Adams: Calipari good for the SEC

When Kentucky hired John Calipari as its new basketball coach, the rest of the SEC probably responded with a collective “uh-oh.”

Despite Kentucky’s recent basketball malaise, it still has won 33 more conference championships than any other SEC team. Combine that tradition with Calipari’s recruiting track record, and you have a daunting challenge for the rest of the conference.

The challenge should be welcomed.

A conference often overshadowed by football and just as often underrated at the national level had an off-year in 2008-09 when only three teams qualified for the NCAA tournament and none advanced as far as the Sweet 16. The league needed a jolt.

Calipari and Kentucky can provide it.

Calipari already has signed point guard Eric Bledsoe, convinced former Memphis recruit DeMarcus Cousins to follow him to Kentucky, and kept Daniel Orton, who signed with former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie. All three are high school All-Americans.

The recruits haven’t overshadowed all the returnees. All-SEC forward Patrick Patterson has postponed his pro career for at least another year.

There’s the potential for more good news at Kentucky. High-scoring guard Jodie Meeks hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning for another college season, and the Wildcats are still in the running for John Wall, the nation’s No. 1-rated point guard.

How good could Kentucky be?

“If Meeks comes back — and there are still some things pending (in recruiting) — Kentucky could be a potential Final Four team,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “Right now, they’re the favorite in the SEC.”

Kentucky the favorite in the SEC: Sounds like old times, huh? But in a way, it’s not like old times at all.

Basketball was a second-class citizen at too many conference schools when Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp was having his way with the SEC in the 1950s and 60s. Basketball matters more now, and the programs are writing the checks to prove it. The expectations have been raised as well.

When Pearl was hired at UT, there was nothing cryptic about his mission statement. He wanted to be competitive with the best programs in the conference. He accomplished that faster than almost anyone could have imagined. His teams are 7-1 against Florida, which won back-to-back national titles during those four years, and repeatedly have finished ahead of the Wildcats in the SEC standings.

Finishing ahead of Kentucky is about to become more difficult. As Pearl pointed out following Calipari’s hiring, “The bar has been raised.”

And the entire SEC could benefit from it.

The best players don’t just want to play for the best teams. They want to play against the best players.

Why do you think the Big East has become so powerful in basketball? Why do you think the SEC usually is so strong from top to bottom in football?

This isn’t just about college. It’s about the pros. If an offensive tackle can hold his own against an SEC defensive end, he can make a name for himself with NFL scouts.

No one is more aware of this than Pearl, who has scheduled accordingly. By playing a demanding non-conference schedule, he’s helping more than his RPI. He’s using it as a recruiting tool.

“We even talk to the prospects about who they’re going to play,” Pearl said.

Calipari has proved he can recruit the top prospects. He could help the rest of the SEC recruit them, too.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 34

panties4tebow writes:

Bla, Bla John Adams!

TommyJack writes:

Sounds about right, Adams.

murrayvol writes:

I do like Pearl's chances against Coach Cal more than vs Gillespie. Talent will be better but coaching philosophy is a good fit.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

When Rick Pitino in an interview with the media mentions new Kentucky coach Cal at Kentucky along with Bruce Pearl with the Vols as outstanding recruiters...this shows his respect for our Vol coach...Pitino described Pearl as an adversary on the recruiting trail who is making waves, also.

ncvol17 writes:

Toss a squid at Coach Calamari....Something fishy going on at UK....Feed the Cats

Slystone writes:

Cal already has the #1 recruiting class and a quality point guard which Pearl has yet get, of course 2010 recruits brings the cadillac guards to UT. Lots of time between a committment and signing a LOI. Stay tune!

dvols writes:

basketball????????????????????

i'm just sayin!

volball7222 writes:

Cal is great for the SEC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And Obama is great for the country!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to volball7222:

Cal is great for the SEC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And Obama is great for the country!

Which country? j/k

chestnutglade writes:

Ky free throw shooting % will go down now.

Bigger_Al writes:

Adams out of Knoxville would be even better.

Colliervol writes:

Oh yes, a huge plus for the SEC, no doubt. You mean the coach that's bringing in recruits that have no intention of going to class for more than 3 months so they can be eligible for that "one and done" year? Or some recruits that can barely read or speak? If I had a KY diploma, I'd certainly be proud of it. This is going to get real interesting to see just how much the Cat fans will stomach in the name of winning.

Colliervol writes:

in response to TarHeelsRule:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not even worth kabitzing with a child especially if you don't understand how the APR formula works.

Final word on this subject. We are happy with Bruce Pearl. Your opinion does not count. We shall see if Calipari can do better than at Memphis. Remember that he had a ton of talent there too and he has as many national titles as UT does. And UT beat him on more than one occasion even with all that talent.

P.S.- It would help your credibility if you could spell "dominance". But I forget that 10 year olds don't have much of a repertoire so I'll overlook that.

Orangeblood13 writes:

funny how Adams has more good things to say about the competition than the real coaches here in our own home town. Maybe you and TarSqueelRules can go get a room you jerk.

belayvol writes:

You know this could turn out pretty funny. Between bama and ky jelly, 9/10 of all the NCAA investigators will be tied up in Tuscalooser and Lexluthington investigating. That will leave the other 1/10th to look into urby in gaynesville.

golfballs03 writes:

The Squid

beachvol1 writes:

Who is this tarheel dude??? wonder what he'll be saying when one of those Cal/Cat combo's is from is own backyard, John Wall!!!! All Cal will do is get the Kentucky faithful on probation and disgrace the SEC...just give him time...no way he can legally get Cousins qualified ...maybe Alabama should sell Cal some good text books to help...not sure he(Cousins) could read them...Cal will rate at the top on his recruiting, but at the bottom on actual on the floor coaching...mark it down!!!!!!!!!!!

CrankE writes:

Adams: Calipari will be good for me. Natural rivalry between UT-UK, pre-existing rivalry between Pearl-Cal. When UK wins, I'll write about how great Cal is. When UT wins, I'll write about how much trouble the players are in-how the program's out of control, Bruce's ex-wife, Fulmer, Tebow, Spurrier, or Saban.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Sounds about right, Adams.

Agreed. One benefit has been the raging sounds of silence from memphuss.

bkgunter writes:

in response to TarHeelsRule:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yo, TarHolesDrool:
The columnist is right on this one---the bar is raised. Do you come here to ease your anxieties about interlopers in the gated community that is TarHoleNation ? Cal is a total lightweight. Pearl has beaten him consistently with less talent. The UK pressure cooker is unlike anything in Memphis. He will wilt---like your pitiful, irelevant cheerleading posts on this board. Get back to us when your own FOOTBALL coaching lightweight "CALS" it up in the Fall with superior talent. When did the TarHoles last win the ACC in football ?
Or even compete ? As for basketball, there is no less lively basketball arena atmosphere anywhere than Chapel Hill---it's like a hospital waiting room for most games. Because the insufferably entitled fans are just sitting there anxiously awaiting the birth of the next win they so plainly deserve. Bitter enough for you ?

b_neas writes:

Agree with an earlier post. Pearls system is much better suited to beat KY now that Cal and his offense is there. Gillespie's system did not match up well vs Pearls, which is why Pearl had the losing record vs Gill. KY may be on the way back to prominence, but Pearls system will be able to compete with Cals, just as he did when Cal was at Memphis.

stinky_pinky writes:

duh

johnlg00 writes:

in response to TaterVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I feel your pain, buddy! IMHO, it makes perfect sense that CBP's teams haven't done well in tourneys. The simple answer is that CBP's teams have never had a consistent half-court offense. CBP prefers to play an up-tempo, full-court style with frequent substitutions to wear the other team down. This is usually going to be good for 20+ wins a season since most teams either don't like to play that fast or have the depth to do so.

The problem at tourney time is that by then everybody has had a good look at that style and knows how to avoid getting caught up in it unless they think they are better at it than we are. Other teams, especially disciplined and experienced ones, slow down the tempo and force us to rely on the half-court offense to get most of our points.

The mind-trap in this is that the constant substitutions in the regular season have the effect in the post-season of harming the cohesion and consistency needed to score in the half-court offense. Players who were recruited to play an up-tempo game and have done so for most of a regular season or two don't necessarily have the mind-set to learn and consistently execute set plays, which is how most tournament games are won. Players who were used to getting a certain amount of playing time in a wide-open system might not take well to sitting down if they are not among the smaller number who HAVE to have extensive minutes playing together if they are to be effective in the half-court.

I think CBP is perfectly well-aware of this but has made a conscious decision to continue the up-tempo game as much as any particular year's team can play it because talented players enjoy playing it and fans like to watch it. However, IMHO again, if UT is to reach that fabled "next level", the team MUST get better at the half-court offense.

This is because, at the higher levels of competition such as one sees at the Sweet-Sixteen level and beyond, no one team is going to decisively "out-talent" everybody else. It almost ALWAYS comes down to which teams execute offensively AND defensively in the clutch in the half-court. For the most part the teams which do that are the ones which have been put together and coached to do that; most predominately up-tempo teams aren't put together that way and haven't properly fostered the necessary habits over AT LEAST a whole season.

Sorry for the dissertation, but, as I hope you can see, this is a subject which has been on my mind for a long time. I expect to be either ignored for the length or derided for these opinions, but that is how I see it.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to long_vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Excellent points! BTW, I think Vol fans will tolerate a somewhat more deliberate style if they see effort, execution, and WINS against quality opponents. This style is NOT CBP's preference, but that is an excellent argument for a key assistant or two who DOES have such a background.

golfballs03 writes:

If guys like Varnado and Patterson are coming back to school, then I can almost guarantee that Tyler Smith will be back.

b_neas writes:

in response to realityinknox:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Two?? what a short memory you have....it was, and is, 4. 4 years in the NCAA tourney which is longer than the cats current streak, lol. 4 years of finishing ahead of KY in the SEC east. Remember that, it was 4!!

SmokyMTNVol writes:

in response to long_vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Great post Long_Vol

I have been saying this for a long time. Chris and JaJuan played with a lot of heart and the other players followed suit.
I have said on here many of times that I am not a big Bruce Pearl fan at all. His teams play no defense at all and the offense is abysmal. His teams are very selfish and do not play as a team.
It has also concerned me from the get go that his teams have become worse come tournament time and not better.
I was at the game against Louisville and it was very obvious to everyone in the building that Pitino was toying with Pearl and out coaching him. I was embarassed for coach Pearl.

golfballs03 writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do you know??? Pearl is 2-2 vs. Calipari. So what? And that's against some pretty good Memphis teams.

ETNTigerFan writes:

in response to golfballs03:

Do you know??? Pearl is 2-2 vs. Calipari. So what? And that's against some pretty good Memphis teams.

I'd hardly give all the credit to Pearl in one of those games. 2007 Memphis was playing it's third game in 5 days and Loften just happened to go OFF that night from the get go. 2008 UT just plain out hustled Memphis.

UT may have finished above UK the past 4 years but I think it was UK ahead of UT the previous 95. If you think Cal at UK is good for UT you are out of your mind.

Vol_Jokes writes:

So funny to see the SEC teams circling their wagons now as they expect regular beatdowns from Kentucky. There is no reason to be scared of Cal and Kentucky. After all you have Bruce right? The mighty one who found him an opportunity to get him a large undeserving raise for himself and then go around the state laughing about how he took UT.
Oh and Collier, i'm sure if you start digging in the record books now maybe by next season you can come up with some more meaningful data, such as Pearl won 3 out his first 5 and Cal only one 2 out of his first 5.

Only in vulville.
What's going to be really fun is when Memphis's first year coach and team whup up on the vols next season. Even with the catastrophe that hit our team we can probably manage to get a win in the ncaa tournament next year which is setting higher expectations than the vuls have. Hey Pearl didn't even get a win in the tournament and blew the SEC tournament also and then UT, so afraid of being humiliated that Memphis would steal their coach goes out, without even learning the true facts and offers him a huge raise. What a university. By the way, how many of your athletes have some criminal probs and of course it's very well known of the academic situation there.

Go Vols (Very overrated losers)

govolshw writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

Adams out of Knoxville would be even better.

agreed

SmokyMTNVol writes:

in response to Vol_Jokes:

So funny to see the SEC teams circling their wagons now as they expect regular beatdowns from Kentucky. There is no reason to be scared of Cal and Kentucky. After all you have Bruce right? The mighty one who found him an opportunity to get him a large undeserving raise for himself and then go around the state laughing about how he took UT.
Oh and Collier, i'm sure if you start digging in the record books now maybe by next season you can come up with some more meaningful data, such as Pearl won 3 out his first 5 and Cal only one 2 out of his first 5.

Only in vulville.
What's going to be really fun is when Memphis's first year coach and team whup up on the vols next season. Even with the catastrophe that hit our team we can probably manage to get a win in the ncaa tournament next year which is setting higher expectations than the vuls have. Hey Pearl didn't even get a win in the tournament and blew the SEC tournament also and then UT, so afraid of being humiliated that Memphis would steal their coach goes out, without even learning the true facts and offers him a huge raise. What a university. By the way, how many of your athletes have some criminal probs and of course it's very well known of the academic situation there.

Go Vols (Very overrated losers)

The Vol basketball team was not overrated. Pearl did a horrible job of coaching this squad. He had no control over his program and he let the players run the asylum. If Pearl had any balls at all he would have sat the whole bunch of them down until they bought into his system. Instead this team underachieved and let all of us down. This team should have at least won the conference tourney as well as made a decent run in the NCAA's.
Pearl recieved a raise for doing a pi** poor job. Unbelievable

SmokyMTNVol writes:

Go Vols!

JustaStudent writes:

in response to Vol_Jokes:

So funny to see the SEC teams circling their wagons now as they expect regular beatdowns from Kentucky. There is no reason to be scared of Cal and Kentucky. After all you have Bruce right? The mighty one who found him an opportunity to get him a large undeserving raise for himself and then go around the state laughing about how he took UT.
Oh and Collier, i'm sure if you start digging in the record books now maybe by next season you can come up with some more meaningful data, such as Pearl won 3 out his first 5 and Cal only one 2 out of his first 5.

Only in vulville.
What's going to be really fun is when Memphis's first year coach and team whup up on the vols next season. Even with the catastrophe that hit our team we can probably manage to get a win in the ncaa tournament next year which is setting higher expectations than the vuls have. Hey Pearl didn't even get a win in the tournament and blew the SEC tournament also and then UT, so afraid of being humiliated that Memphis would steal their coach goes out, without even learning the true facts and offers him a huge raise. What a university. By the way, how many of your athletes have some criminal probs and of course it's very well known of the academic situation there.

Go Vols (Very overrated losers)

Really?
First off, not only did Memphis's coach leave, but he took the best recruits with him. So that leads you to believe your coach who looks like he's 12 can take the leftovers and beat us?
Secondly, Memphis made it pretty clear they wanted Bruce Pearl, so he can't be that bad.
And finally, you really want to talk about criminal problems and acedimics? You really think that Memphis is better in those categories? I mean, we are talking about the same Memphis right?
By the way, go hit a free throw.

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