NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kentucky men’s basketball was picked to win the SEC (again) and talk around the league’s media day Wednesday focused (again) on what the other 13 teams must do to improve the conference’s national reputation.
Which begs a question: Given the way the Wildcats gobble up the spotlight since John Calipari came to town, and how his teams have run through the SEC schedule undefeated twice in the last five years, does UK help or hurt the pursuit of league-wide respect? Not shockingly, South Carolina coach Frank Martin has a strong opinion.
“I think it’s great Kentucky’s in our conference. Having them as an ally to represent the SEC. Are you kidding me? We get to compete with what is as good as any program in the history of college basketball,” Martin said. “It’s our job to elevate our program, to put ourselves where we can be – when I got to South Carolina, we weren’t even in the same book as Kentucky. I think we’re now in Chapter 15 in the book; we’re trying to get where we can be in the same paragraph as Kentucky.”
That’s been a difficult challenge for everyone else in the league, but don’t blame the Wildcats.
“It’s not my job to bring them down,” Martin said. “It’s my job to build our program to where we can be in the conversation with the University of Kentucky. That’s my challenge. That’s what I have to to do. That’s what our players have to aspire to do every day.
“Having them as an ally to kind of gauge yourself against, be albe to compete with them, prepares your team to have success nationally. And to me, that’s a plus, not a minus.”