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Teleconference notes: Coach Cal bullish on the SEC

It’s been a busy day around the Kentucky basketball office as the Cats get ready to squeeze in a practice before heading to Athens, Ga., for Tuesday night’s game against the Bulldogs.

Prior to practice, John Calipari joined the weekly Southeastern Conference teleconference to discuss UK’s upcoming games against Georgia and LSU, along with a couple of quotes from the opposition’s respective head coaches. Given the SEC’s success this weekend (Tennessee beat Connecticut, Arkansas defeated Michigan and Mississippi State won at Vanderbilt), Coach Cal was out to pump up the league.

Coach Cal was also on the radio in Atlanta Monday morning with Tony Barnhart and Wes Durhma. You can listen to that interview here.

Coach Cal

On UK’s games this week …
“Obviously you go on the road in this league, it’s very difficult. Auburn had us. Tennessee had us. We were very fortunate to play the last two or three minutes to get out of both buildings with a W. I expect Georgia and LSU will be the same. You’re talking about teams that are battling and play the way they play and they’re well coached. It’s going to be hard games for us.”

On the talent of Georgia freshman guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope …
“He’s a terrific player. I’m telling you, he’s one of the best in our league. Forget about class. Anymore when you start looking at class you’re making a mistake. If a kid can play, he can play. Forget about age. These kids have matured beyond (their years). They play against each other. They play all over the country as 10th, 11th and 12th graders, so he’s a terrific player. He can create his own shots. He’s a game changer for their program. Mark (Fox) has done well in getting young people like that into Georgia. You’re talking about one of the best young players in the country.”

On the power of the SEC this season …
“This league, I’ve been in here three years, by far this is the best this league has been. We have five teams in this league that I believe are Sweet 16 teams. Alabama has that kind of talent. Vanderbilt. Mississippi State going to Vanderbilt and winning shows how good they really are. We’re not even talking about Florida anymore. I think, hopefully, we’re an NCAA Tournament team, but five of those. Tennessee just beat Connecticut. They just had that young guy, (Jarnell) Stokes, eligible. Now you’ve got Arkansas, who everybody said because of how we played them, ‘Ah, they’re not (any good),’ they beat Michigan. They make their first 11 shots. Then you have LSU. What about Mississippi right now? You go try to win at Auburn right now or go try to win at Georgia or South Carolina right now. This league could have as many as eight to nine teams in the discussion, and it would be a great day for us to get eight teams in the NCAA Tournament. But what happens is we don’t promote each other enough. Part of it is us coaches. We’ve got to brag about (the other teams). Like mention the other guy’s name. We have to brag about each others’ programs. Even if you lose or win, you brag about the other guy. That’s what’s happening. Right now there’s one league. Our top five teams, come on now. Maybe the Big 12 because those top three teams they have are really good, but this league is as good as any league in the country and road games are hard to win.”

Georgia head coach Mark Fox

On his team’s matchup with UK …
“We get to host a terrific Kentucky team, a team that I think is loaded with weapons. It’s a team that is getting terrific play from a number of places. Obviously some guys get lots of the attention, but they have lots of players who are making plays. I just think they’ve got an outstanding team. Their defense is terrific and it has always been. John has always done a great job with his team defensively. This team is no different now. Obviously with a terrific shot blocker inside, this team is even better. I think we have a great challenge in front of us and obviously we have a late tip, so hopefully we’ll be ready for the challenge.”

On why the Kentucky defense is better this year and how Doron Lamb and TerrenceJones are playing this year …
“I think that their defense is obviously very sound. Fundamentally it’s structured very well. They have great size. I think they have a lot of interchangeable parts which allows them to do a lot of things. (Darius) Miller is probably bigger than my power forward and he’s starting at the two. They’re big and they’re long and they’re athletic and I think that they have a team that really covers ground well. I think they add to that some quality play off the bench. Lamb is having a terrific year. He’s really playing with great maturity as a sophomore and I think that Jones, (the dislocated finger) is hard for any player. They’re a team that has so many weapons that if you look at guy’s numbers, to put up numbers on that team is impressive because so many guys have to share the ball. I think they’re all playing really, really well.”

LSU head coach Trent Johnson

On Saturday’s game against Kentucky …
“I don’t know if it’s Kentucky or the Miami Heat we have to play on Saturday.”