By LARRY VAUGHT
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.”