Calipari on SEC: “The reality of it is the league is way better.”

John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)


Frank Martin and Rick Barnes both coached in the Big 12 before they got jobs at South Carolina and Tennessee. Both agreed Thursday that the perception of Southeastern Conference basketball being vastly inferior to Big 12 basketball wrong.

Barnes said the SEC is “significantly” better than last year. Martin said when Kansas dominates the Big 12 and wins the league title 13 straight years, no one says the league. If Kentucky dominates the SEC, the perception is that the SEC is down.

Kentucky coach John Calipari’s team lost at Tennessee Tuesday. He said the Vols had played a “ridiculous” schedule by facing five ranked teams before SEC play started.

“I watched them play Mississippi and they were up 15 or 14, they were up on Florida on the road, and those teams came back shooting 3s and scrambling up the defense to beat them by a few. I knew how he was coaching and what they were doing, and they’re a middle of the road team for us and they beat us – and literally from bell to bell they beat us,” Calipari said.

“South Carolina and Florida and Arkansas, you got teams that the issue becomes, you take a loss in this league and they act like it’s the end of the world. Whereas another team will take a loss in their league and, ‘Ahh it’s just a road game, it’s a tough game.’ That’s what we’re trying to overcome.

“Now, the numbers for our teams, a bunch of them in the top 50. I think the numbers are better than they’ve ever been in the time I’ve been here anyway, top to bottom. A couple teams are struggling, but the reality of it is the league is way better, it’s tough winning on the road.

“Mississippi State had a chance to beat us. We played really well against Mississippi. But, you go on the road in this league, it’s hard to win. We got a bunch of teams that are going to deserve a look. Unfortunate what happened with Georgia on that clock stuff, because again, going to Texas A&M and winning is hard. We’ve been in two or three overtime games down there. But I still think Georgia is one of those teams. They’re that good, too.”


  1. I understand the perception that the SEC is stronger, but is that the reality?

    Last year, the top 4 teams had ANE values between 0.217 ppp to 0.151 ppp while this year the top 4 have been 0.325 ppp to 0.164 ppp. The Top 4 are stronger. The bottom 4 have played at about the same levels as the bottom 4 last year, no real improvement or deterioration. The middle 6 teams this season have Adjusted Net Efficiencies ranging from 0.144 ppp to 0.080 ppp while last year’s middle 6 had ANE values of 0.126 ppp to 0.075 ppp. There has been a modest improvement in the middle 6.

    So, Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina are much stronger than a year ago. Missouri, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State are all about the same. LSU, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are much weaker. Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama are stronger.

    The NET is an overall increase in strength in the middle and a significant increase of strength at the top of the conference. I think the SEC will get 4 in the tournament and may get 5 teams in the NCAA this season, with UK, Florida, South Carolna likely in, and Tennessee and Arkansas on the bubble. Georgia or Alabama still could move onto the bubble at the expense of Tennessee or Arkansas.

    The conference is stronger than last year by measurable amounts.

  2. I believe we have had some good coaches make their way into the league and it starting to show.

Leave a Reply