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Could SEC tourney semifinal loss turn out to be a blessing for Calipari’s Cats?

Reid Travis gets an extra day of rest because UK lost to Tennessee Saturday. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

After winning 13 straight Southeastern Conference Tournament games, Kentucky finally lost one Saturday to Tennessee and won’t have a chance to win a fifth straight SEC tourney title today.

But could that be a good thing for Kentucky?

Actually, it could be. Here’s why:

— The Cats will now have an extra day of rest going into the NCAA Tournament. Winning the SEC Tournament on a Sunday — why the SEC keeps doing that for the sake of a few TV dollars continues to befuddle me — means that Kentucky has had to turn around and sometimes start NCAA play on Thursday. Sure, UK travels first class and can get to and from sites easily, but it is still a grind and now UK has an extra day off.

— Reid Travis won’t have to play three straight days after coming back from a sprained right knee that sidelined him for over three weeks and five games. Travis was playing with no fear or hesitation in the two SEC tourney games but now he can regroup and hopefully be even fresher and bouncier for NCAA play.

— Kentucky can enter NCAA play with a chip on its shoulder. The Cats may not have got a No. 1 seed if they had beat the Vols but they certainly won’t now. Calipari can now rally the troops with his “us against the world” and use whatever the seeding turns out to be to motivate his team.

“The hard thing about this tournament, if we had won the game, my comment to my team now is, If you’re going to make me coach, you’re going to play in this finals, we’re winning it. We’re not going to lose and have to play, then have to play Thursday (in the NCAA),” Calipari said after Saturday’s loss. Now we’re done. We’ll drive home and get ready for the tournament. I believe we’ll be in, do you think so?”

Of course a top 10 team with 27 wins including one over possible No. 1 seed North Carolina along with one win over the Vols, a top 10 team, is going to be in the NCAA field. Who knows? Maybe UK will be the No. 2 seed in the West Region that traditionally is not as loaded with powerhouse teams as other regions. Maybe UK will get to be the No. 2 seed in Louisville and go against Virginia — I am conceding that Duke will be the No. 1 overall seed and play in the East Region.

I think we’ll be in. I don’t even want to say anything. I could tell you what our bracket will look like if you’d like to know. I’m just kidding,” Calipari said.

No he wasn’t. He believes almost every year UK gets one of the toughest NCAA Tournament draws regardless of how the Cats are seeded.

Kentucky did a lot of good things against Tennessee. It dominated the paint. It had five players in double figures. EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley all contributed off the bench. Kentucky just didn’t seal the deal the final three minutes.

But the Cats get a do-over for NCAA play and winning a conference regular-season championship or conference tourney championship is not a requirement to win a national title. So while the SEC tourney semifinal loss hurt, maybe in the long run it will help.

 

7 comments

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  1. At least this game we lost both halves. We normally only lose one.

  2. Keeping on subject matter (unlike Mike), I see it as a motivator and a possible better seed for our Cats. We lost yesterday to a team that should be a number one seed, so no shame in that. GO CATS, show them what you’re made of in the next few weeks and get to the Final Four!

  3. We could have gotten a break…can hardly wait for the seeding/match ups etc., and everyones take on it.

  4. I thought to myself it could be blessing that we loss. Oscar Combs tweeted out something that was interested yesterday the 96 and the 2012 national champions didn’t win the SEC tournament. . Just gotta regroup and keep playing like we did yesterday I like our chances going deep. I really thought we play one of our better games yesterday as a team.

  5. You are right about the 1996 and 2012 champions, and I would add the 1951 champions to that list of UK teams that did not win the SEC tournament.

    However, I don’t view losing as ever being beneficial. Champions do not lose a game when they have an 8 point lead with under 3 to play. Sorry, but that is what happened yesterday.

    1. I agree with your last paragraph, but it happens. Especially with youth on the floor against a hard nosed veteran team.

  6. Professor, if I’m correct there’s been several past National champions that didn’t win there conference tournament in the past decade. It’s all but luck of how the ball bounces your way and how the officials are calling the game. Pure and si.mple.

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