By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari has heaped praise on Tennessee all season … and that certainly hasn’t changed now that the game is almost here.
“Tennessee is just so good,” the UK coach said. “They don’t beat themselves. They play efficient on both sides. They’re physical. They’re experienced. They’ve got older players.”
Tennessee became the first team to be ranked No. 1 without a top 100 recruit since Oklahoma during the 2015-16 season. Oklahoma reached the Final Four that season. Tennessee’s highest ranked recruit is freshman D.J. Burns at 108 — and he’s being redshirted.
Yet the Vols have won 19 straight games, are unbeaten in SEC play and are ranked No. 1.
“There’s some programs around the country that could never get by with recruiting the class that we brought in that’s having the success we’re having right now because their media and their fan base would be screaming that we’re not recruiting the best players in the country,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
Is that a shot at UK and Duke? Maybe but it’s just an honest statement. But it has worked for the Vols and Barnes the last two years.
“They are terrific. They are the best team in the country,” Florida coach Mike White said after his team lost to Tennessee. “They are equally as good defensively as they are offensively. I think versatility, discipline, toughness and strength are words I would use to describe them on both side of the basketball.
“They defended us at a high level again. They are all very strong and can muscle you. Their bigs can move their feet. It is really a good combination. They are really good.”