled out on an extended limb and picked Kentucky to win the league in men’s basketball. Again.
Such was the early news nugget from the league’s one-day basketball media extravaganza — football gets a four-day media treatment — this year christened SEC Tipoff 2017 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, site of the league’s postseason tournament.
The real question was who would be picked second behind the Cats? That distinction went to Florida, followed by Texas A&M, Georgia and Arkansas, whose Moses Kingsley was chosen the pre-season SEC Player of the Year.
While coaches and two players from all 14 schools made the interview rounds on the arena’s concourse, the topic of the day was Kentucky, Kentucky, Kentucky, then everybody else.
“I think that’s perception more than reality,” said UK coach John Calipari during his Q&A session Wednesday.
Actually, that’s reality.
“Obviously,” said Mississippi State coach Ben Howland, “Kentucky is the cream of the crop and has been for a very long time.”
“John has done an unbelievable job of establishing a level of talent there and I think he’s underappreciated as a coach,” said Georgia Coach Mark Fox. “He’s a great recruiter, but he’s also a terrific X-and-O coach. His teams are great defensively. They run great stuff on offense. They don’t win just because they have great players.”
“Coach Cal has done a great job with his program,” said Alabama Coach Avery Johnson. “And while others may be envious or jealous, I’m not. I study him a lot.”
“Kentucky,” said Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl, “is always going to be Kentucky.”
Ah, but can any of the league’s other 13 members come close to Kentucky this year? After all, for all the talk about improved recruiting and better scheduling and more high-profile coaches, the SEC earned the same number of NCAA Tournament bids in 2016 (three) as it did in 2015.