SEC Champs Have Earned First Round Bye in Tournament
For the 16th time in the 19 years since the SEC expanded, Kentucky enters
the SEC Tournament with a first round bye. The Wildcats earned the East's number
one seed by posting a 14-2 record in league play, including an 18-0 record
at home. In doing so the Cats wrapped up their 44th SEC Championship.
UK wrapped up the regular season by posting a 74-66 Senior Day victory over
Florida. Led by Darius
Miller and Eric Bledsoe's game-high 14 points and John Wall's game-high
eight assists, the Wildcats completed a season sweep of the Gators. Kentucky
hit eight three-pointers for the second straight game and shot 53.8 percent
from the field to gain an 18-point first-half advantage.
This year marks the 51st SEC Tournament, and UK has won nearly half (25)
the titles despite playing in just 48 previous events. The Wildcats have won
38 of their last 46 SEC Tournament games.
Kentucky's first round opponent will be the Alabama. The Wildcats split the
regular season series with the Gamecocks, and defeated the Tide in their lone
The more things change, the more they stay the same for the Kentucky men's
Although the stakes have changed as postseason play begins, head coach John
Calipari said his team will not play, practice or prepare any differently for
this weekend's Southeastern Conference Tournament than it did during the 29-2
UK will tip off its postseason Friday in the SEC Tournament in Nashville at
1 p.m. (noon CT) against Alabama.
On Alabama's energy level after having played a game today ...
"They're going on adrenaline right now, so they will be fine. After today,
we're all in back-to-back situations. For everybody in the country, there are
no days off now. There's no disadvantage, and they don't want their season
to end, and they're going to bring it. Alabama could come out of the gate making
shots and making plays, playing inspired. We just have to remember they will
have to play that way for 40 minutes, and that's difficult when you're on adrenaline.
That's why you better bring it and you better look at this and see what the
level of the game is. You can't say you're playing hard if he's playing harder
than you. Because then you're going to lose."
On how Kentucky will come out to start the game ...
"Until the ball is thrown up, you don't know how this young team is going
to respond. We haven't been in this environment. We haven't been in a tournament
setting where it's this type of a competition where every possession truly
matters. You cannot come in and start the game how you did at Tennessee because
you'll be down 18-4. This is all new to them."
On Alabama's game plan against Kentucky ...
"They'll press us some. They're a team that will spread the court and press.
If they do that, it will open up lanes for us. The games that they've played
well in are games that they have pressed. I'm not sure if that's the best thing
they do against us, but if it's working for you, you don't worry about us.
You do what you do. They played some zone against us last time, and I imagine
they'll do that again. It's more than winning for us, it's how we play. It's
about getting us in the right frame of mind for a post-season run. Teams are
getting knocked off in tournaments, but the good news is it's not one-and-done
On playing inspired basketball ...
"When you're playing a team like that, you have to have the same energy and
you have to have the same mentality. You have to be playing for something that's
important to you, and for us it's the seed in the NCAA Tournament. I've done
this a long time, and if anybody tells you seed doesn't matter, they've never
coached in the NCAA Tournament. Seeding does matter. If that's more important
to us than them playing their season beyond this, we'll be fine. If it's more
important that they continue their season than it is for us to lock in our
seed, then we'll get beat."
On Kentucky's experience from the regular season ...
"We haven't had an easy game all year. Every game we've played, there was
something attached. These guys responded. We lost a couple of road games, and
in both of those games with a minute to go, we could've won the game. I will
say there are another ten games we could've lost in the last two minutes that
we ended up winning. I'm pleased, I love my team. I know they're young, they're
inexperienced, they do dumb things, but they also have a will to win and they
want to win. Again, we're playing Alabama. These guys never think the game
is over, and if you think the game is over, you're going to lose."
On having the mentality of playing to win ...
"My one comment to my team is that if you play not to lose, more than likely
you're going to lose. You've got to play to win. If you're going to hold the
ball to try to get out of a game, in these environments, you're going to lose.
That's why we almost got back in the game at Tennessee. I imagine that, without
watching the tape, is what South Carolina tried to do today. All of the sudden,
the momentum turns and you can't stop it."
On how DeAndre' Liggins practiced ...
"He was good today, he and Darnell (Dodson) were good in practice. I showed
him tape today, and I'm not a big tape guy for our team, but we watched three
minutes of our Alabama game because I wanted to show them that Alabama came
out of the gate and played harder and played more inspired than we did. Then
I stuck DeAndre' in the game and the tape showed him diving on the floor, offensively
rebounding, and I said `where is this guy?' He dove on the floor, and the team
busted out laughing. I think he gets it, and I think he'll be fine."
Pregame Press Conference Quotes Joe Craft Center, Monday, March 8, 2010
Wall being awarded Player of the Year by Yahoo! Sports ...
"Good. He deserves it. They all deserve all of those awards. They have taken
on all comers; they've taken on teams that have played out of their minds,
and they've come back at them and they have responded and they are still standing.
I imagine Pat (Patrick
Patterson) will get all kinds of awards, DeMarcus (Cousins) will, and so
will Eric (Bledsoe) along with John."
On reaching the level of maturity they need in the few weeks left in the
"Oh I hope so. Well I don't know, we could have a meltdown and we'll all look
and say that it's been a heck of a year, and it's been a fun ride. Now that's
a talk I don't ever want to give. I just don't want to give that talk. And
I want you to know that I've given it to our team five times. From where we
were at the beginning of the year to where we are now, the maturity and keeping
the emotions in-check, it's not even close. But it's got to go more if we're
going to do something special."
On if there is a different level of play in the conference tournament...
"No. We're doing exactly what we're doing. I gave them off yesterday; Tuesday
is an individual workout day, Wednesday we'll practice and travel, and we'll
have walk-through and practice on Thursday to get ready for the game, and that's
it. When we go into post-season, whether it's conference or NCAA we do nothing
different. We prepare for every team like we always do. I want them comfortable.
I don't want them to feel like this is different. It's exactly the same. You're
playing a bunch of weekend tournaments. The problem with this one is there's
no day in between. If you win, you're playing. If you win, you're playing,
and it's hard."
On handling the rotation differently given that it is a conference tournament...
"It depends on the game. The best thing that we have is when we talk about
Ramon (Harris) and Perry
Stevenson being 9 and 10, that could move down if DeAndre (Liggins) doesn't
get that energy back. He'll probably move back and I'll put Ramon in there.
But we have room for error with foul trouble and other problems, and then one
of those two (Harris or Stevenson) step in and play, we are fine. If you have
anybody on the front line that's not doing it, Perry steps in; or somebody
in the backcourt that isn't doing it, in any of those three positions, Ramon
steps in. It gives us the depth that we need."
On what the SEC Tournament means to him ...
"Well if you're going to be in a tournament, you want to win it. But our whole
thing is that it's bigger and it's more important than winning. We've got to
get ourselves prepared for that next weekend and that's what we'll do. Basically
everything we do is based on how and where we finish the season. We're trying
to get ready and right physically and emotionally, and in every way so we can
go in and do our very best. If you are your best and you do not win, then you
can deal with it, as long as you're your best. I want fresh legs. I want fresh
minds. I want a competitive spirit. I want the players to expect to win so
that when things get a little crazy, it's ok. That takes a mature person. They
don't call a foul, `Oh well, we're still winning.' A player starts talking,
`Oh well, we're still winning.' These kids are 19, they don't know how to react
when things get thrown at them. The good news is we've gone through just about
everything, and we're still standing."
"It's been good for us. He and Darnell (Dodson) have stepped up for us. It's
nice when they pull up to shoot and you think the ball is going in versus please
don't shoot an air ball. I'll tell you, some of it is on John (Wall) and Eric
(Bledsoe) because when they're making shots it takes some pressure off our
team. Because now those other guys know, `I can let it go and it's not on me.'"
On his SEC Player of the Year award and DeMarcus Cousins' SEC Freshman
of the Year award ...
"Coach (Calipari) talked to us about it and said he would put one of us up
for each award and see who wins. We both played great during the SEC (season),
and we're happy that both of us received an award. I'm not upset that he (DeMarcus
Cousins) got Freshman of the Year, and he's not upset that I got Player of
the Year. We're just happy for each other."
On Kentucky playing their best basketball during the post-season...
"I think the best defensive game we played was the Arkansas game and also
the second half in our game against Georgia last week. If we can play like
that every night, it will be difficult for teams to beat us. We're at our best
when teams can't score on us and we're knocking down shots."
On how well the team will hold its composure during the post-season...
"It will be tough because we have a lot of freshmen that have never played
in a conference tournament or an NCAA tournament. If we get down on ourselves
and get frustrated, we've got to stay together. It won't be our offense or
defense that will cause us to lose a game, it will be ourselves. We can't stop
trusting each other and we can't try to go one-on-one."
"It's an honor. We have some pretty good freshmen. I won over John [Wall],
that feels pretty good."
Wall being best player in the league, and DeMarcus being best freshman...
"I knew it was going to be either [one] or [the other]. I really thought he
was going to win both. It was surprising to win freshman of the year. I knew
he kind of let me have this one. I thought John [Wall] was going to win everything.
He deserves it. He's been balling all year."
On being recognized...
"It feels good. It shows that I made a little noise in the SEC. I really didn't
know until today. People were coming up congratulating me and I thought, `What
did I do?' Then I found out."
On winning the SEC Tournament ...
"It's a big goal. We want to win every game from here on out. We want the
trophy. That's been our main focus from the beginning."
On what the team needs to do to get better ...
"Playing a whole game. If we play a whole game, there's no telling how good
we can be. Cal said that holding it together needs to be our focus and I think
that was directed at me. I believe I'm getting better at it, but I think game
situations are getting worse."
"We're going to come out and just play because if we worry about it too much,
it will probably start to affect us."
On how he feels about Kentucky's play going into the SEC Tournament...
"I feel good because we're the No. 1 seed and everyone is trying to beat us.
We're going to come into the tournament playing the way we know how to play.
I know a lot of our fans will be there, so it will feel a lot like playing
On playing with the mentality of having fun...
"Coach (Calipari) told us to have fun playing the game and to not let the
emotions of the game affect us. When we start having fun, we handle the game
and start knocking down shots. Our defense is a key as well, so if we can have
fun, we'll do more damage.
On being named to the SEC All-Freshman team...
"It feels good because Coach (Calipari) has put in a lot of work on me as
a player. It means a lot for the program, so I'm excited."
"That was one of my goals. I'm proud of myself that I got it. As far as [being
named to] All-Defense, that was the biggest surprise. I'm proud of myself and
On John (Wall) winning SEC Player of the Year...
"He deserves it. My other guesses would have been DeMarcus (Cousins) and (South
Carolina guard Devin) Downey, but I'm glad the votes were in his favor. John
and DeMarcus deserve it, being freshmen and doing what they've done this year.
John stepping up in big games and providing ways to win and DeMarcus being
unstoppable shows they both deserve those awards."
About seeding in the big tournament and needing to make a good showing
"It's very important. Cal says we need two, but we want to win three. We want
to win the championship and have that as an accomplishment under our belts
that we can look back on and say, `We did that.'"