NASHVILLE — Kentucky is safely in the NCAA tournament field, so Wildcats coach John Calipari turned his attention to other SEC schools after beating Alabama in Friday’s conference quarterfinal.
“What disappoints me is that there are teams (from other conferences) that lost, like some of our teams have, and all of a sudden, it’s okay,” Calipari said. “They’re in. And then one of our teams loses, they go from bubble to first four out. You’re like, I don’t get it.”
He went on to list the SEC’s recent national tournament accomplishments — one national title and nine Sweet 16 appearances in the past five years — and then offered up a pair of suggestions to the committee.
“I think Vanderbilt should be in,” Calipari said. “We lost to Tennessee. So I think they should be in, but I’m not on the committee, because I’m a normal person. I’m helping my friends, and those other dudes are not getting in. I’m normal. Why is everybody laughing?”
Tennessee (15-19) has no shot at the tournament field, but Vanderbilt (19-13) is one of a few SEC teams actually on the bubble.
Selection Sunday was two days away at the time of Calipari’s comments, and Kentucky is expected to receive either a No. 4 or No. 5 seed.
“If we’re shooting the ball well,” Calipari said, “we’ll be a difficult team for anybody to play.”
On Kentucky’s love for outside shots… “This is the first team I’ve had in a long, long time where we always seem to be shooting less free throws than the other team, and at times, 20 to 25 less free throws than the other team.”
On Jamal Murray’s progress… “The people that have watched at the beginning of the year know how much his game has changed. And what’s happened is he went from degree of difficulty shots, avoid the contact, and just throw a ball at the rim, not getting to the foul line, not shooting enough catch and shoots. Assist-to-turnover ratio was underwater. And we just kept demanding. This is what the best version of you looks like.
“The biggest thing people are not catching, though, is he’s starting to defend, like he’s staying in front of people. He’s rotating. He has come so far in the last two months, it’s kind of scary. It’s kind of like what Karl (Anthony Towns) did.”
On Murray’s NBA prospects… “And I will tell you now that on that (NBA draft) board, this kid is moving in the right direction, and he has a chance to do whatever he wants.”
On Alex Poythress… “I thought Alex was outstanding, not just that he made jump shots. He made free throws. He was scoring around the basket. He rebounded.”
What’s next: Kentucky faces either Georgia or South Carolina in the SEC tournament semifinals Saturday afternoon (3:30-4 p.m., ESPN).