Kentucky Wildcats are focused on SEC Tournament, not individual honors

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It’s been a while since the Kentucky Wildcats won the SEC Tournament,  Three years as a matter of fact.  John Calipari’s Wildcats won the SEC Tournament his first two years in Lexington but then sat by and watched the Vanderbilt Commodores, Ole Miss Rebels and Florida Gators won the title.  Two of those years Kentucky lost in the championship game.

If you pay attention to John Calipari, you can tell he has never been a fan of the conference tournaments.  But that seems to have changed this year.  This year, he has said it is for the fans who scrimp and save all year to make it to the SEC Tournament.  And this is about the players and their drive for perfection.  So on a day when seven Wildcats got individual SEC honors, their focus was on the upcoming tournament in Nashville.  And the one that got snubbed from the honor may just use it as motivation.

"“Honestly, you can give him Player of the Year,” Cauley-Stein said, who was tabbed the Defensive Player of the Year as well as a first team All-SEC selection. “I’ll take 31-0 any day of the week. You know, he’s a good player but that’s what it is. I’d rather be undefeated than get Player of the Year.” UK assistant coach John Robic believes that’s one reason why the Cats (31-0, 18-0 SEC) have been so successful this season. “The goal is much bigger,” Robic said when asked about Cauley-Stein’s sentiment toward individual awards. “And they play as a team and all that. And that’s just a prime example of why this team has been playing well.” Another notable absence to the awards list was that of sophomore point guard Andrew Harrison. Since February, Harrison has seen his game soar to new heights, and Kentucky’s offense has followed suit. Over the past 10 games, Harrison has averaged 11.5 points, 3.7 assists and just 1.4 turnovers. “I am so proud of Andrew Harrison and the player he is becoming,” Coach Cal said on Monday’s SEC Coaches’ Teleconference. “He was never a finished product. I don’t know why people thought that. … Now, the reason our team is doing what they’re doing is because Andrew, his spirit is driving us. His ability to get in the lane, to make baskets, to make key shots, to make key free throws.”"

Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the postseason at 31-0, it would seem that the Kentucky Wildcats have very few relative weaknesses and lots of strengths.  Coaches will always find something however and John Robic covered that in yesterdays press opportunity.  

"3. Strengths and weaknesses. Asked Robic what the team is doing really well right now and what needs to improve when the team starts play Friday at Bridgestone Arena in Music City. Robic complemented the team’s aggressiveness on offense, lead by point guards Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis. The assistant said the Cats have been in attack mode on nearly every possession, which is what the coaching staff wants. As for improvement, Robic said the team needs to shore up its ball screen defense. Kentucky playing the screens very well early in the year, hence the sub-30 percent shooting percentages by some foes. Teams have been doing a better job of screening UK lately, but for UK it is an issue “that is definitely fixable,” Robic said."

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what is going on with Tom Izzo.  His Spartans are having an off-year for them and as a result, a lot of people are throwing shade at other programs as a result.    Fran Fraschilla went on the air and said the reason that Sparty is struggling is because Izzo does not break the rules and other teams do.  And now a Detroit News writer appears to be picking up the gauntlet and running with it.  The writer is not going to accuse other coaches of cheating, but he seems to be throwing shade at other top coaches and using Izzo’s past words to back it up.  Just interesting.

"Michigan State is the third seed in this week’s Big Ten tournament, but at 21-10 and 12-6 in the conference, the Spartans have taken a step back after reaching the Elite Eight last season. Much of that is because of high-profile misses in recruiting the past two seasons. In 2013, Jabari Parker chose Duke over Michigan State while the Spartans failed to land several top prospects in 2014, including Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Tyus Jones (Duke) and Tyler Ulis (Kentucky). All but Jones are from the Chicago area, and Alexander is now, ironically, sitting out at Kansas while the NCAA investigates questions over his eligibility. He was believed to leaning heavily toward going to Michigan State, only to abruptly end all contact with the Spartans and commit to Kansas. Not long after that, Izzo was at the Big Ten media day in October 2013 in Chicago and was asked about recruiting in the Windy City. “I think there’s always the same issues,” he said. “But if there’s good players, there’s going to be a lot of coaches around. If there’s a lot of coaches around there’s going to be issues. I don’t know if it’s any different than anywhere else. … A lot of good players, a lot of coaches, a lot of coaches and good players. There’s a lot of middlemen.”"