BOZICH | John Calipari is right -- and wrong -- about SEC basket - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | John Calipari is right -- and wrong -- about SEC basketball

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – John Calipari is right. Southeastern Conference basketball deserves a hug, some cheers, an ode from Drake.

If Nick Saban isn't ready to speak out, I will. Average attendance jumped 4 percent this season. I'll credit that to the blizzard of buzz created by Calipari and his unflappably perfect team.

At least five SEC teams will advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Lower-level seats for the SEC Championship game Sunday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville start at $396.03 on

John Calipari is also wrong.

SEC basketball is not Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, Big 12 basketball or Big Ten basketball. Not yet. It's a one-Goliath pony.

Kentucky is the only SEC program that can talk confidently about surging into the Final Four. The other power leagues have at least two or as many as four candidates.

Capacity at Bridgestone Arena is listed at 20,000, and it's safe to forecast the place will overflow with 19,877 UK fans and 13 folks from the 13 other SEC schools this weekend.

Paul Finebaum, Mr. SEC, did his radio show from the arena in Nashville Wednesday and said the dominant wave of fans in the building was Kentucky fans -- two days before the Wildcats tipped off.

Kentucky is the only SEC campus that isn't still obsessing about that painful 42-35 shot that Ohio State delivered to Saban and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Kentucky has received the love the Wildcats have earned throughout the Wildcats' march to 31-0 this season. I'd argue Calipari's team would be 31-0 if the Wildcats played in any league you selected. They're that good, a solid bet against the field in the NCAA Tournament.

But the rest of the league needs love. Calipari has tried to supply it all winter.

Here's a reminder of what Calipari has said – with why he's right and why he's wrong.

WHAT CAL SAID: "Iowa State was beaten by South Carolina. LSU went to West Virginia and won. I mean this league is not what they paint it to be."

WHY CAL WAS RIGHT: LSU was the first team to topple West Virginia. The 11th place team in the SEC (South Carolina) did beat a team (Iowa State) that tied for second in the Big 12.

There's more. Arkansas won at SMU. Ole Miss handled Cincinnati. Vanderbilt whacked Purdue. Tennessee 67, Butler 55. Keep bragging.

WHY CAL WAS WRONG: Be careful flashing the comparative score knife, coach. It's sharp.

The SEC's record in non-league games is far from awesome, baby.

Arkansas, LSU and Auburn all lost to Clemson – and Clemson lost 10 of 18 games in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Georgia whiffed against Georgia Tech and Minnesota. Ole Miss fell to Charleston Southern, TCU and Western Kentucky. Texas A&M could not beat Kansas State.

Those are losses to teams that will miss the NCAA Tournament. That's the rest of the story.

WHAT CAL SAID: "Last year we had three in the Sweet Sixteen, two in the Final Four. Should have had two in the final game."

WHY CAL WAS RIGHT: Apparently Cal is saying Florida should have beaten UConn in the 2014 Final Four and that the SEC deserved more recognition last March.

OK. The Gators were favored in the Final Four, ranked number one for most of the season and coached by Billy Donovan.

In fact, Cal could have said the SEC should have had three teams in the Elite Eight because Tennessee nearly beat Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen.

The league performed better than expected, considering UK was an eight-seed and Tennessee was an 11. Bravo.

WHY CAL WAS WRONG: Florida lost to UConn by 10 points, not two, in the Final Four.

UConn 63, Florida 53.

I'm no math wiz, but I believe that means Scottie Wilbekin needed to make an 11-point shot to beat the Huskies.

If we're playing in the Should Have game, Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin all feel as if they should have beaten Kentucky last March – after losing by two, five, three and one.

WHAT CAL SAID: "You look at this league right now, eight Top 50 – eight Top 50, more than any other league."

WHY CAL WAS RIGHT: Eight top 50 teams is correct.

Actually, it's eight in the top 47 of Ken Pomeroy's ratings. No other league has more than seven teams in Pomeroy's top 50.


WHY CAL WAS WRONG: The other computer rankings are not as kind to the SEC. Jeff Sagarin's numbers show six SEC teams in the Top 50. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) recognizes five – UK, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss.

All three computer rankings have the SEC the fifth-strongest league in America.

Joe Lunardi, master of NCAA Tournament projections, currently shows five, not six, SEC teams in his field. Just one – You Know Who – has earned a four seed or higher.

The ACC and Big 12 have four teams earning at least a four-seed and the Big Ten and Pac-12 each have two. The SEC is UK, Arkansas (five seed) and a pack of eight, nine or 10 seeds.

WHAT CAL SAID: "That's why I say the coaches shouldn't stand for (criticism of SEC hoops) and the media shouldn't stand for it. Stop saying it."

WHY CAL WAS RIGHT: Guys like Donovan, Mike Anderson and Mark Fox should join Calipari in touting the league. The league has a solid roster of coaches, talented players and more NCAA titles (three) than any other league over the last nine seasons.

WHY CAL WAS WRONG: The SEC needs to sell the SEC. It's not a priority.

People who follow the game recognize the SEC did not shoot an air ball this season. The league has an impressive roster of coaches. The talent is solid and getting better. It has a chance to celebrate a dynamic March.

But fans of Arkansas, LSU, Georgia and other schools need to show up in Nashville and those programs need to win in the tournament to prove the SEC is more than Kentucky and 13 Wannabes.

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