UK Men's Basketball

SEC Media Day notes: Calipari's Cats first unanimous pick since Pitino's 'Untouchables'

Walter McCarty and the rest of the 1996 Untouchables walked off champs in East Rutherford, N.J., after beating Syracuse.
Walter McCarty and the rest of the 1996 Untouchables walked off champs in East Rutherford, N.J., after beating Syracuse.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — By receiving all 20 first-place votes in a preseason media poll, Kentucky became the first team since Rick Pitino's "Untouchables" in 1995-96 to be a unanimous pick to win the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship.

UK Coach John Calipari shrugged.

"We've been picked before and we haven't done it," he said at the SEC Media Day on Wednesday. "I mean, I had a team picked in the top three in the country and (predicted to) finish in the Final Four. And we went to the NIT."

Kentucky fit that riches-to-rags story in 2012-13.

"Basically, it doesn't matter," Calipari said of preseason polls.

Florida could vouch for that. The media picked the Gators to finish second for a fifth straight year. Florida won the regular-season title three of the previous four seasons.

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings cited Florida's historic 18-0 SEC record last season as evidence that pre-season basketball polls have a large margin for error.

"Everybody said everybody was playing for second and then Billy (Donovan) ran the table. ... ," Stallings said of the 2013-14 season. "Did anybody anywhere think Billy would run the table? I don't think so."

There was no disputing that a roster with nine McDonald's All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein gives Kentucky championship talent.

When asked if UK had enough players for two NCAA Tournament teams, Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy said, " I guess. I'd suppose with the quality of talent top to bottom, you'd have three."

Before the 1995-96 season, Kentucky received all 12 first-place votes. The Cats won the league with a 16-0 record.

Since then, the team receiving the highest percentage of first-place votes in preseason balloting was Tennessee in 2007-08. The Vols received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes. UT won the league title with a 14-2 record.

Player of the Year

The media voted Aaron Harrison as its SEC Player of the Year.

"It's an honor to be picked as player of the year, I guess," he said. "But it doesn't really mean anything because we haven't played a game yet. These are just preseason predictions."

His brother, Andrew Harrison, had a more enthusiastic response. Said Andrew of Aaron's selection as player of the year: "It's a perfect pick."

'Extreme'

Kentucky placed five players on either the media's first or second All-SEC teams. Aaron Harrison was on the first team.

The second team included Alex Poythress, Karl-Anthony Towns, Cauley-Stein and Andrew Harrison.

When asked if UK having five of the 10 players was extreme, Kennedy said, "Well, they're certainly an extreme example of college basketball."

Other first-team selections were Bobby Portis of Arkansas, Michael Frazier II of Florida, Jordan Mickey of LSU and Jarvis Summers of Mississippi.

Charles Mann of Georgia joined four Kentucky players on the second team.

Most talented team?

Calipari did not embrace the suggestion that this is his most talented team.

"I don't think so," he said. "I'll just name two teams. (In) 2010, you start thinking John Wall. Eric Bledsoe. Patrick Patterson. Who is that big kid? Oh, DeMarcus Cousins. Wait a minute. Darius Miller. DeAndre Liggins. Daniel Orton."

Calipari also noted UK's national championship team of 2011-12, which had Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague and others.

"I've had some really good talented teams," he said. "This team, we'll see. I mean, we're deeper. I've not coached 10 guys like this."

More scrimmaging

Calipari said that he does his most creative thinking while on a flight. That's when there are no telephone calls or office visitors to distract.

"So two days ago, I'm on an airplane (and think) what is the biggest advantage my team has," he said. "Our practices should be so competitive. That's our big advantage. If that was our advantage, we should be scrimmaging more. How do you do that and still get the drill work to have them develop habits?"

Calipari said he decided to devote anywhere from 60 to 75 percent of practice time to scrimmaging.

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