John Calipari, as is his wont when conference tourneys are the subject of discussion, speaks truth to power.
Calipari always has placed the importance of NCAA tournament preparation and seeding ahead of any value in a league tournament trophy. His Wildcats (26-5) are seeded first in this year’s 14-team SEC field, having won the regular season with a 16-2 league record.
Kentucky, which has been seeded first or second in every SEC tournament under Calipari, will open play Friday afternoon against the winner of Thursday’s matchup between eighth-seeded Georgia and ninth-seeded Tennessee.
“This tournament to me is all about preparation,” Calipari said Saturday afternoon in a news conference after a 71-63 win at Texas A&M. “That’s why I don’t like it ending on a Sunday. When they throw you a Thursday game (in the NCAA tournament) like they did last year, that’s five games in eight days if you get to the second (NCAA) game.
“It’s five games in eight days for these young kids, and it’s not fair. When you play Sunday and they put you in the Thursday bracket, you better hope the team that you face on Saturday (in the NCAA tournament) is as tired as you and that they played on Sunday.”
With a 64-team national playoff, conference basketball tournaments, at least from the standpoint of upper tier teams like Kentucky, are as useless as tits on a boar hog.
College football doesn’t face that problem as of yet, but between years like this past one, when winning a conference title game (or even playing in one, for that matter) wasn’t a necessity for reaching the national semifinals, and the future enlargement of the postseason pool, it’s a scenario that has legs.
When that day comes, either there will be enough money in the pot that the conferences won’t mind sacrificing their own championships for the national good, or, more likely, they’ll keep the games anyway for the extra revenue. At which point you can cue the bitching from someone like Nick Saban the first time he loses a key player to an injury in a meaningless conference championship game. Not that it’ll matter.