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Notebook: Matthew Mitchell - 'I love the SEC Tournament'

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Keyla Snowden and the Wildcats celebrated their SEC title by cutting down the nets in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Keyla Snowden and the Wildcats celebrated their SEC title by cutting down the nets in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Matthew Mitchell joined the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference on Monday afternoon to preview the upcoming conference tournament. Mitchell and some his Wildcats will be talking to the media tomorrow at which point we'll have a story and video, but here are a few notes from his comments today:

  • A running theme on the teleconference was the parity in the league and how open the conference tournament is expected to be because of it. In past years, Tennessee or other of the league's powerhouses were prohibitive favorites heading into the SEC, but this year is expected to be completely different. "I think it was a really good year for our conference and a lot of competition," Mitchell said. "I think that makes for a very exciting tournament."  Even though Kentucky comes in as the No. 1 overall seed, with seven other likely NCAA Tournament teams taking part, Mitchell understands the line of thinking that it's anyone's tournament to win. "I do think it's a wide open tournament," Mitchell said. "I don't think that we are an unbeatable team by any stretch of the imagination. As you can see, we suffered three losses so it's certainly possible for us to lose and I think we are aware of that."
  • The parity in the league only adds to Mitchell's excitement for this weekend. While some coaches (John Calipari, for one) would prefer not the play conference tournaments at all, the four days coming up are among Mitchell's favorite of the season.  "The SEC Tournament, to me, is one of the most special times of the year," Mitchell said. "I love the SEC Tournament. I think it is one of the toughest championships to win. For teams that play on Thursday, to have to win four games in four days to win the championship and for teams even that get the bye who have to win three games in three days, I think takes a Herculean effort." If UK is able to pull off three wins beginning on Friday at 1 p.m. against either Florida or Auburn, Mitchell would likely be unable to contain his excitement, not that he would even try. "I think it would be a tremendous accomplishment for our team if we could be the champion so we're excited to be the No. 1 seed," Mitchell said. "We want to try to prepare as hard as we can this week to try to have a great tournament and I think it's very important to try to take advantage of the opportunity."
  • Mitchell was clearly still on a high from clinching the regular season title. He was asked twice by reporters how he was doing, and both times he replied by saying, "I'm great," about as earnestly as you could imagine. Mitchell, though, understands concerns that Sunday's celebration in Memorial Coliseum could have a negative effect on his team moving forward. "We're going through handling this for the first time and I do have concerns like that and I think it's important for us to make certain we put the regular season behind us and try to get focused on the tournament," Mitchell said. However, he believes the conference title merited a celebration regardless. "We work so hard and the kids prepared even before the conference season started to get themselves in a position to be the regular season champions and our fans had supported us so much so we wanted to have a celebration of that accomplishment and I wouldn't do it any differently," Mitchell said. "I think it was a great night for us." As for the future, Mitchell doesn't have any concerns whether he'll be able to capture the attention of his team. "Our team has been able to stay focused and do some great things this season and they've had a lot of great successes," Mitchell said. "While I'm concerned about it and will try to do everything from a coaching standpoint to make certain that we're moving in the right direction going into the tournament, I'm not overly concerned."

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