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From the Pressbox: SEC Tournament notes

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ATLANTA -- There's an old saying that goes, "Be careful for what you wish because you may just get it."

Nevertheless, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is eager for the matchup with Kentucky on Friday at the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Atlanta, even though he knows there will be a sea of blue-clad fans in the Georgia Dome.

"It's going to be a fantastic atmosphere for our guys to experience Big Blue Nation at the SEC Tournament, Kennedy told reporters Thursday after the Rebels beat South Carolina 66-55. "I'm looking forward to playing Kentucky in this atmosphere."

Kennedy said UK fans are not only the most passionate fans in college basketball, but maybe in all of college sports.

"There's nothing like Big Blue Nation," Kennedy said. "I lived in Birmingham, so I've experienced Alabama football fans. I lived in Cincinnati, so I've experienced Buckeye Nation.  But there's nothing like Kentucky fans and you get the sense of that at the conference tournament. I think it's going to be a great experience for our guys.  It'll have a Final Four feel for them, and at the end of the day, this is about creating memories. I hope it'll be a good one. I hope it ends like the last one did."

The last time ended in a 71-69 Kentucky loss.

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Earlier this season, head coach John Calipari said his team had more potential upside than any other team in the country. As the Wildcats enter postseason play, he said they've done a good of realizing it.

"Our execution has gotten better," Calipari said. "Our toughness has gotten better. We're not where we need to be yet but I look around the country and we've improved as much as anybody."

Calipari is always looking for ways to motivate his players, and last Saturday, with former NBA star Reggie Miller watching the Cats practice at Tennessee in his role as a CBS analyst, the UK coach asked Miller to talk to the team.

"He just said this is the kind of game that you live for," Calipari said. "I said, 'Did you hate the Knicks?'  He said, 'Yeah, but I hated the Bulls, too.' That's what I'm trying to bring out of these guys. They think it's a video game. He said, 'If you don't come with fire in your belly, you could get blown out.' It was a good message." 

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SEC Tournament week is one of Jeff Sheppard's favorite times of the year. The MVP of the 1998 Final Four for UK's last national title team, "Shep" and his family make the trek to the site of the event almost every year. 

This season, that means getting back to his home state of Georgia. Sheppard said the more time that passes, the more precious the memory of that '98 season becomes.

"It's getting more and more special," Sheppard said. "Most of us have families and most of us, no matter what other teams we played on, we realize just how special the '96 and '98 teams were. The '98 team, with that being my senior year, will always be near and dear to my heart."

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Morehead State's Kenneth Faried leads the nation in rebounding at just over 14 per game, but how would he fare in the SEC?

A caller put that question to Kentucky assistant coach John Robic on Coach Cal's radio call-in show earlier this week on the Big Blue Sports Network.

"He would lead the SEC in rebounding because of his motor," Robic said. "He takes rebounds personally and that's what great rebounders do," Robic said.

Robic said that motor and non-stop energy is a key to being a good rebounder, along with desire. And he said good rebounders study tape and have a good idea where a ball is coming off the rim based on the spot from which the shot was launched.

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Thats why Cal wouldnt play us this year because he knew Faried would eat Jones and Knight up.

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  • April: Thats why Cal wouldnt play us this year because he knew Faried would eat Jones and Knight up. read more
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