KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - John Calipari is one win away from
clinching a Southeastern Conference championship in his first
season at Kentucky - just what he was brought in to do.
That's why his answer was swift and decisive when Calipari was
asked Friday what winning the school's 44th conference title would
The No. 2 Wildcats (27-1, 12-1), college basketball's winningest
program, would assure themselves of at least a share of the
championship by beating No. 19 Tennessee on Saturday. They would
get the championship outright if Vanderbilt also loses at Arkansas.
"I've always taken the approach that it's about the seed in the
NCAA tournament," Calipari said. "If you want me to be honest
about how I think and what we're doing to prepare, that's what it
is. The SEC tournament is about our seed in the NCAA tournament."
Calipari says he isn't concerned about players slacking off down
the stretch, considering some have projected that there is
virtually nothing Kentucky can do to lose a top seed in the NCAA
The games remain as important as ever, he said, because
everything has to do with getting better. The Wildcats certainly
saw plenty of improvement Thursday with an 82-61 victory over South
Carolina, avenging their only loss.
Most improved was the team's veteran forward Patrick Patterson,
who got a season-high 23 points after managing a season-low five in
the previous meeting with the Gamecocks.
"I know I have to perform well and go out there with a lot of
energy and just play," Patterson said. "I have to come in every
game, every night and play ball. I am the veteran, the older guy
out there on the court with the most experience, and I should be
Kentucky beat Tennessee 73-62 earlier this month. Just as
Patterson seemed to jump-start his season against South Carolina,
freshman guard Eric Bledsoe had one of his best outings against the
Vols and has continued his consistent play since.
Once again, the Wildcats may be catching the Vols at a time
their star big man, Wayne Chism, isn't 100 percent. In Tennessee's
loss to Florida this week, Chism committed a hard foul and dropped
to his knees in pain near the bench.
Even if he's fully healthy, Kentucky seems to be hitting its
stride with its post play. The Wildcats dominated the rebounding
and inside scoring against the Gamecocks, and freshman center
DeMarcus Cousins got yet another double-double to extend his UK
freshman record to 17.
Tennessee has struggled lately, losing three of its last five
games and dropping to fourth in the SEC East behind Kentucky,
Vanderbilt and Florida.
Still, Calipari knows never to look past Vols coach Bruce Pearl,
whom he's faced numerous times over the years while leading
"He may try to come out with some funky defense and we'll deal
with it," Calipari said. "This won't be for the faint of heart.
There are no boys in this game."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)