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John Calipari goes overboard vouching for SEC

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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John Calipari (Getty Images)

It has become as time-honored a January tradition as vows to lose the 10 pounds we put on the previous year.

As college basketball's conference season heats up, coaches from across the nation claim their league is underappreciated.

Kentucky coach John Calipari apparently saw an opportunity to vouch for the SEC during the league's weekly teleconference on Monday after Tennessee upset UConn and Arkansas defeated Michigan this past weekend. Calipari called the league "by far" the best it has been in his three years in Lexington, suggested five SEC teams could make the Sweet 16  and predicted as many as eight or nine teams would be "in the discussion" for NCAA bids.

"What happens is we don't promote each other enough," Calipari said. "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."

You won't hear any counterarguments from me regarding some of Calipari's points, but the notion of eight or nine SEC teams receiving NCAA tournament consideration is about as realistic as the moon being made of cheese.

Five SEC teams look like good bets to make the NCAA tournament at this point: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Florida and Alabama. Beyond that, it's difficult to make a compelling case for any of the league's other seven teams.

Arkansas (14-5, 2-2) has the best chance to play its way onto the hunt, but the Razorbacks lacked a quality non-league win prior to beating Michigan at home on Saturday and also suffered losses to woeful Houston and rebuilding Oklahoma. Mississippi's No. 34 RPI suggests it too could make a push, but a closer examination shows the Rebels (13-6, 3-2) have lost to every NCAA contender they've faced until beating rival Mississippi State last week. And while Tennessee boasts wins over Florida and UConn and a stronger roster with the recent addition of Jarnell Stokes, there's no way the Vols overcome a 9-10 record and a No. 161 RPI.

At the moment, the SEC appears to be a five-team league with an outside shot at a sixth bid if everything broke in its favor. That certainly wouldn't be a terrible showing, but it's also no reason to lavish the league in undue praise either.

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